HAVE YOU CONSIDERED? Tackling Projects

Q My management role often involves running small projects. Since I started in this job it has been assumed that I know how to manage projects effectively. But really, what I know I have learned on the job. I am going on three-day project management course shortly but are there any simple things I can do that would have an immediate impact on the quality of my management of these projects?

A People, other than project managers that is, invariably see project management as “that thing that project managers do”. But most of us are project managers ourselves without realising it. Organisations usually have strategic plan and business plan and then aim to link the people in the organisation effectively with those plans by agreeing performance objectives. Individuals then use their performance objectives and put plan of some form together to implement them. Each of these objectives are mini projects.
People don’t always look at their work or performance plans in this way. Instead they go from one thing to another without ever using project management concepts, which can be very effective. Schools or universities seldom show us how to run or plan projects unless we do specialist course.
Your question indicates you are aware of this and are now taking remedial action to gain the core project management skills you need. project management course will help. You might, however, considered some of the following ideas because for any project, no matter how large or small, five key points need to be considered:
* What are the functional requirements of the task or what is the project intended to do? Define this clearly at the outset and document it as terms of reference, which define the depth and scope of the project.
* What resources will be required to carry out the project? Different types of resource need to be considered such as people, tools, time, and money.
* Define the financial requirements in budget so that costs are clear and monitored. Small projects may not need budget but you will still need to keep an eye on costs.
* Document timetable for the project. The simpler the better. straightforward Gantt chart is often the best solution.
* And, probably most importantly, consider the acceptance criteria for the project. This is what you have to do to demonstrate to both the project sponsor and the customer, (assuming they are different people), that the project has been completed. Until these two individuals are fully satisfied you haven’t successfully completed the project. The acceptance criteria should be defined at the outset of the project and the sponsor’s and customer’s agreement gained.

Q I am manager in large New Zealand company and am often involved in recruiting. It is frustrating when I know I will not find the right person internally yet, because of our human resource policy, I must advertise jobs internally before going outside. I think this is bureaucracy gone mad. What do you think?

A I understand your frustration. Recruiters often feel they need someone straight away. After all, the work still has to be done even though the individual has left. And when you have good feel for the organisation and are fairly sure there is no one available internally then why should you waste time and effort going through an internal recruitment exercise first?
There are no easy answers. You are focusing on the need to fill the role quickly and keep things moving. The organisation, however, wants long-term focus on developing and retaining people. Both are valid viewpoints. It is just that they often conflict.
Have you considered all the beneficial reasons why your company wants to advertise jobs internally? Having common policy to give priority to internal recruitment gives clear signal to employees that they are valued. It also shows that they have had the opportunity to apply for vacant roles. Think of the times when someone is recruited from outside and over the heads of others. Word gets around and it not only impacts the individuals who feel they have been overlooked but affects others when they talk about it.
Some companies adopt this approach to create learning experience and stretch staff to gain skills in recruitment interviews and presenting themselves as prospective employee in more advanced role. If they don’t get the chance internally they might start looking outside which is not where most managers want their people to go.
And some companies think internal recruitment is important because it puts someone in the role who already has company knowledge and network. It usually takes year for an outsider to get to grips with how things work. An existing employee is more likely to hit the ground running and build on and leverage their company knowledge.
Internal recruitment can also give you the opportunity to see and assess people you might not normally come across. It might help you become more familiar with the latent talent in the organisation and sometimes people unexpectedly rise to the occasion.
Companies invariably look for retention and motivation of staff. It saves money and generates efficiency and productivity. People need to feel valued and have the opportunity to develop.
All this is motivating. None of it means companies should always recruit internally. But they should be given the opportunity. It often delivers long-term organisational benefits that are not immediately apparent to you as the recruiting manager. For company to have policy that gives priority to internal recruitments can be wise strategic move. It shouldn’t however, override common sense.

• Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

• Address your problems to Kevin Gaunt or “my problem” at: [email protected]

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