I have to laugh about this one. I’m fond of Little Casear’s pizza (my wife definitely is NOT). When they came out with their “extra most bestest” pizza I had to try one. It was good… more cheese and pepperoni than their normal pepperoni pizza (the hot and ready variety) and only about $1 more.
In honor of this a-bit-more-pizza, I’d like to consider what we can be doing to offer our project customers “a bit more” and maybe even free, if possible, that will make that project experience more memorable, more successful and more repeatable. Let’s consider the following thoughts I’ve put together.
Take advantage of in-project lessons learned sessions. Since lessons learned sessions are hard to coordinate at the end of the project as team members and project customer subject matter experts (SMEs) and their team members are moving on to other things and other projects, I prefer to schedule multiple lessons learned sessions during the current project – usually coinciding with a big deliverable handoff. Surveys have found that 57% of all project managers are conducing lessons learned sessions either never or less than 10% of the time. A good lessons learned session just may be the right time to ask a client what they’ve learned about their needs and is there anything missing.
Find the real need to add value to the project. Very often what a customer is asking for
is only a symptom of a real problem that the customer is facing. A diligent project manager explains
to the customer the real impact of the change, and pushes for documenting the real requirements and
planning the project accordingly. This may be a tough sell to some clients because they may be stubborn, may not like to be told they are possibly wrong, and may think you’re only trying to increase the price of the engagement by adding more planning time.
The key is to explain the value in finding the real need sooner (while you can still do something about it) rather than later (when you’ve already spent all their money implementing something that their end users won’t be able to use).
Conduct good meetings and followup. A meeting is a key information sharing point. Information sharing and getting decisions made quickly are really the only reason to have meetings. So, conducting good, effective, and efficient meetings is critical to project and communication success. But beyond that the information must be accurate and understood by all. So always follow up each meeting with notes to those who attended and to those who should have attended – asking for revisions within 24 hours. Once you have feedback, make any necessary revisions of the meeting notes and resend. The end goal is to ensure that all parties ended the meeting with the same understandings and everyone is on the same page until next time.
Keep the customer engaged. One way to keep decision-making happening and information flowing efficiently between delivery team and customer is to keep the project customer well- engaged throughout the project. When you lose the customer for extended periods of time to their other work, that’s when you can get stuck interpreting requirements without all info at your disposal and potentially making less than informed decisions for forward progress on the project that the customer could otherwise assist you and the team through. Keep the customer engaged with assigned tasks and pre-defined expectations set. And always be pinging them for participation in weekly project status and review meetings. You won’t regret it and in the long run they won’t regret it either.
Communicate accurately and well. I fully believe that effective and efficient communication is Job Number One for the project manager, and poor communication is the biggest reason for project failures. Given that, how well we use and communicate potentially critical project information received from the team, customer, and other stakeholders is dependent – in a large part – on how well we have listened to and absorbed the information. I highly recommend taking notes on any important calls, meetings, and ad-hoc conversations that affect your project.
The bottom line is to try to bring as much value into the project engagement as possible through efficiency and communication. Be careful and avoid gold plating and hurting the project’s overall profitability. You need to stay in business for the long run, right?