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Managing a successful project

As a project manager, it is common to receive phone calls from people seeking help with their project because something has gone wrong.  While things can be done at that stage, the key to success is good project management. 

Many projects proceed without a clear understanding of what they are trying to achieve or a person with the experience to make it successful. One survey in the UK indicated that only 20% of projects were successful! 

Many people carry out ‘projects’ without knowing how to define one. 

The same rules that apply for the construction of a building apply for planning a major event. To help understand what a project is, think about planning your daughter’s wedding. How would you measure the project’s success?  And, what needs to be done to manage away the risk of failure?   

To begin with, the project needs a sponsor – someone who is paying for the wedding and wants it to be a success. Traditionally, this person is the father. 

Let’s assume that the daughter is away at school and is not able to manage this event on her own so she must give someone else the responsibility and authority to bring about the event.

The project needs a Project Manager, someone who will deliver the wedding at the agreed budget, at the agreed time and to an agreed performance and quality.  

The project manager in this example will be the mother. She has helped two other daughters get married and she has necessary experience and tools for the job.

After the daughter gives her mother details of what would be her ideal wedding, she begins to formulate a plan that would fulfill her daughter’s wishes and satisfy her father.

In formulating the plan, the mother discovers that her daughter now wishes to have the wedding in eight weeks time. This is possible, but only if the budget is doubled and they use an alternative venue. After some discussion and more research they agree on the details, the project plan. 

Father, daughter and mother, the major stake holders, now agree the date of the wedding, how much they are willing to spend on it and the level of quality that will be needed to make them satisfied with the outcome.  

How does this relate to building developments? Both are projects that focus on instituting change at an agreed value, in an agreed timeframe and to a certain level of performance. 

Both require a sponsor, someone willing to support this change. Both require a plan that details and maps how this change will happen. Both require an experienced Project Manager given the responsibility and authority to bring about this change.

A well defined and executed project does not ensure a ‘happily ever after’ ending, but it does mean a much greater chance of success.

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By Chris Potter

Chris is the owner and founder of Chris Potter Associates. He is a highly experienced construction professional with experience as a contractor and consultant quantity surveyor and project manager in the UK and Caribbean construction markets.

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