When Everyone Seems to be Watching Your Project

How do you feel about having all eyes on you? Being on your own stage? Do you shy away from such a situation or do you run with these types of spotlights and excel? Most of us don’t want that much attention…and as project managers we usually like to fly a bit under the radar.

Consider this…you find yourself managing a very high visibility project and there are literally hundreds of eyes on your project. The eyes of your project team. Your senior management. If you’re project is important enough…tens or hundreds of your colleagues and co-workers. The customer, team and future end users. 3rd party vendors. In some government projects I’ve managed…members of Congress would have eyes on the project. The Department of Education (still me). The Department of Defense (me again – I even had the Vice President of the United States sitting in on a conference call…good call…he wasn’t mad at me or anything). The Food and Drug Administration (and me again). You can see how the eyes can really add up now, right?

So when it seems like nearly everyone has some sort of interest in your project, what do you do? How do you cope? How do you satisfy everyone with information? Should you? And what about the pressure…did I mention pressure? My wife suggested I take a selfie with that spider…umm…I said “NO!” But I had a choice. Here…you have no choice.

I suggest these three steps to best serve the masses and hopefully come out on top of the heap…

Get the status reporting right

To me, the status report drives the project. It drives the information flow, it is something that could be…should be…handed to anyone at anytime at any level of the organization and any level of insight and knowledge of the business and they can still walk away with a good feeling of what the project is about and how it’s going right now and where it’s headed. To accomplish that, you need a one-size-fits-all type status report. You’ll be overkilling it a bit for some and under-killing it probably for some incredible info seekers, but you can surely completely satisfy the informational needs for about 98 percent of your reading population. Coming up with one status report for all means you don’t have to create twelve different versions for twelve different interest groups. Make sure you include good financial health data (you’ll probably want to leave off profit margin info for the client side readers), a good view of what’s been accomplished recently, what’s happening now, and what’s coming up. Include an overview of all project change orders, an ongoing issues list, and an ongoing risks list. And don’t forget to include a nice dashboard that C-levels can use as a quick view into project health when that’s all they want to see (think red-yellow-green stoplight view for task, budget, timeframe, issue, etc. health).

Manage resources effectively

Resource management is crucial…especially when you’re balancing resource usage in order to maintain profit margin on a high-visibility project. Resources are expensive anyway, idle resources or poorly used resources are killer expensive. Plus, you’re probably fighting other projects for the same resources…and if you lose track of when you are scheduled to have them and when you need them then you may lose them at the wrong time to another project – and that’s tough to recover from. The project manager who is a bad resource planner is doomed to fail. Resource management and planning is every bit as important as financial planning…and it’s a huge input into the financial planning and health of your project.

Shout it from the roof tops across the enterprise when deliverables and milestones are hit successfully

This may seem over the top, but it isn’t. If you’re managing a very high-profile project – and you are if all eyes are on your project – then it’s definitely a good idea to treat it as such. When a major deliverable is accomplished – like say a major phase of the project is completed and signed off by the client – let the world know. Create a company-wide email (include all key stakeholders within the company, outside of the company and include the right 3rd party vendors). Praise the team, talk about the deliverable/accomplishment, and take the opportunity to also talk about what happens next on the project. You’ll boost the project, your visibility as a the project manager, and please everyone interested with knowledge all with this one action. Win-win-win.

Summary / call for input

Face it, there will be projects in your future that are so visible, so critical to the department or company’s success that many eyes will be on it. And whether you can control everything or not, you are still accountability for project success or failure. Be ready. And how you handle it will either help ensure it’s success or help lead to it’s demise.

How about our readers? How do you handle that stress of knowing everyone cares about the current “big” project you’re managing? Do you agree with these tips? Have a few of your own? Please share and discuss.

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Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He has authored more than 4,000 expert project management, best practices and business strategy articles, eBooks and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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