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Michelle LaBrosse


10 Tips to Avoid Making Your Projects As Painful As a Root Canal

Effective project management is essentially effective leadership

Published: Monday, January 25, 2021 - 12:02

Do you find the idea of having to do project management almost as much fun as getting a root canal? If so, you’re not alone. But it doesn’t have to be as bad as a painful dental procedure to adopt more effective ways of managing your projects.

Nor does it have to be extremely boring or some type of mandatory activity folks know is good for them, but no one wants to take the time to do. That is the problem with how many good people approach what passes for “project management.”

Often, project management approaches seem to be to satisfy some bureaucratic mandate issued from on high.

In other words, someone somewhere thought someone else improving how they did their projects would be a great idea.

This is the lip-service approach to project management. It doesn’t grasp the why or how of effective project management.

Effective project management is essentially effective leadership

Here are 10 tips to be a more effective leader when doing your projects:

1. Start far fewer projects. Yes, you read that correctly. When you take the time to do a thorough feasibility analysis, establish the cost-benefit analysis, and evaluate the potential risks you could encounter, it’s likely most projects won’t even get off the starting block. This is a very good thing.

2. Align all projects with current strategies. Evaluate the whole mix of your potential and current projects to see which ones best meet your current strategic objectives. Work on only those projects that are aligned with where your business is heading. At Cheetah Learning, before we initiate any project, we do a quick opportunity scan process to evaluate which projects are the best fit. Quarterly, we evaluate the current projects to see if it still makes sense for us to pursue them.

3. Know what “finished” means. Once you have decided you want to pursue or continue a project, collectively review what it means to finish that project. You do this before you commence or continue working on your projects. Scope creep can start before you even begin a project. With a shared commitment to what it means to have completed your project, you’re much more likely to actually finish it.

4. Reduce risks of completion. Continually assess the risks facing the completion of your project. Start this before you start your project. Identify your risks, and develop plans to eliminate, reduce, and manage those risks. Identify the people responsible for reducing your risks of completion and find out what is going to drive their accountability for project completion.

5. Deliver results, fast. Make sure you can deliver something useful to whomever is paying for your project early in the project’s life. No one likes to wait to see results. Show results in a monetizable way, fast.

6. Pay attention to who is on your “bus.” Get the right people on your team and the wrong people off your team fast. Your project is not a warehouse for those the company does not know how to best use. The “special projects” label is career suicide. If you have not hand-picked the folks on your project team, consider if this is a project you really need to be pursuing.

7. Quality is a measure of how much you care. Doing the job right, with the correct processes, actually costs far less money. Quality is not something someone else tells you to do or prevents you from doing. Understand the processes you are using to create your project’s deliverables. Make sure they are performing well or work to upgrade them immediately.

8. Maximize return on the efforts of your project team. There are five sources of capital we all can leverage to get a return on our efforts. When you take the time to ensure all who work on your project can maximize a return on their efforts, you will continue to attract top talent to work with and for you.

9. Keep others informed, in a measured and balanced way. No one likes surprises or being blindsided. At the same time, you can’t cry wolf and escalate issues that you can and should be resolving on your own. Establish who needs to know what when, and periodically review those assumptions.

10. Give credit where credit is due. We’ve moved well beyond the stage where everyone gets a trophy for participating. Yet too often the worker bees get ignored and dismissed as they were “just doing their job.” Acknowledge and appreciate the work others do for you, paying attention to how they prefer to be recognized.


About The Author

Michelle LaBrosse’s picture

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring project management to the masses. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program and holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. More than 50,000 people have used Cheetah Learning’s project management and accelerated learning techniques.