Well, you can watch your favorite one-hour TV show and still have 18 minutes left over if you record it and skip through the commercials. You can order a pizza and pick it up or have it delivered. Apparently, Bruce Springsteen is now doing nearly four-hour concerts on occasion, so you can see a few songs of one of his concert in an hour. But I think you can also manage your projects in an hour. Yes, one hour – each day. Am I crazy? Maybe, but read on.
Related Article: Project Management Best Practices: Estimateing the Work
I'm not one for multi-tasking. I don't think men are really good at it – it's how our brains work. So, if you happen to be overseeing say, 5-6 projects at a time, then spend 60 minutes each day on each project. Certainly, if you have a project that really requires it, spend more time. Maybe one is running full steam ahead, and two are not seeing much action at the moment. Spend two hours on the one that needs it and 30 minutes each on the two that are not requiring much attention right now. But, I think you get the picture – basically an hour per project per day should be the goal. Every project needs some daily attention. And what do we do during that 60 minutes of project-specific project management each day? Focus on these general areas and you'll be covered every day and every week on every project on anything and everything major AND you'll be initiating the communication to ensure that the little things do not fall through the cracks.
(Note: keep in mind that this is a general list of tasks that need addressed at least weekly, but not all need to be addressed daily. Make sure you hit all of these at some time during the week when you're spending your 60 minutes managing each project).
Revise and distribute the weekly project schedule. Using information gathered from your project team via email, phone calls and/or a weekly internal project team gathering, you will need to use a good portion of one day's 60 minute allotment on a detailed revision of the project schedule, including task progresses, resource assignments, new dates, and any additional work that needs to be added to the project. And be sure to ask for feedback – this is your chance to make sure key needed updates haven't fallen through the cracks and you can be putting the onus on those all-important project stakeholders to take a good look at the schedule and give them another chance to get any updates into you that they haven't already covered. If you don't ask for them, you won't get them.
Create the weekly status reporting to all stakeholders. Every week we need to spend time preparing a formal status report that – along with the revised project schedule – drives a weekly formal status call with the project customer. This activity, done weekly, shouldn't take too long – especially if you're spending focused time every day managing each of your assigned projects. From my experience, though, on the larger, more complex projects this will likely take most of one day's 60 minute allotment. And just as you do with the revised project schedule and distribution – ask for feedback and updates. Make the stakeholders look at it with fresh eyes and put the responsibility in their hands to actually read it and provide you with any missing updates. I find – through this method – that there is at least one missing an update or key piece of information from at least one stakeholder every week.
Take care of any mail/phone calls and face-to-face discussions that need to happen with the customer and project team and other stakeholders. Regular connection – whether there is much to say or not – is great for keeping project team members and the customer engaged and on task. Included in this is weekly meetings that every project of any real size should be having. You can see where your 60 minutes can really start to get consumed through just keeping in contact with everyone. Communication is Job One for the project manager. Period. Nothing is more important to project success.
Check the resource forecast. Every week time must be spent analyzing your current resource needs on each project and ensuring the availability of your resources today, tomorrow and for the remainder of the project. You do not want surprises. Do this regularly and you won't be surprised.
Revise the project budget with update actuals and re-forecast. Just like resources need to be examined regularly – at least weekly – the budget health needs the same scrutiny. A budget will almost never get out of hand if you're on top of it regularly with close observation, frequent revision, and regular forecasting and re-forecasting. Flags can go up almost before there is a problem – while corrective action can still be effective. As I always say, a 10% budget overrun is fixable. A 50% budget overrun likely is not. If you are watching the project budget closely and re-forecasting every week – then you're on top of it. And it will never likely go outside of that acceptable 10% variance range.
Summary / call for input
We often spend most of our days reactively putting out fires on our projects. What if we just stayed ahead of the game as much as possible with good project management focused on each project every day? What if we didn't let any project go unmanaged for more than 24 hours. I'm not saying we do, but often we are reacting rather than being proactive.
What would go on your weekly/daily list of project management activities to stay on top of for each of your project engagements? Do you think the 60 minute daily project management scenario works? Please share your thoughts.