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Notes for the occasional project manager. RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter, January-February 2014

Support for new or occasional project managers

In November last year, Elisabeth Goodman ran an introductory one-day course on Project Management (Effective project planning and management) through TFPL for a group of Library and Information Professionals.  Although Project Management is now a recognised profession, with a range of educational and vocational qualifications available, there are still many people who find themselves needing to manage projects without having had any formal training for how to do so.  There are others who have had the formal training, but would welcome some continued support as they start practising their new knowledge and skills. Our course, and the key themes in this newsletter are for these occasional and new project managers.

Articulate and agree the project goal and scope

Articulating and agreeing the goals and scope for a project are a critical first place to start.  Without these it is impossible to sensibly plan the approach, timescale or the right people to be involved  It may take some iterations, through crucial discussions with the sponsor.  The project goal and scope may also evolve as you start finding out more about the subject of the project.

By the way, there is a strong overlap between managing change and managing projects – some would argue that the two are synonymous! This is something that we are looking forward to exploring further through the newly formed APM Enabling Change Special Interest Group (SIG) that Elisabeth has been helping to set up.

Build your team

Project teams need to go through the different stages of development to reach high performance just as operational teams do.  Unlike line managers though, project managers tend to have limited authority over their team members who are often ‘on loan’ from their day job.  Clarity of people’s roles and responsibilities on the team, and some active team building are therefore doubly important – themes that feature strongly in our various courses for enhancing team effectiveness.

Manage your stakeholders

It is crucial to have the right sponsor, at the right time for your project, giving the right messages and generally supporting you in mobilising the people and budget involved, and in influencing the other stakeholders.  This was a theme that came out strongly in our recent presentation, and the associated discussion at the APM Midlands branch: Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects.  Again, as in change management, it is important to understand who your stakeholders are, their attitudes, knowledge and skills in relation to the project, and what you need to do to engage, influence and support them through the project.

Develop your plan

Inexperienced project managers can find this the most daunting of their responsibilities.  It lends itself well to a brown paper and post-it exercise and can be done with the whole team. We used a decision tree in the TFPL course to help participants identify all the key steps and their interdependencies.  We annotated each step with how long we expected it to take, and then mapped the steps onto a timeline running from the anticipated start time to the anticipated delivery time. It also helped those who had been set a fixed deadline to be able to argue what might or might be possible from a more informed stand point.

Project plan

Manage your information and access available knowledge

Library and Information Managers usually have well developed skills in managing information and accessing knowledge that they can apply in their role as project managers.  Whereas we have found that making sure the team learns before, during and after a project has been completed is an ongoing challenge for many other project managers.  The range of information to manage includes the various documents describing the project and its status, anticipated risks and mitigation plans, decisions made (to avoid reinvention), actions and their status, and more!

Put some good working practices in place

As your team evolves you will not only want to consider how to manage your sponsor and other stakeholders, team member remits, project plans and associated information, but also such things as meetings and communications.  There is therefore lots of scope to engage team members in creating some strong working practices for the team. Objective external facilitators such as ourselves can help with carrying out team diagnostics and with supporting the team in shaping these good practices.

Other news

We have a strong portfolio of courses for our clients to choose from in 2014.  We have just announced the dates for our Introduction to Management course with One Nucleus and will be holding it in the lovely new facilities at theMelbourn Hub in South Cambridgeshire on the 26th-28th March.  Janet Burton will be running this course with Elisabeth Goodman.

We also have a new course on Conducting Effective Performance Reviews and Appraisals with One Nucleus, and those interested can read a case study and testimonial of an in-house course that we delivered on this topic.

If you would like to find out more

Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, our range of off-site and in-house workshops, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers, enhance team effectiveness and create an exceptional team.  See the RiverRhee Consulting website or e-mail the author at elisabeth@riverrhee.com.

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