Establish structure and discipline
At the start of a project, it’s common for managers and participants to be certain only of the impending release date – everything else is anyone’s guess. While this date is sometimes arbitrary and malleable, more often than not it is tied to a critical business driver and can’t (or won’t) be moved. When resources are scarce, project scope becomes the only fungible element, and typically suffers multiple revisions over the course of a project. With an aggressive deadline, shifting scope, and no clear plan for success, folks will naturally conclude that the project is doomed and assume a “death march” posture. In this environment, the focus switches from getting things done to simply getting through the day, which inevitably requires frequent puppy breaks.
To instill confidence in the project from the start (as well as in times of change), successful project managers consistently provide a clear path:
* When developing or revising a detailed project plan, always put a short-term work plan in place to guide the team’s efforts in the interim.
* Require team members to set firm commitments for task completion, and hold them accountable for meeting those deadlines.
* Be disciplined about changes in scope and keep them to a minimum. If scope cuts are needed, move quickly to identify what’s in and what’s out, and be clear about which plan (old or new) the team should be operating under while changes are being evaluated.