How To Execute The Project Management Plan
By Michael D. Taylor
The Project Manager’s Role
Once the project management plan has been formulated, and “debugged” in the Final Planning Review, it must be executed by the project manager. There are at least five major roles that the project manager plays during this phase; 1) ensuring a paradigm shift from planning to implementation, 2) keeping key stakeholders informed, 3) protecting intellectual property, 4) developing teams, and 5) recognizing and rewarding exceptional work. Project managers also conduct regular status reviews which are addressed in in this article: “How to Monitor Project Status.”
Ensuring A Paradigm Shift
During the planning phase there exists an appropriate mindset that what is being estimated is not yet fixed. However, once the transition from the planning phase to the execution phase takes place, a corresponding paradigm shift among project participants must also take place. The shift must be made from tentativeness to implementation. This is often accomplished by conducting an execution “kick off” meeting which not only announces the transition but also attempts to get participants to now see the task at hand which is to be accomplished. This is one of the project manager’s primary roles in the execution phase of the project.
Keeping Stakeholders Informed
Another important role of the project manager in this phase is to keep the key stakeholders informed of the project’s status. The purpose of these briefings is show that the project manager understands key stakeholder interests and is successfully managing them.
Using the communication plan, established in the initiation phase, the project manager provides pertinent status information at the appropriate level and scope. Key financial stakeholders are interested primarily in the cash flow aspects, and less interested in the technical details of the product design status. Sponsors and customers are interested in the overall schedule and cost status, and what is being done to resolve any major issues. Functional managers are interested primarily in the technical aspects of the project, and how well their “loaned” personnel are performing.
Because of these varying points of interest the project manager must customize these briefings to the interests of the individual stakeholders. Project managers must be careful not to overwhelm stakeholders with excessive esoteric technical jargon.
Protecting Intellectual Property
As new design concepts develop it is vital that they be protected by the project manager. It is important for the project manager to find a qualified, experienced patent attorney early in the project, and to begin the protection process quickly. This begins by keeping detailed records of the new product development, including documentation, and properly labeling them as “proprietary” so that project personnel don’t inadvertently expose them to competitors. Patent attorneys then research existing records to see if similar patents exist. When appropriate, necessary design and functional patents will be submitted, along with any necessary copyrights and trademarks. In this same line of protection, export licensing must also be examined if products are to be exported to other countries. Certain technologies are prohibited from exportation.
Teams don’t grow into high-performance teams automatically. To assume so is naïve on the part of the project manager. Teams must be developed quickly when they are formed to solve complex problems.
One of the most critical steps in developing project teams is to ensure that they have a clear, specific, measurable goal that is “owned” by all. Because they are temporary teams must learn to work together quickly. Today’s teams are often multifunctional, made up of various disciplines. Because of this, they may bring their own “languages” (terminology, mnemonics, abbreviations, etc.) into team discussions which can create communication problems.
Team leaders and project managers must be aware of this and ensure that communications are clear to all. Having a clear purpose is more vital to distance-separated teams than it is to co-located teams. With the availability of the Internet project managers can tap into various skills around the world, thus alleviating the problem of depending only on local resources. However, this capability requires the project manager and team members to have a solid grasp of groupware.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to remote teams when compared to co-located teams as illustrated in the table below.
|Co-Located Teams||High levels of collaboration||Queuing inefficiencies|
|Remote Teams||Accessibility to needed skills Information repository||Communications - Lack of “hall way” conversations|
Queuing inefficiencies can occur within a matrix organization structure when skilled personnel are required to support many projects. The inefficiencies build up due to physical or mental transitions between the various projects. Functional managers must be especially sensitive to this phenomenon. See the figure below.
MICHAEL D. TAYLOR, M.S. in systems management, B.S. in electrical engineering, has more than 30 years of project, outsourcing, and engineering experience. He is principal of Systems Management Services, and has conducted project management training at the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension in their PPM Certificate program for over 13 years, and at companies such as Sun Microsystems, GTE, Siemens, TRW, Loral, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and Inprise. He also taught courses in the UCSC Extension Leadership and Management Program (LAMP), and was a guest speaker at the 2001 Santa Cruz Technology Symposium. His website is www.projectmgt.com.