The execution phase is where the project comes together. It can be the easiest part of project management, or it can be the most difficult. Success will be determined by how well you completed the previous phases.
In order to be successful, several foundational characteristics must exist within a company and a project manager. The company must have sound processes to support the project manager, and the project manager must demonstrate strong communication skills that include being disciplined, highly aware, service-oriented and a problem solver.
Project managers must be disciplined personally, as well as build discipline in the project team to use the plan as the guide, rather than just ignoring it or dropping it along the way. But things will change, and you need to recognize when to respond with corrective actions to bring things back in line with the plan, and when they actually do require a change order.
When something deviates from the plan, it almost always affects other things unless managed carefully. When things change, the project manager must understand how it affects the scope, cost and time, in addition to managing a client’s expectations and schedule.
Effective project managers are not control freaks, dictators or bullies. They make changes to facilitate the work and identify where people need help and things can be improved to drive results. They should strive to create an environment and opportunity for success.
Problem solving may be the largest area where project managers can make a difference and drive success. The more adept and proficient you are in problem-solving methods, the more you can help everyone do the right thing and address the real problems, rather than treating symptoms or band-aiding. Knowing the right questions or whom to ask to discover the issue and/or root cause is key.
This is one of the most important skills the project manager brings to the jobsite. Remember to leverage and build on the communications plan. Communications must be timely and complete, and don’t assume people remember what was planned. Verify people received and understood the communications.
Monitoring and Managing
Project managers will continuously assess how actual results relate to managing scope, cost, schedule and conformance to the plans. Changes in scope, time and/or cost can affect the work quality as well as how the project performs in factors such as project quality, profit margin, client satisfaction and business success.
Much of this may come naturally, although the project manager needs to be diligent in paying attention to it and making sure all involved understand how one aspect affects another. The project manager will need to confirm conformance of the project by checking the client contract, trade contract agreements and purchase agreements, and correct any exceptions.
Quality must be monitored throughout the course of project execution. Remember there are two types of quality: that of the work itself and that of the project overall. Use documents created during planning to help verify the work. You may also use things from past projects and your company—customizing or adjusting them to fit the project specifics.
Cost control processes may be specified in your planning documents, although usually many are defined by a company’s policies and standard practices—it may depend on your company and the size of the project. In some cases, much may be done by the project manager; in others, the project manager needs to work closely with whoever handles the cost management to ensure you understand what’s happening and how the project is performing. If you fall behind on these records, you may miss important indicators of how things are going and where you need to put your efforts.
It is important the project manager or person responsible ensures the following:
- Process orders and paperwork
- Review estimates, invoices and bills
- Flag and evaluate differences from plans
- Make payments
- Maintain adequate records
The key to maintaining and keeping on track is ongoing recordkeeping. Keeping information up-to-date will ensure you do not get overwhelmed if you let it slide. Establishing a good system helps, making it easier on everyone to get what you need, drive success and help future projects as well as this one.
Updating the Schedule
The schedule dictates when things need to be done. Staying on top of dates will help you know where the project stands and give you indicators of where you need to pay attention. Keeping an eye on your planned schedule (baseline) helps you make good decisions and course adjustment. |QR
Take the NARI Recertification quiz for this article here.