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Project Management Rules of the Game

Project Management rules are important to learn when you want to make a living of this career. Over the past couple of decades, working in the project management field has had its’ ups and downs.  I have found that if I apply a few simple rules though, the chances of my projects being completed successfully increase significantly. The following rules and principles are based on my personal experience in the field of engineering projects. As with most things in life, project management is all about initiation and application.

1. Project Management is common sense

​In a nutshell, project management is common sense. Where people can sometimes get mixed up is that they don’t apply this on a daily basis, and perfect practice makes perfect. When you practice doing the little things, even taking in the minutest detail, you set yourself and your team up for success.  And if you make this a habit, you set yourself and all your projects up for success for life.  Knowing and applying this makes project management easy to understand and easy​ to apply in daily life and also in large scale projects.

2. Project Management is adjustable

There are many project management tools or principles that can be applied. However, it always depends on the size of the project, on the risk, the cost, the complexity, the situation, the location etc, how much project management you need to do. No two projects are the same, which is why I don’t really offer a one-off formula that promises success in all projects.  Be flexible, or, in the words of Bruce Lee, “Be like water.”  Project management isn’t so much sticking to the plan as it is being respond-able to situations and challenges that arise.  Flow, be adjustable and be respond-able.​

3. Projects are all about people

No matter how ​grea​t your project is planned​ or how much money you can make in a project, if there are no people or not suitable people involved then the project is ​probably doomed. Therefore look out for the right people for your project to be successful.  As in the timeless​ book ​’​Good To Great,​’​ it is essential to get the right people in the ‘right seats’ on the bus.
​And remember, project management is one part project management, and one part handling egos (including our own).  Without people skills, social skills or tact in your communications, you may create unnecessary challenges and problems for yourself and your team.​

4. The ultimate job of a Project Manager (PM)

It is the Project Manager (PM) who has to follow up on ​all ​open items or issues and pending problems which are usually forgotten or overlooked.  It may be inconvenient to make an email or a phone call to clarify the problems with the client or the engineer of the project​, but often a 5 minute phone call can give you the clarity you need to fix an issue while it is still small​. In the end, it could cost you a lot of extra time and money to not double check with the decision makers or sub-contractors.​ It is the personal leadership of the Project Manager (PM) who makes or breaks a project. So take initiative!!​

5. Documented meetings

​Hold r​egular meetings with ​your​ team and take​ proper minutes of ​your ​meetings​ with clear ​concise ​actions, whereby each task is assigned to one or more responsible people who understand the task and can deliver the task successfully by a specific due date.  This depends on the project and its situation, but in general, a weekly meeting to review the upcoming actions of a project and a monthly status meeting with detail review is highly recommended. And please, don’t be afraid to make sure everyone understands their role and action items.  Communication communication communication!​

6. Time is money

Start strong and stick to the plan – do not ​assume or hope th​at​ time losses can be recovered at the end of the project.  Start right and end right.

7. Contract matters

Stick to the contract (clauses) and deliver what is requested. Do not ​hope and ​believe that ​Santa ​Clause will rescue your contractual non-compliances at the end. In this scenario, YOU are the Santa Clause!​ ​And these issues​ ​are​ for the Project Manager (PM) to address as soon as possible.

8. Challenges are there to solve

​You cannot spell project management without CHALLENGES…OK, well maybe you can, but that doesn’t mean that challenges and issues don’t arise in projects!  ​If there is a delay in the project, take immediate action to recover and do not believe that the same people who incurred the delay will recover the delay. Again, have a high level of respond-ability to situations.​

9. Consider complete design processes

Do not underestimate design work​.  It takes time and input to complete this project especially to get it all drawn on a computer, printed on paper, checked by competent people, submitted and approved. Make sure you leave a time buffer for the design processes.​

10. Escalation for decisions

Escalate issues fast and in writing and repeat it until the right attention is given or the issues are solved. Here, it may be necessary to pressure decision-makers to respond by a certain time.  ​
I hope this helps in more ways than one!  Wishing you success in all your projects!
Peter Wyss

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