As we have seen previously, the project management lifecycle has five phases: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing.
During the initiating phase, the project has the necessary approvals from executive decision-makers.
During the planning phase, the necessary project plan has been created and approved.
After this, the executing phase and the monitoring phase happen concurrently.
Scheduling a kick-off meeting
Because the executing phase is a transition from planning to doing, it is important to schedule a kick-off meeting at the start of the phase.
The kick-off meeting is an opportunity to set the tone for project success amongst all stakeholders and team members. It is an opportunity to align everyone present toward the key outcomes and project deliverables. Anyone who has questions or thoughts about project outcomes, risks, or deadlines can ask those questions, engage in discussion, and hopefully, leave the meeting clear on what the project goals.
A recommended process for the kick-off meeting is:
Set the agenda - The project manager should create an agenda to ensure that the meeting covers all of the important points. The final agenda point can be a Q&A session so that attendees can ask any questions they have. As with any meeting, any presentations or notes should be distributed in advance so that attendees can become familiar with them beforehand. Appropriate items to present/discuss might include:
Motivations for this project
The business case
Desired project outcomes
Which development methodology will be used
Conduct the meeting - The project manager should chair the meeting and ensure that team members have read the project charter. During the meeting, the project manager runs through each point on the agenda, shares the project plan, identifies major stakeholders, and shares the communication plan.
Close the meeting - It is always a good idea to have a Q&A session at the end of the kick-off meeting to address any questions or concerns. It is possible that team members will think of questions later, so let them know they can bring them to you. Write up the minutes of the meeting so that attendees can review what was discussed and offer any changes.
Key project management activities during the executing phase
The project execution has three major focuses:
At the start of the project, the project manager will assemble a team whose members have the relevant skill set to tackle the project tasks. He also needs to ensure that his team has the right inter-personal as well as technical skills. For example, an engineering manager will need to be able to communicate effectively with engineers as well as the project manager.
If the project manager notices communication issues as the project unfolds, some coaching or mentoring may be appropriate and helpful. If conflicts arise, the project manager can intervene and facilitate a solution.
Conflict should be thought of as an opportunity to resolve differences. If two team members genuinely care about the outcome and have different opinions, some conflict may arise. Further dialogue and a better appreciation of each others point of view may be all that is needed to align both team members into a place of shared understanding.
The project manager does not avoid conflict. If the project is not progressing well, or team members are not working well together, the issues should be addressed early in the process. As software development author Fred Brooks remarks:
How does a project get to be a year late? One day at a time.
An effective project manager knows that issues will arise, but looks to identify and resolve them as early as possible.
Here you ensure that the team members are working in accordance with any process or policies that have been agreed upon in the project charter and plan.
For example, team members should have a process for:
Identifying which tasks they should be working on at any time.
Flagging any problems or impediments they come across.
Ensuring their work complies with relevant quality standards.
Logging hours spent on each task.
Communicating with other team members.
Sharing work that has been done for quality assurance.
Organizing and attending relevant meetings.
The project manager will assure that all relevant processes are being adhered to. Not doing so would jeopardize the success of the project.
Not only does the project need to be executed efficiently, but the relevant status and updates should be communicated as well.
Information must be circulated so that both team members and stakeholders can stay up-to-date and make the appropriate decisions at the appropriate time.
A communication matrix is an effective way to ensure that everyone is clear on which communications will be sent when and which team member is responsible for sharing them.
Stakeholders are anyone with a vested interest in the project. The most important stakeholders are executive decision-makers who have the power to influence or even kill the project. In order to maximize the chances of project success, the project manager must:
Manage the expectations of shareholders.
Understand what their personal goals are.
Answer any questions.
Ensure that they understand the process by which the project will be run and when the can expect updates.
Now that you have seen how the project manager sets the team up for success by scheduling a kick-off meeting, managing people, and communicating to stakeholders, you will learn how to monitor project progress in the next chapter.
Once the project plan has been created and approved, the executing and monitoring phases of the project management lifecycle begin concurrently.
A project kick-off meeting happens at the beginning of the executing phase and helps align everyone working on the project.
Three important activities during this phase are:
Twenty project management activities that may be done during the executing phase.