Part of successfully commercializing new business and technology development projects relies on solid project leadership. The role of a project leader is to commercialize the project objectives. This includes the ability to develop, establish, coordinate, and negotiate deliverables with customers and end-users. The project leader also needs to actively manage activities and resources assigned to the project. Further, project leader must advise the overseeing management team of the progress and next steps the project team will undertake. Finally, as part of a constant improvement process, the project leader should be expected to reduce the development time by utilizing past best-practice methods and sharing new learnings with the organization.
Most Horizon One and simple Horizon Two projects go through five phases of project management. For Stage / Gate projects and Agile / Lean projects these five steps become subsets of each Stage or Sprint. They are:
(1) Project Initiation
(2) Project Planning
(3) Project Control
(4) Change Management
(5) Project Closeout
Project Initiation Phase This Phase focuses on asking the right questions and documenting a quantitative project definition. In initiating the project, the following questions must be answered and documented. (1) Who is supposed project client? (2) Why was a project chosen? (3) Who is a project manager and why was that person chosen? (4) What does the project request really say? (5) Are the technical, business model, and new feature objectives clearly defined and reviewed? (6) What are the key questions for the project team to answer? Also in this Phase it’s important to determine whether or not the project goals are attainable. If they are not, it’s important to renegotiate the project objectives. Once the answers to these questions are clear in the project team’s mind they should be documented in a Project Definition Document and obtain management’s approval to proceed.
Project Planning Phase This Phase focuses on how to professionally answer the business and technical questions before the project. This Phase also defines the systems, procedures and organizational support that must be in place before the control phase begins. The first step in this subset is to prepare to plan. This involves setting up the project files, forming the project team, and holding a kickoff meeting. The next step is for the project team leader to work with the team to produce a work breakdown structure so everybody knows who we doing what. This is followed by preparing a schedule and budget. Some elements of this process are to determine the sequence of tasks, an estimate of the effort and duration of each, drawing up a schedule chart, and developing a budget. If the project team is been given a mandated budget they need to address how that budget will be met. In the work done so far project leader project team can determine a resource demand chart. Typically this will bring up the issue of over-commitment of resources that must be resolved. Associated with this activity is the creation of contingency plans. Once this is done the team can compare their proposed plans to the project objectives and determine if there are any gaps. If so they need to negotiate trade-offs with the overseeing management team, and once doing so complete their plans and obtain the sign offs.
Project Control Phase This Phase focuses on running experiments, collecting results, studying variances, re-planning and re-forecasting to make solid business, technical, and people decisions. To make sure everything goes as planned the project team and project team leader need to agree upon the degree of formal versus informal control that will be exerted over the project team members’ activities. Also delineated by the project team leader should be the methods for collecting actual results, how decisions will be reported, and how status reports should be prepared. As a project continues the project leader will need to analyze the variances between the plans and the actual results a project team is creating. Team leaders are also responsible for determining the impact that gaps and variances will have on the project team’s probability of successfully completing their work. If problems develop, project team leaders are responsible for pulling the appropriate people together to develop solutions, and if necessary renegotiate the project objectives.
Change Management Phase This Phase relates to how a change request is submitted to the overseeing management group. No project ever goes as planned. When changes are needed the project leader needs to initiate a change request. When this request is delegated the project leader needs to define the level of detail required to identify the sources of the need for changes, and the time, monetary and personnel resources needed to affect a change. The project leader needs to approve or disapprove change requests, bring them to the overseeing management team when appropriate, and renegotiate the project objectives if necessary
Project Closeout Phase This Phase focuses on consolidating the data, gleaning lessons learned, and archiving project information for general use. This usually means gathering up the final business and technical status of the project as well as all costs. Final status report should be prepared and discussed in a project closeout meeting that is attended by all project stakeholders. This meeting should include a segment on uncovering lessons learned by the project team in doing the project. This information should be distributed to other project leaders so they may learn as well as being appropriately archived for future use. When disseminating this information to other project leaders and easy mistake to make is to equate disseminating information with learning. Leaders often think that if they have distributed information widely, organizational members will know it. This is typically not the case unless the information is shared in a vivid manner. Thus learnings from closed-out projects are best shared in public organizational wide meeting formats.