You will learn what pitfalls to avoid when managing government projects.
- Let's be honest, project management is not for the faint of heart. There are many challenges you'll face while making sure your projects stay on target. However, if you take a proactive approach by having a plan of action in place your projects won't go off course. So how do you avoid making the same mistakes that others have made before you? Well, one good way is to study the lessons learned from previous projects.
Let me walk you through five of the most common project pitfalls and best practices and how to avoid them. Number one, kicking off without a signed project charter. That's a no-no. Number two, allowing scope creep. Number three, falling behind schedule. Number four, going over budget. And of course, number five, failing to implement a change control system.
First, you want to make sure you have a signed project charter before doing anything. Your project charter describes the project, how you'll approach it, and names all the stakeholders involved. You want to get this signed, preferable by someone with the authority to allow you to spend the company's money. The project charter is important, because it officially designates you as the project manager, as well as the single point of contact for the project.
This will give you an opportunity to ask questions, gain stakeholder buy-in, and clarify any grey areas before you start planning. You can reference the accompanying project charter checklist to help you get started. It's important to understand that the project charter is high level. There are not a lot of details at this stage. You'll hash those out later when you actually plan your project. The goal at this stage is to simply gauge buy-in and understand what the key stakeholders think a successful project should look like.
In essence, you're putting them in a future state of mind, so you get a picture of what will make them satisfied with the results. So, once the project charter's finalized you can officially kick off your project. This doesn't have to be extravagant, but you need to formalize it, so all stakeholders are aware that the project has started. And this is your opportunity to set expectations with your project team and make sure everyone is properly aligned to the project's mission.
Remember to start your project on a high note. Next, you need to be aware of scope creep. Scope creep occurs when you allow changes to your scope without considering the impact on other project constraints, such as schedule, budget, and even resources. Yes, some changes to scope are inevitable. However, all proposed changes must be formalized via a change request form and analyzed before they're implemented.
It is important that you ensure you have thorough documentation and all key stakeholders have formally approved these changes before you implement them. This also gives you a way to track changes throughout the project lifecycle. The third potential pitfall is falling behind schedule. One of the most important, if not the most important, constraints to adhere to is the project schedule. Especially when managing government contracts.
You want to proactively manage your schedule. This is crucial. Define significant points that will take place at different phases of your project. These milestones will give you peace of mind and serve as an early warning sign of problems with your schedule. Also, you want to make sure you do not go over budget, even though unexpected things can happen on your project. One way to resolve issues is to hire more qualified personnel or add additional resources.
Although not totally expected, a certain amount of uncertainty can be taken into account when you create your initial budget. As your project progresses you can keep an ongoing budget forecast that can be periodically revised. It is easier to manage your budget, quickly correct problems, and avoid overruns if you closely monitor your forecast. The last pitfall I want to talk about is failing to implement a change control system.
You may be tempted to make spur of the moment changes, but I highly encourage you to first analyze their potential impact on the project. If you choose not to you could end up going above and beyond the scope of the project or derail the project all together. A change control system provides a formal process for stakeholders to submit change requests for approval. This system also ensures you and your team aren't inundated with informal change requests.
A word of caution, if a stakeholder isn't willing to put their request in writing and sign off on it then you shouldn't waste your valuable time evaluating it. Adherence to the system is paramount, and it will help you avoid unnecessary project changes. If you study these common project pitfalls and follow the best practices to avoid them you will improve your chances of project success.
Keep this quote in mind, "A fool learns from his or her mistakes, "while the wise person learns by observing "the mistakes of others."
Learn the best practices and terminology for working with the government, including documentation such as subsidiary plans, RFPs, PWSs, and SOOs. Walk through the three phases of contract negotiation—pre-award, award, and post-award—and common challenges as well as solutions for bidding on government contracts and getting projects authorized.
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- Avoiding common pitfalls
- Reviewing the request for proposal (RFP)
- Identifying stakeholders
- Refining the deliverables
- Finalizing the contract
- Kicking off the project
- Managing the project
- Closing out the project