Monday, 23 August 2010

Putting project management theory into practice

I've been a bit quiet on the blog front recently but behind the scenes I've been beavering away at activities that'll all go towards my AMA.

I'm working on a major project at work where I'm applying as much 'best practice' for project management as I can whilst also working it into my own and the organisation's working patterns. This is key because if it doesn't fit in with these it can appear false and overly bureaucratic.

Since I've learned a lot from watching and talking to others I thought it was worth sharing my own practical experience of applying project management theory and best practice and what I think has worked best so far.

1. It's definitely worth spending the time planning at the beginning even if it feels laborious at the time.

Even a few months in to a project I'm already feeling the benefits of having established a project plan in the earlier stages of the project. I opted for one coverall document that outlined everything about the project - who the audience is, what the aims and objectives are, both for the project and for the resources that the project will create, why we're creating them, where they will sit on the website, how we'll publicise them, what they'll look like, who will write them, who will check them etc, how we'll have them proof read etc etc. Getting all of this worked out at the start when I'm concentrating on it as a whole project rather than later down the line when I'm already embroiled in one aspect has already saved me time.

I'm now at the stage of writing guidelines and briefs for content creation and I'm finding it quick and useful that I can just copy and paste large chunks of text about why we're doing the project and the aims and objectives straight from the earlier document safe in the knowledge that the rest of the team have read and approved them.

2. Setting up a working group and establishing roles and responsibilities early is worthwhile

I made the decision on this project to set up a working team that represented viewpoints of people across the organisation. I have curators, documentation people and a learning representative for each of our target audiences. I discuss each of the major decisions for the project with the working group. This has lead to some great conceptual discussions about why we're doing things we are which is not only useful, it's actually very interesting and enjoyable.

Agreeing roles and responsibilities with each individual in the group and taking the time to make sure you and they understand them in the same way will also avoid disputes and misunderstandings further down the line.

3. Plan evaluation and sign off early

The only major planning I've written up outside the major plan document discussed above is to write an evaluation plan and an approvals diagram.

Taking the time to plan all the stages that I want to go through to test that these resources achieve their objectives and are approved by the right people helped me to plan the timetable to accommodate them all.

Establishing them at the start and getting approval for these plans can also avoid disputes further down the line when there is less time to make major decisions.

The key message therefore is that it's well worth taking the time at the start to plan for everything. A big reason for this is that it forces you to give time and head space to the bigger picture before you get bogged down in the minutiae of actually doing the project at which point it can be harder to think clearly about that bigger picture.

I hope readers find this rings true and find it useful as I have found hearing other people's experiences useful. If you have your own tips and experiences please feel free to share them in the comments below.


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