Progress Your Project with Processes

Processes benefit projects. Effective processes enable efficient communications, foster collaboration between teams, and maintain consistent project controls. Most importantly, processes can push through brick walls that block your project’s progress!

I have used the idiom “progress your project with processes” quite often in my career. I originally used this term to help my team understand that if the project and resource management processes on our program are effective then these processes could and should be used to resolve conflict. These processes should also be used as guiding principles for the way the team interacts with one another. Processes will, in essence, take the emotion out of decision making when faced with hard decisions.

Project managers spend a great deal of time at the beginning of a project to ensure that the Project Management Office (PMO) processes are clearly established with their project teams. However, as most of us know, the PMO processes only take you so far. There is a fair amount of process definition that needs to be completed for each project based on a multitude of factors. These factors include culture, resource location, project size, regulatory requirements, and other similar characteristics.

One common “brick wall” is change and change management. If you have done a good job of determining the change management process up front, then effectively using that process to manage through ideation to completion can help resolve many conflicts on a project. In other words, if what is change and what isn’t change has been defined up front, then this is your guidepost when faced with change requests. You will be able to take the human conflict out of the equation and instead focus on working through the impacts by following your processes.

Another area is schedule management. As a project manager, it is extremely important to establish a schedule that focuses on both the methodology and related deliverables—as well as the actual deliverables needed to meet the project’s objectives. When the initial schedule is built, you will be working with the stakeholders on your team to determine their work packets and any dependencies they articulate. Once your resource capacity and leveling has been established in your schedule, you can then use this structure to clearly outline any future impediments when scheduling conflicts occur based on slippage in those deliverables. You will be able to rely on the process to help you articulate the problem and guide you in fostering a resolution.

There may be a perception in some organizations that processes are overused or overrated. In other words, there is a diminished value perceived from process management. This perception typically appears in start-up or small companies that have to be agile and react quickly to changing market demands. But, even for these organizations you can right-size the processes to ensure limited rework and still maintain solid delivery cycles. You may also observe this perception in large organizations. It is the project manager’s responsibility to define up front the processes that will and will not work given the environmental factors. This approach will help with the “too many processes” perception in these organizations.

In conclusion, design effective processes up front and use them to push through the brick walls that block your progress!

A special thank you to Jerry Johns for acting as my editor on this article!