I ran across a post that I wrote several years ago about the skills HR needs to remain relevant and valuable. On some level, I think HR still needs those skills. One of the skills I talked about is project management.
As a human resources professional, I honestly do not remember a time when I’ve had no projects on my plate. There’s always some project going on. It could be a large project, like implementing a new Human Resource Information System (HRIS) or a small project like updating the employee handbook. And everything in between.
Whatever the project, there are some basic rules that are helpful in project management. These rules help build the right foundation for the project as well as manage the actions taken.
- Identify the work. This sounds so basic, but many projects start with some vague idea. Which is fine, but at some point, there needs to be a clear project goal. At the start of any project, the goal or purpose of the project should be defined. The last thing anyone should want is scope creep. If new issues arise, that’s fine too. But they do not all have to be addressed within the project.
- Create a plan to get from the current state to the future state. A traditional gap analysis is great for answering the questions “Where are we today? And where do we want to be in the future?” The answers to these questions are going to create the roadmap for the project. This step can also serve as a place to get buy-in from key stakeholders. Make sure everyone agrees on the plan.
- Establish metrics to measure success. Define what success looks like. Projects aren’t always huge endeavors, and this doesn’t need to be a huge outcome like “save $1M to the bottom-line”. A project is simply defined as an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim. So, define what that “aim” is.
- Ask for help. While individuals can do small projects on their own, large scale projects need teams. What’s key in this step is to A) choose the right number of people and B) select the individuals with the right skills. Often, project teams take an office politics approach when it comes to selecting the employees who will be on the team, which is fine if the right people get on the team.
- Match people with work. Speaking of teams, let’s discuss part B in #4 above. There needs to be a reason that someone is on the team. And it’s possible that project team leaders will need to select their harshest critics for the team. That’s not a bad thing. Having diversity on teams is important, including diversity of thought. One more thing, when you put someone on a team, tell them why they’ve been chosen.
- Monitor progress toward results. The business world operates too fast to simply work the plan and not take time to evaluate progress. Consider using an agile approach and establishing milestones in the project. At each milestone, the team can look at what’s been accomplished and if any adjustments need to be considered. It’s also a good time to evaluate resources to ensure that there’s enough to continue.
- Change the plan as conditions change. Speaking of evaluation and resources, one of the worst things project teams can do is not make adjustments to their plan as conditions change. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with tweaking the scope, changing team members, and frankly, putting the project on hold if needed. Project management is about managing the project, not about plodding along blindly to what’s taking place around you.
Whether you’re the project leader or a member of the project team, good project management is essential – to the company and your career. I realize that sometimes being assigned to a project can seem like a huge PITA, but the reality is projects can give you the exposure you need for career advancement. So, learning how to manage projects should be a piece of your career development.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Gainesville, FL16