Tips for Managing Projects in a Recession
Call it a recession, call it an economic down-turn, or call
it a depression (not too loudly), we’re in tough economic times and the way
businesses operate now can mean the difference between survival and bankruptcy.
These changes have implications for the way we manage projects. As project
managers you have the ability to make a positive difference to your
organization and help it to weather the economic storm.
The following are some "do’s and don’ts” that will help you
manage projects in a way that avoids costly mistakes.
Do provide your project
sponsors with complete, accurate information about your project’s performance
to schedule and to budget. Your sponsors need to know the real cost of the
project you’re managing so they can determine whether the ROI justifies the
project. They need the information on performance to schedule because schedule
slippages are invariably linked to budget overruns.
Do support gathering data
from existing projects that will support more accurate estimates for duration
and cost for future projects. A common tool for accomplishing this is the time
tracking tool many organizations have implemented to track these things.
Support their proper use by making accurate, timely time entry part of your
Do take advantage of the
economic times to obtain the best possible deal for your organization from your
vendors. This doesn’t mean that you set out to bleed them dry or renege on
existing contracts but you should make yourself aware of the influence the
economy is having the prices of the goods and services you’re procuring.
Do provide vendor
oversight when your responsibilities include vendor management or procurement
management. Your oversight should include invoice audits to ensure that your
project has received all the goods and services you’re approving payment for.
This oversight can also work the other way when the vendor misses items in
their invoice for which they’re owed payment.
Do revisit the business
case for your project at each gate review. Verify that the demand for your
project’s product or service is still there and hasn’t shrunk due to the down
turn in the economy. Verify that the problem your project solves, if your
customer is internal, still exists and that its severity hasn’t changed since
your last review. Verifying the correctness or adjusting the benefits to be
derived from the project will enable your sponsors to make good decisions.
Don’t tolerate the
inflation of your project’s budget by allowing resources not on your project
team to charge time against your project. If members of your project team are
splitting their time between your project and another, verify that the time
they enter against your project is in line with your understanding of the
split. Question any time in excess of that understanding and roll time entered
incorrectly back if necessary. Make your sponsor aware if the issue if you’re
unsuccessful at addressing it yourself.
Don’t be a push-over for
stakeholders that have "zero cost” changes that they want to make to your
project. Craft a change management process that will work for your project and
then ensure each change follows the process. You may also have to educate team
members in the advantages of reporting any requests they receive for change to
you so stakeholders don’t sneak changes in through the back door. Be
disciplined about change without tying your project up in knots making
decisions on minor changes. You can do this by having decisions made at the
right level of authority. This usually means that the time and effort invested
in deciding on the change will be proportional to the cost and benefits of the
Don’t hesitate to
question how things are done on your project. Now is the time to identify a
different way of doing things which can save time and effort without
sacrificing quality. People are resistant to change so if they’ve always done
their work in the same way, they will only change in response to an external
stimulus; be that stimulus.
Don’t try to hide bad
news. We’re all human and it’s human nature to be protective of the project
we’ve invested so much of our time and effort in. We’re also insecure and fear
that the cancellation of our project will mean the end of the line for us. The
reality is that any project that doesn’t have a strong business case needs to
be canceled and canceled as soon as that fact is known. Failure to do so will
guarantee that your job will disappear. Make your sponsors aware as soon as you
identify the need for preventive or corrective actions to preserve your
project’s budget and schedule. Make sure you alert them immediately if you
determine that the original budget and schedule can’t be met. You can ensure
financial damage to your organization is minimized and give it the best
opportunity to survive.
These are just some of the things you can do, or avoid
doing, that can help your organization weather this economic down-turn. Your
actions alone can’t guarantee the success of your organization, but they can
play a key role in its survival. Don’t forget that the best project management
practices are more important now than ever. Investigate the possibility of
getting your PMP® certification if you
haven’t already done so. You’ll find AceIt© is about the most
cost effective way to get your PMP® Exam Preparation training. You can find out
more about AceIt© by navigating to our AceIt© section.