Project managers have to manage people, customers and suppliers and coordinate their efforts. They also have to manage a budget and the use of needed resources such as laboratory instruments and supplies. Whether they work in industry, academia, government or for themselves, all project managers have five goals they must meet for their project to be successful.
These goals are to:
- Finish on time
- Finish under budget
- Meet the project requirements
- Make customers happy
- Develop a happy project team
Let’s look at each of these goals and why they are important.
Finish on time
This can be difficult because requirements often change during the course of the project. Additional requirements are often added. To minimize “project scope creep,” all parties involved in the project should agree on project requirements and put them in writing. If these requirements change, everyone involved should agree on a revised schedule and put it in writing.
Track progress on all phases of the project recording both planned and actual progress. This will help in identifying deviations from the plan and allow you to correct in a timely way. A useful way to do this is to use a PERT chart (http://www.netmba.com/operations/project/pert/). This is a graphic representation of the project schedule. It helps in identifying which project tasks can be worked on simultaneously and in particular, the critical tasks which must be completed on time for the overall project to remain on schedule.
Another reason the project may not be completed on time is that the project team, particularly the project manager, was overly optimistic in setting the project schedule. It is often a temptation for the project manager to do this in order to obtain approval for the project.
Finish on or under budget
To maintain your credibility with your project stakeholders, you need to set a project budget at the start of the project and stick with int. Ultimately it is great to finish under budget, but to build a reputable track record, you need to make sure you are on budget each project. Your spending probably won’t be linear with time; therefore, you need to track spending on your PERT chart. Determine how much each task in your project plan will cost to complete and track deviations from the plan. If you do over-spend on some parts of the project, make sure you underspend on others so you can complete the project on target.
Meet the project requirements
Finishing on time and under budget is not enough if the results of the project do not meet the requirements set forth in the project. These requirements must be sufficiently detailed. Ambiguous goals can result in additional time spent on the project and customer dissatisfaction with the results.
Often it is not sufficient that the project results be good enough. To succeed in the marketplace, the results must provide significant advantages compared to its already commercial competitors. These advantages can include performance, cost, energy efficiency, etc.
Make customers happy
Your customers could be satisfied but that may not be enough. They must be happy with project results and eager to use them. If they are not, it’s usually because customers’ requirements or expectations have changed since the project began or you have fallen behind schedule. Frequent and clear communication is essential so you and the project team stay aware of these changes. In particular, openness and honesty are necessary. Keep customers aware of your progress. If you are falling behind schedule or over budget they need to know. Above all, listen closely to customer concerns as the project proceeds.
Ensure a happy team
High team morale is essential to project success. Recognize and reward your project team members for their successes as often as you can. Assign them work in which they are interested and complements their strengths. They will perform better on the current project and be eager to work with you again on the next project.
John Borchardt was a chemist, freelance writer and devoted ACS career consultant for over 15 years, until his sudden passing in January 2013. He was the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers,” and had more than 1500 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he held 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents, and was the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers. John’s advice, insights and articles helped hundreds of scientists improve their professional lives, and he will be truly missed.