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Author: Wendy Nelson

Follow-Ups – A First Step towards Project Management

One of my stakeholders told me in a meeting the other day that I accomplished more in 10 minutes than it would usually take a couple weeks to do. I laughed and thanked him for the compliment. Later, I had to analyze what made him think that. I figured out that it was because of my follow-ups. In an organization that has not had an IT Project Manager before, I had set a new precedent for holding people accountable for what they said they would do. That seems to be the initial focus of this newly added project management role rather than tracking to dates or budgets. It’s mostly just making sure everything gets completed, at some point. In my prior company, I would have referred to this negatively as the “glorified babysitting” part of project management. They were much further along on the project management maturity scale. At my current company, I think of it more as a first step on the road to true project management.

Follow-ups introduce project management to a company in the following ways:

  1. Establish a culture of accountability – once people start getting accustomed to being held accountable for completing tasks, it will be easier to establish associated due dates and budgets.
  2. Keep team members productive – team members get frustrated over not being able to accomplish something when they are waiting for another task to be completed. When there isn’t a role established to monitor progress, team members often sit back and wait to be notified they can start something.
  3. Keep projects moving – how many projects simply stall out in the early stages because nobody is steering them forward?

I use the following tools to stay on top of my follow-ups:

  1. Online project collaboration software – all tasks on a project are listed out and I can review them for due dates. Even though these dates are very loose in my organization, it still gives me a baseline to track against and I can easily request a status update from a task owner without a lot of extra steps.
  2. Email – I keep any emails I need to follow up on directly in my inbox rather than moving them to a folder – the “out of sight, out of mind” theory. Every few days, and always on Fridays, I look through everything in my inbox to see what is still outstanding and then I do follow-up emails or phone calls on those items.
  3. Status Meetings & Meeting Minutes – I place all follow up items from status meetings into a separate Follow-Up Items section of my meeting notes with details on who owns the task and the expected timeframe. I refer back to my notes before the next status meeting so we can kick off the meeting with a review of the follow-up items.

Concentrating on follow-ups isn’t helping me work on advanced project management skills, but once I get everyone used to being held accountable, I can work on getting them to accept firm due dates next. Baby steps …

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