In a perfect world we could have anything we want. And that goes with our professional perfect world as well. And in terms of project management, that would mean we could pick what we manage, when we manage, who we manage, what customers we manage projects for, how we manage, what processes we follow and to whom we report project information. Total freedom. As an independent consultant, you get some of those freedoms, but you are still accountable and if you think otherwise, then you’ll soon find yourself with lots of time on your hands and no clients to perform any work for.

So, you’re a project manager and you are diligently managing your project or projects and you’ve got the usual full plate and you’re working hard to keep everything on track and all projects on the right path to success. You’ve got a full plate of work in front of you and you realize that you can put ‘proper’ detail into each project, but not extreme detail…you may not be able to be as professional and detailed as you would like to be or ‘best practices’ would dictate you manage projects. But you will still be professional and you still want to achieve success.

So, what do you focus most of your attention on? What key areas of the project does the maxed-out project manager actually manage and what does he ‘let go’ of? And by let go, I don’t mean to actually pay no attention to a particular area or completely ignore a responsibility. But I do mean what does the over worked and overloaded project manager focus most of his attention on? The key responsibilities really are project scope, project schedule and project resources. If I’m faced with this dilemma – and I have been from time to time – then I can tell you where I focus my attention and why. For me, it’s easy – I focus on project scope and project schedule.

Here’s why…

Project scope

Project scope is critical because it is what the project team is responsible for delivering against. And managing the project scope is an ongoing and never ending process for the project manager. It’s never easy, it is always a challenge, and it can be very disruptive and costly to the project if it gets out of hand. Scope creep is an ongoing risk and it is the project manager’s responsibility to keep it in check and ensure that change orders are drawn up and approved for any work that is needed that falls outside of the original scope of the project. Failing to do this will cause both the project budget and the timeline to fall out of line with original expectations – potentially resulting in project failure.

Project schedule

At the very core of the project manager’s responsibilities is oversight of the project schedule. Management of this schedule is usually solely the responsibility of the project manager and it is this schedule that should be reviewed and revised weekly and used to drive the weekly project team meetings and more formal weekly project status meetings with the project sponsor or customer. Maintaining continual oversight is the only way the project manager can keep the project on schedule and to know when tasks may be in danger of falling behind. A schedule left unchecked for more than a week is a very dangerous thing that can lead to problems that will be difficult and costly to fix.

Project resources

Finally, the project resources – usually mostly comprised of the project team members – are a vital part of the project. They are, however, professionals. They should not need to be micro managed. They need assigned tasks and weekly collaboration, but should not need extreme oversight. Team members that do need such oversight are a dredge on project progress as well as the project manager’s time and productiveness and should be replaced. So, if you’re looking for one area to lighten your project management load, it should be in the oversight and guidance of your project team resources. They are professionals and should be able to take assignments and perform them effectively and efficiently and they should be able to proactively report progress back to the project manager – or use a collaborative PM tool to report that progress on their own.

Summary

What’s your take on this question when you find yourself overloaded on the projects you are managing? Corners often have to be cut and focus may need to shift to the absolute most important areas of responsibility for the PM. What have you found those areas to be? Do you agree with this assessment?


Brad Egeland
About the Author

Brad Egeland

A Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.

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