Many Project Managers will typically describe their work as part art, part science, and part major headache. Balancing all of the elements of a complex project is an act that takes time to learn, especially in a fast-paced, highly demanding industry. The list below highlights a few of the most common challenges Project Managers face during their day-to-day lives.
1. Making unrealistic deadlines realistic.
Some would argue that most projects have "schedule slippage" as a standard feature rather than an anomaly. The challenge of many managers becomes finding alternate approaches to the tasks and schedules in order to complete a project "on time" or to get approval for slipping dates.
The simple solution is, of course, to set low timeline expectations during the sales process. However, in a fiercely competitive market where competitors often claim they can do the job faster and better than one another, clients and prospects have come to expect top quality work to be done in increasingly shorter timeframes. As such, the challenge is to manage the stress of "the immovable rock and the irresistible force" (i.e. the project deadline and the project issues) with creative planning, alternatives analyses, and communication of reality to all project participants. This includes solid prioritization techniques, as well as a solid awareness of what deadlines are tied to higher level objectives or have critical links to the schedules of other projects in the organization's portfolio.
The project participants and related players should understand that they will be held accountable for their results, or lack of achieving all of them. Implementing improved and clearer workflows can help determine and use accountability as part of the project risk profile. These accountability risks can then be identified and managed in a more visible manner so that all participants have a clear understanding of what is expected of them and when.
3. Renegade team members
Having a team of talented, intelligent individuals is an obvious advantage for any project team. But there is always a tradeoff, and working with the industry’s bright lights is no exception. When working with top talent, it can sometimes become a challenge to rein in everyone’s enthusiasm and willingness to be helpful.
In these situations, the key for managers is to help your resources realize the bigger picture. This means helping the team understand the importance of things like attention to overall client expectations and the business plan as it was established during the sales process, attention to budget, the process, the documentation, the agreed upon milestones, and so on. As Project Managers, the challenge is ours to keep them focused on the project schedule, the milestones, the deliverables that have been agreed upon, and the testing and documentation processes necessary to ensure success.
Communication is the single most important key to Project Management. Providing just the right amount of communication at the right times to a large group of stakeholders is not an easy task, however, because opinions vary in terms of what the right way to communicate is. For this reason, communication is an art that takes many years to learn and develop in Project Management.
As the financial industry evolves, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the impact of our techniques, so that we can polish our approach and determine the most appropriate communication flows for project members. One useful platform for this is the development of a checklist of what information (reports, status, etc.) needs to be conveyed to project participants, as well as an associated schedule of when each information dissemination should occur.
Looking for more information on Project Management? Be sure to check out Demetrios Gianniris' other articles on this topic, including:
Demetrios Gianniris is Director of Project & Technology Management (PTM) at Eze Castle Integration. He is responsible for overseeing the daily administration and operations of the Project Management team, including project design development, construction management, professional services and information technology consulting. Follow Demetrios on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dgianniris.