Planning for Success: Top 5 Project Management Tips for Government Agencies and Contractors
The new federal fiscal year is upon us. As such, many government agencies and contractors are preparing for new projects, which create an opportunity for success for you and your team. While there are many project-management strategies you can take to put your best foot forward, there are five key tips that are integral to a project’s success, whether you’re a government project manager or contractor.
Tip 1: Set Your Strategy for the Scope
When you oversee a project’s success, do what you can to align your team and project plan with the mission of the project. Ensure your team understands stakeholder needs and the project’s objective. Paint the vision of the end goal, explain why accomplishing the project is important, and establish open lines of communication among team members. This will develop trust and motivate your resources to perform at their highest level.
With a set strategy and buy-in from your project team, identify and determine the key performance indicators (KPI) you need to track. Tracking KPIs is critical and provides the means necessary to measure your progress and ensure you’re benchmarking actual performance against expected performance. Benchmarking actual-versus-expected performance will indicate whether you need to consider adjustments to your resources and project plan.
To measure your project’s performance and drive results, develop dashboards that can be accessed by stakeholders and team members. Dashboards will report real-time data, track key project metrics and offer transparency that will drive project success.
Tip 2: Manage Your Milestones
Whether you use Outlook, iCalendar, a day planner, or a scheduling app, identify the due dates of your major milestones as soon as possible, so you can visualize and plan the activities needed to avoid a time crunch. When you know the major obstacles ahead from a timing perspective, you can proactively prepare to meet each objective. For example, you may need to start some prep work early, work over the weekend, or bring in more people. Don’t wait until the last minute to try and meet deadlines. Look as far down the road as possible to determine your needs as soon as possible.
Tip 3: Connect with Your Stakeholders
Building a rapport with internal and external stakeholders goes a long way in facilitating the success of a project. Start by sending an email or picking up the phone and coordinating a set time to introduce yourself to your client, customer, or other point of contact. Meeting in person or over the phone allows you to transform your virtual presence into a human connection. Additionally, in-person meetings and phone calls may help prevent misreading each other’s tone in emails. Taking the opportunity to establish a cordial and professional relationship with your stakeholders will help pave the way to communication success for your project.
Tip 4: Establish a Trust and Accountability with Your Team
Having a positive working relationship with your team establishes a support system for a successful project. Keep team members accountable, check in with each other, discuss your understanding of a task ahead, and get comfortable brainstorming and solving problems together. Regardless of a team member’s title, position, or role on a project, remember you are on the same team and you must work together toward a unified goal to ensure a successful outcome for your project.
Tip 5: Anticipate the Unexpected and Adjust Your Plan Accordingly
Once you have established the project’s performance objectives and deadlines, document your risk indicators, and time block your schedule to ensure the team has guidance on handling unexpected challenges, and enough time to accomplish all the tasks ahead. Having a bond with your team and clients helps to improve communications, so that you hear about potential issues in real time, and can adjust the plan accordingly. Never allow for only the minimum amount of time before a due date, and always plan and prepare for the worst. You never know when there will be an IT failure, co-worker illness, or a last-minute change in the scope of work. Build in a safe amount of cushion time to address the unforeseen.
These five tips provide practical steps that government contractors and federal agencies can take to ensure a project’s success. Even if you are past the beginning of a project, it’s not too late to reconsider the key steps to take. This reflection can help you reframe your situation in a light that becomes more manageable and clears the pathway to success.
For more project management insight, please contact: Jennifer Fink, PMP, Manager, CohnReznick Government Advisory at 301-280-2726 or Jennifer.Fink@CohnReznick.com. Or, contact James DeGenova, PMP, CFE, CICA, Senior Manager, CohnReznick Government Advisory at 301-280-7928 or James.DeGenova@CohnReznick.com.