As Atomic’s project manager, my job is to plan our projects and keep them on track. Sounds easy enough … maybe even boring. But there’s one little thing that keeps my job challenging.
Scope changes. Schedule changes. Software changes. You name it, I’ve seen it. In fact, it seems to me that no matter how carefully a project is planned, some level of changes are inevitable. That’s just what happens when a creative concept evolves into a reality.
So instead of closing my eyes and hoping that changes won’t happen, I’m always ready for them. Here are some of the strategies I use to keep our projects on track in the face of the unexpected.
Talk openly about the impact of changes. Sometimes a client thinks of a new requirement or new idea partway through a project. We can always accommodate these requests, but it’s my job to make sure the client understands exactly how those changes would affect schedule and budget. That way the client can make an informed decision on whether to implement the changes or stick with the original plan.
Be honest about delays. Every now and then, it takes us longer to execute a task than we thought it would. (Yes, it’s true – we do make mistakes!) In those situations, I always let our clients know right away that we need to bump our schedule back a couple of days. Clients appreciate this honesty, and it helps them to better plan their review cycles accordingly.
Constantly monitor and adjust milestones. If we miss a milestone in our project schedule, we don’t just throw up our hands and say, “well, we’re sunk now.” Instead, I constantly readjust project milestones as needed. If we get behind on a deadline, I find out if we can expedite subsequent ones. And, if needed, I crack the whip and get our team really cranking to help us meet a deadline.
Of course, in my fondest dreams, all projects tick along perfectly, with every milestone met to the minute. I’ll keep hoping for that … but in the meantime, when changes come along, I’ll be ready for them.
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