Voices on Project Management

> Back to Voices Home

Guidelines for Project Clients to Enable Success

| | Comments (1)
I recently witnessed two projects executed within weeks of each other. Both projects were related to the rollout of major technology solutions for significant, well-established corporations.
 
What was different about the projects were the dynamics between the client and the project team -- specifically, the way the client engaged and worked with the project team. One project was successful, and the other was not.

In my opinion, the success as well as the failure was largely because of the dynamics between the client and project team.
 
I am definitely not implying that any project gone awry is the client's fault. In fact, I believe it's the project manager's primary responsibility to facilitate all points below. But unless the client is willing to observe and adhere to these guidelines, the project is already in jeopardy.

Think about it.

Here is a working list of guidelines that can help clients and other stakeholders work with a project team and deliver a successful project:
 
1. Be transparent. A good project team realizes there are going to be unique variables and circumstances it will need to address. Be upfront and candid with the project team about the challenges or risks in accomplishing the project goals. It is much more productive to get everything on the table upfront versus waiting for it to be discovered while executing the project.

2. Stay engaged and responsive. One school of thought says a good client stays out of the way of a project team and without too much micromanagement. This can be true to some extent.
 
However, clients must work with the project team to ensure there are open channels of communication. Information or clarification must be provided quickly and concisely, and preferably in writing.
 
Ideally, one or two people on the client side have the knowledge and authority to speak for the entire client team. This is especially important when providing critical input such as requirements, milestone approvals and strategic guidance. Without this representation, the project team has to chase down information, and there is greater risk of them getting it wrong.

The project manager must facilitate these activities and provide the framework in which they occur, but this is a two-way street. 

As a client, if you cannot make the time and emotional commitment to communicate, then postpone the project until the time is better. Otherwise, we all risk having to do it over again.

3. Be decisive and time sensitive. Recognize that there are going to be hard decisions to be made in terms of requirements, tradeoffs, budget, timing and resources. If a decision cannot be made on the spot, define a window of time in which you will get back to the team with an answer and respect that commitment. As noted above, if it's going to take time to get an answer, let the project team know this ahead of time.

4. The laws of physics still apply. As nice as it would be to bend the laws of physics, project teams are not capable of making three-day tasks in just two. Project managers do sometimes pad their timelines to allow for project creep or addressing other unseen emergencies. But recognize that this is done due to experience from previous projects and is an effort to account for the "unseen" challenges that inevitably crop up in your efforts.
 
Forcing a team to schedule its project activities in exacting increments for the sake of impressing company executives, for example, introduces a risk that some unforeseen event will cause that project to run late.
 
What other guidelines would you add to this list?

Read more from Geoff.

 

Bookmark and Share

 

The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.

Leave a comment

All comments are reviewed by our moderators, and will not appear on this blog unless they have been approved. Comments that do not relate directly to the blog entry's contents, are commercial in nature, contain objectionable or inappropriate material, or otherwise violate our User Agreement or Privacy Policy, will not be approved. For general inquiries not related to this blog, please contact Customer Service. Please read the Comments -- Question and Answers.

1 Comment

If the stakeholders are really requiring that milestone, a project manager must apply fast-tracking or crashing on the schedule to achieve it. But risks increase and they have to be managed, adding complexity and cost.

So, project requirements might be clear and aligned with Business needs. Get the key stakeholders in alignment as soon as possible!

About This Blog

Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with — or even disagree with — leave a comment.

All posts represent the opinions of the bloggers.

Follow PMvoices on Twitter

About Bloggers

Keep checking back because the voices for this blog will continue to grow and change to represent a variety of regions, industries and opinions.

Read blogger profiles

Voices Poll

Categories