Spring Cleaning for Project Managers

Spring cleaning on your projects

Spring cleaning on your projects

A couple months ago, I wrote about how to maintain momentum on your projects—that is, what recurring tasks you should add to your calendar to make progress against your project goals in the new year. With Q1 of 2019 coming to a close, where are you on the goals you set back in January? If your answer is woefully behind, don’t fret. With everything going on in the first two months of the year, including the time needed to recover from the holidays, one school of thought suggests March is the optimal time to set resolutions. And, the warming weather may also offer the inspiration you need for a bout of project spring cleaning. How can project managers spruce up their projects for spring?

Clear the cobwebs from your calendar

I try to evaluate my calendar at logical points in a project—usually every few months or after submitting a big deliverable. I check for a few things:

  • Evaluate your standing meetings to determine if the content still warrants a discussion. If you had more meaningful discussions earlier in the project but now you’re in status update mode, maybe you can substitute your weekly conference call with a recurring e-mail update.

  • Assess the frequency of your meetings. Maybe your daily stand-ups aren’t necessary at this stage in the project, and you can switch to a weekly meeting instead. Alternatively, maybe you’ve been convening ad hoc meetings more often, and you’d be better served by blocking out the time on a consistent basis.

  • Validate stakeholder participation. Maybe some stakeholders no longer need to attend, or your new hire still hasn’t been added to the distribution list and has to have the invite forwarded every week. Clean up your distribution lists accordingly, or add any meetings to the calendar that may be missing.

Dust off your project artifacts

I’m a firm believer that, once signed, a good charter should never change. That doesn’t mean that other project artifacts wouldn’t benefit from a spring refresh. You may have already identified a frequency at which you update these key project documents, but in case you don’t, here are a few ideas:

  • Take a look at your project management plan to determine whether it accurately describes the way you are managing your project. This is an optimal way to address your stakeholders’ continual requests to update the charter without infringing upon the charter’s sanctity (and thereby mitigating the risk of scope creep.)

  • Review your communications plan. In my experience, this critical project artifact almost never gets picked up again once drafted. More than most of your other project artifacts, the communications plan is going to evolve dynamically across the lifespan of your project as you learn and subsequently refine how best to interact with your stakeholders. Revisiting your communications plan helps you document what methodologies you are using so that you can apply them to future projects. It also gives you a file you can point to if your stakeholders complain that they aren’t receiving crucial project updates. Have they checked the website? Subscribed to the newsletter? Asked their manager why project updates aren’t flowing down? You get the idea.

  • Update your risk management plan. This is another good one to ensure stays up-to-date. Heaven help you if something happens and your emergency protocol is outdated.

  • Don’t neglect your internal project artifacts. This helps with onboarding and orienting new team members to your project and may include materials such as project templates, style guides, standard operating procedures, or lessons learned.

Deep clean your schedule and budget

Project managers will undoubtedly have a project schedule and budget that they maintain and review on a recurring basis. But, just as there’s a difference in the level of attention you put into running the vacuum every week versus scrubbing your floors, there should be a difference between recurring schedule and budget maintenance and taking a more in-depth review of the project activities they represent.

Spring is a perfect time to take a look at your upcoming project activities and evaluate whether you are planning for them as you should be. Sample questions to ask yourself might include:

  • Do you have the right people and resources required to execute this work? Have you confirmed your team’s availability? If not, start hiring, procuring, and/or communicating.

  • Do you understand the expectations associated with each of your upcoming deliverables? If not, who do you need to contact to make sure you are crystal clear on the content?

  • Are you well-positioned to support a subsequent phase of this project? If your project is scheduled to end in the next six months or a year, start the conversation with your client yesterday about what their future needs might be, and get an internal plan going to convince them that your team is essential to its execution.

Happy spring!