10 midyear resolutions for project managers

Are you happy with the way your projects have been going so far this year or are you running into too many obstacles and delays? With 2007 already half gone, now's a good time to take stock and decide which objectives and improvement goals will help round out the year successfully.

A while back, project management columnist Tom Mochal put together a list of resolutions based on some of the concerns managers typically face. Here's a recap of his goals to help guide your progress for the rest of 2007.

#1: Invest in myself. (I am worth it!)

I'm tired of learning at the school of hard knocks. Many project managers know what they are doing. Some are even writing about it. I need to invest time in reading project management columns, books, and Web sites. I also need to convince my manager to send me to a formal project management class.

#2: Get my PMP certification. (It's all going to be worth it when I have passed!)

Part of the investment in me is to achieve my PMP certification. This is becoming more and more important to my company and to the project management field. I am going to establish a personal project around this objective and establish a plan to obtain the certification within six months.

#3: Keep my workplan up to date. (Don't be lazy!)

I discovered it's not enough to develop a workplan (schedule) that's a work of art. I also need to keep it up to date as my project progresses. I know now that the workplan is my friend. If I feed it updates, it will tell me where I am on the project. It will also tell me if I'm trending past my deadline while I still have time to do something about it.

#4: Manage scope more effectively. ("The times, they are a changin'!")

I am tired of my projects spinning out of control with a lack of scope change management. My last five-month project turned into 11 months, and I looked bad since I did not manage the scope. If I had managed the scope and had the sponsor approve the changes, the project might still have taken 11 months, but I would have been a hero. By the way, my commitment to managing scope effectively will also force me to define the scope more precisely, and that is a good thing as well.

#5: Make sure my sponsor remains engaged. (Hang in there with me!)

I have been on too many projects where the sponsor became disengaged and the project wandered off course. Shame on the sponsor. However, shame on me too for not recognizing what was going on. A project needs the sponsor to remain engaged. I can help make that happen, with proactive communication, ongoing personal contact, and reminders to the sponsor that he or she needs to be involved in risk management, scope management, major deliverable approvals, etc. I need to raise the yellow flag of caution if the sponsor is losing interest.

#6: Manage risks. (It's a crazy world out there -- and not much better in our company!)

If I want to take on more important and strategic projects within our company, I need to develop more industrial-strength risk management skills. Ignorance is no excuse.

#7: Communicate, communicate... (and communicate some more!)

I know I am not the best communicator, so if I feel like I'm overcommunicating, it will probably be about right to everyone else. I have to force myself to communicate with the reader in mind. I keep trying to communicate in the way that is most convenient to me and then I wonder why my sponsor and managers have to ask me questions about what is going on. Spending more effort to communicate more effectively the first time will end up saving me by not having to repeat the same information over and over.

#8: Manage expectations. (No surprises!)

I've learned that it's not the bad news that makes people mad -- it's being surprised. I have to do a better job managing expectations. This will require me to do a better job of setting expectations, which is also a good thing.

#9: Be proactive. (Take charge!)

I passed a mental threshold over the past few months. I feel like I can now take control of my projects. I don't have to struggle figuring out what to do, and I don't find myself constantly reacting to events. Toward the end of the project, I realized that I can be in control and apply project management discipline proactively.

#10: Keep my commitments. (Just do it!)

I am constantly frustrated when people in the organization do not keep their commitments to me. But a quick look in the mirror revealed that I am not a saint in this regard. How many times did I tell someone I would do something for them and then failed to follow it through? From now on, I'm going to establish the discipline required to keep track of my commitments and deliver against them. This will permeate all of my work. Then I will worry about others.