The PMBOK guide to Project Management describes many best practices, one of them being capturing the Lessons Learned as the project ends. Following are some the lessons that I have learned out of numerous projects that I have managed or have been part of.
It is not hard to imagine situations where promising Projects have been started in earnest with top management eager to see results. It’s important here that the Project Manager doesn’t succumb under pressure and compromise the planning phase to rush to the execution. After all nobody is going to accept that the project failure was due to hurried planning owing to management pressure. So idea is to take all the time required to hold discussions, debate scope, gather requirements and get consensus on the project plan. If you think one is always given less time than one thinks is required then I would suggest to do your best to complete the task/planning in given time but if you are not happy then do inform every one of the compromise made and also push back for more time if possible. No assumptions now and no surprises later on.
This is counter-intuitive to the point above but no matter how good the plan is made, do expect changes to it as project progresses. Good planning is about making sure every known aspect of the requirement, feasibility, risks is captured. Change Management is about being practical. Situations change and so do requirements. Previously unknown now comes to the light. Project manager needs to be accommodating to valid, critical to success changes and also be protective to avoid scope creeping.
Early in project the stakeholders are identified but sometimes it’s difficult to engage them for their inputs. Sometimes they downplay the importance of their involvement just to avoid meetings and contributing. They may also say that they trust you will take the right decisions. But it’s a trap when project manager believes he/she owns the project. A project manager needs to protect project and themselves from possible disappointment. If stakeholders have been rightly identified with correct responsibility then be after them. Nudge, push, threat whatever it takes but get stakeholders to do their job.
Last but not the least celebrate the success but don’t forget to capture the lessons learned before you move on to new challenging and exciting project. Any project, successful or failed, has lessons to be learned and benefit from. Documenting is recommended so any other project team in the company may benefit but if not then a meeting with project team to share everyone’s experience and their sharing their own lessons learned is a good idea. Not only you as project manager benefit from insights but you also enrich others involved in project.
In summary the lessons are:
Planning – Spend enough time planning so less is wasted in execution
Change Management – Expect changes, be flexible to accommodate changes but also don’t try to please all
Stakeholder Management – Never assume responsibilities for stakeholders, get them to do their job
Lessons Learned – Celebrate the success but don’t forget to capture the lessons learned