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10 Ways to Win: The Project Management Success Checklist

October 2017- by Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP®

Carl Pritchard, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, is an Apex Systems Contributor and an internationally recognized author, lecturer and trainer. He is the author of seven texts in project management, and serves as the U.S. Correspondent to the UK Project Management magazine, Project Manager Today. He welcomes your feedback at Follow him on Twitter at @carlpritchard and @pmpprep.

Your project is/is going to be:

If you checked anything except the “success” box, you have a problem. But it’s one that can be remedied in short order. There are ten quick steps you can take (or applaud yourself for having already taken) that ensure a higher probability of project success.

  1. The goal
  2. The time
  3. The barriers and risks
  4. The agreement
  5. The simplicity
  6. The timing
  7. The communications and "amen"
  8. The attitude
  9. The expectations
  10. The positive

The Goal
□ There is a clear vision of my project that everyone shares and is documented everywhere.
Yes? That’s great. If not, keep asking the question of “What will be different when we’re done”…over and over and over…until you achieve specificity and clarity.

The Time
□ Everyone respects that we have a limited amount of time, and no-one “eats” the clock.
As a meeting ends, people are wishing they could hang around to hear more, but they respect that there’s a finite amount of time to get things done. The customer’s end dates and interim delivery dates are clearly documented, complete with a countdown timer.

The Barriers and the Risks
□ There’s a shared understanding of the roadblocks impeding day-to-day progress.
As with Agile practice asking “What’s standing in your way?”, we consistently, freely (and without whining) share insights on the potential impediments to our day-to-day.

The Agreement
□ We have a documented agreement on the project, its vision and our approach.
Contract, charter, memorandum of understanding, or handshake—it doesn’t matter if we don’t have it. Without some declaration of where we’re going, we can’t ensure we’re living up to our promises.

The Simplicity
□ The project (or any aspect of it) is clearly and simply defined.
Even complex efforts to breed animals for specific types of long-term research can be simply defined (i.e. “We’re trying to cure cancer.”). Does that necessarily go into the nuances and challenges of the specific, narrow work we’re doing? No. But can it be used as a tool to generate a simple truth about the ultimate aims of the efforts? Yes.

The Timing
□ People know and believe in the end date of the project, meeting, phase, one-on-one, client event, etc.
One of the first things you did in reading this blog post was to look at the bottom to see how much you had to commit to read it. That tidbit of information was virtually everything to you. And if you’ve ever answered the phone or been called to a meeting with no specified end time, you know the pain the other party has generated. Good project managers know that shorter is better, but shortest is best.

The Communications and "Amen"
□ Messages travel through consistent channels and when requests are made, network concurrence is sought.
E-mail or meetings, conference calls or Skype®, it doesn’t matter. The key is to know the nature of the messages that are being sent, when they’re being sent, and how to respond to them. And just as importantly, when a message is sent and the message requires action or acceptance? The original sender seeks and distributes the opportunity to ensure concurrence by asking all participants to affirm their interpretation of the message—the “amen” moment.

The Attitude
□ The project manager acts as a firm believer in the project, its approach, and its outcomes.
It may sound a little “rah-rah,” but it’s true! Project managers must be the cheerleaders for their efforts, or no one else can be.

The Positive
□ Stakeholders are sure of the outcome. Stakeholders believe the outcome is good. Stakeholders see the change that is to come.
The belief system built into any project undertaking is extraordinary. Some people self-defeat, while others self-promote. Doubt, carefully blended with a taste of project failure, ensures defeat. Confidence, woven with an affirming attitude, takes projects to a swift, positive conclusion.

As you look through the ten items on this project success checklist, there may be those that just don’t sound like you or your project. That’s totally understandable. Projects are a journey to a new state of being. And as with all journeys, there are the occasional side trips. But for projects where all ten items on this list can be checked, the probability of success increases dramatically.

Enjoyed this article? Carl will be hosting an Apex Toolbox Talk on this topic on January 10, 2018, 1:00 PM ET. Register here to reserve your spot today!

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