The following article looks through the second part of the project initiation phase. For the first part of the project initiation phase, you can go through the following article +Setting the Foundation for Project Success: A Project Manager's Short Guide.
We are going to embark on a short tour to understand the essential ingredients of project initiation in the project management journey. All about the motivation to conduct a successful project with types of roles, skills, teams, and diversity with the right kind of project management tools such as RACI charts, Spreadsheets, Productivity tools, and others. Let's dive in.
Content of the article
The project starts with having an ultimate band of doers who work on the task to accomplish what we have set out for. So, When choosing a team, consider;
Everyone on the team needs to feel motivated to complete their assigned tasks. Motivation is a key ingredient for great work, so it’s important to pick people who are excited to get involved.
Beyond motivation, team members also need to be available and have key skills.
Skills of the Team
Technical skills are highly valued, but they are not the only skills that are important for high-functioning teams. Interpersonal skills, also known as people skills or soft skills, such as patience and conflict mediation, can help team members. This allows the team to blend their technical expertise with collaborative skills in order to get the job done. When a team applies their interpersonal skills, they can minimize team-related issues.
Problem-solving skills are a must for all team members, especially when it comes to large, complex projects. As a project manager, you will not be able to solve every problem for your team. At some point, they will need to use their own judgment to problem-solve and get the work done.
An underrated skill set for project team members is leadership skills. Strong leadership skills help team members navigate organizational boundaries and effectively communicate with stakeholders to generate buy-in.
Team & Diversity
Keep in mind that you need to value diversity early on when building your team.
On diverse teams, everyone is able to use their unique professional and personal experiences to contribute to a more successful project. Diversity is best leveraged when it is acknowledged and highlighted as an asset.
Many people avoid discussing their differences, but if you encourage those conversations, you will find a richer understanding and greater creativity that comes from people working together across identity differences.
To do this effectively, it is important to dedicate time early on in the team-building process to develop trust between team members. Team members who understand one another are more likely to trust each other and feel safe sharing different points of view or offering a competing perspective.
This will also allow them to more easily offer constructive feedback or be supportive if the team dynamics face challenges at any point. Engaging in a respectful manner and maintaining a positive outlook with your team during times of adversity are simple ways to keep your team motivated.
The following are the building blocks to creating your very own dream team.
Always keep in mind that a project manager does not just select dream teams, they create dream teams through collaboration under great leadership.
This is the leadership that will be provided as a project manager.
An overview of the project roles is stated below with inference to important roles;
Project Sponsor: The person who's accountable for the project and who ensures the project delivers the agreed-upon business benefits
Team members: The people doing the work and making things happen
Customers: The people who will get some value from a successfully landed project
Users: The people who use the product produced by your project
Stakeholders: Anyone involved in the project who has a vested interest in the project's success
Project Manager: The person who plans, organizes, and oversees the whole project
Engagement with stakeholders is the most essential and primary role of a project manager in the initiation phase. Project managers strongly rely on the following skills to enhance their efficacy
Stakeholders are generally divided into two groups
Primary stakeholders (or key stakeholders): The one who is directly affected by the outcome of the project
Secondary stakeholder: The one who is indirectly affected by the outcome of the project.
Prioritize the various types of stakeholders that can exist on a project, generate stakeholder buy-in, and manage their expectations.
There are cases when the project manager might want to form a steering committee. A steering committee is a collection of key stakeholders who have a high level of power and interest in a project.
Stakeholder Analysis & Visualization
The stakeholder power grid is a two-by-two grid used for conducting a stakeholder analysis.
The power grid assigns each stakeholder a level of importance to the project using two measures;
A power grid shows stakeholder interest in the project versus their influence over the project.
Generating stakeholder buy-in
Based on the stakeholder analysis, the project manager needs to do the following
Start making decisions on whose buy-in is absolutely necessary for success
Whose requirements deserve the most attention
What level of communication each stakeholder will require
The following is a ready reference of the suggested questions for stakeholders
What are your most important priorities/goals?
How will this initiative/project support you and your most important priorities?
What role would you like to play within this initiative/project?
Here’s how I plan to keep people informed; does that work for you?
What can I clarify for you?
What are your expectations? What would you like for the project to accomplish?
What would success look like for you?
Who else do you recommend I reach out to about this initiative?
What information or insights do you have that might be challenging for me to find?
Where do you see me getting support for this initiative? Facing resistance?
What additional thoughts/questions do you have?
The first and foremost objective of the project manager is to determine who their stakeholders are and understand their level of influence and interest. Then, a project manager needs to decide how to involve them in a project.
RACI chart consists of the following four types of description;
Those who are informed need to know about final decisions or that a task is complete.
What is the RACI chart?
The RACI chart is a valuable tool. It can help project managers to;
Define and document project roles and responsibilities
Provide direction to each team member and stakeholder
Ensure work gets done efficiently
A RACI chart can also help you analyze and balance the workload of your team. While it may take many revisions to make sure that your team members and stakeholders are being placed into the right roles in your RACI chart, doing this work upfront helps save time and prevent miscommunications later on.
A RACI chart can be an extremely effective way to define project roles, give direction to each team member and stakeholder, and ensure work gets done efficiently.
A RACI chart creates clear roles and gives direction to each team member and stakeholder.
RACI chart can be referred to in different manners in different industries or companies as a Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM), RACI diagram, or RACI matrix. The ultimate goal of this chart is to clarify each person’s role in your project.
Let's get into the details of each of the roles people can be assigned:
R: Responsible: who gets the work done
Individuals who are assigned the “responsible” role for a task are the ones who are actually doing the work to complete the task. Every task needs at least one responsible party. It’s a best practice to try to limit the number of team members assigned to a task’s responsible role, but in some cases, you may have more than one.
A: Accountable: who makes sure the work is done
The “accountable” person is responsible for making sure the task gets done. It is important to have only one individual accountable for each task.
C: Consulted: who gives input or feedback on work
There is no maximum or minimum number of people who can be assigned a “consulted” role, but it’s important that each person has a reason for being there.
I: Informed: who needs to know the outcome
Are there too many tasks assigned to one stakeholder?
When you complete your chart, it is a good idea to go back through and tally the number of "Rs" assigned to each stakeholder. This can help you identify potentially overloading one team member with work.
Put your RACI into practice
Once project managers have created the RACI chart, it is time to put it into practice.
The project manager first needs to share the RACI chart with the sponsors and stakeholders to get buy-in and sign-off.
When a project manager gets stakeholder buy-in, he will be able to set clear expectations for the team and ensure that everyone is aligned on their responsibilities.
Project Failure - Initiation Missteps
Project resources are who and what you depend on to complete a project are essential ingredients for a project's success. The following are the most important aspects of the project, any miscalculation can lead to project failure;
Team: the cost of the people performing the work
Services: any outside vendors helping your project
Materials: any tangible items purchased to complete the project
Clear and consistent documentation can ensure transparency and clear communication which plays an important role in the success of the project.
Questions to ponder
What problems are you trying to solve?
What are the project goals?
What are the scope and deliverables, and who are the project's stakeholders?
What resources do they need to complete their work?
Documenting decisions can help uncover tasks, timelines, or costs.
During project initiation following are the two most essential documents
A project Proposal is a form of documentation that persuades a stakeholder to begin a project.
A project Charter is a formal document that clearly defines the project and outlines the necessary details needed to reach its goals.
The project proposal kicks off the initiation phase by influencing and persuading the company to move forward with the project. The project charter's goal is to clearly define the key details of the project.
Project charters make clear that the benefits of the project outweigh the costs of the project. Cost-benefit analysis helps in that via;
Business value created
Project charters help ensure that you and your stakeholders agree on the details of the project. Creating a project charter is a best practice for ensuring that everyone agrees on how to move forward before entering the planning phase.
Project charters will vary but usually include some combination of the following key information:
Introduction or Project Summary
Goals or Objectives
Business case or Benefits and costs
Major requirements or Key deliverables
Schedule or Timeline or Milestones
Constraints and Assumptions
Tools for Project Management
Tools can help track detailed information about all kinds of tasks and make it easy to communicate with lots of different people. It helps in the following major ways;
Track tasks deadlines
Provide visibility to others
Manage a budget
Create helpful diagrams
The following defines the important considerations and keys to successfully introducing new tools:
Discuss the tool early and often.
Ask for feedback from key stakeholders.
Involve the key stakeholders in demonstrations.
Ensure the tool is fully functional before the team is introduced to it.
Set up training for the tool before the team actually uses it.
Types of tools
Work management software is useful for tracking and visualizing progress so that project managers don’t have to do it manually. It also helps them easily assign tasks. The following list the categories of tools to be considered;
1. Schdeuling and work management software - Ex. Jira, Asana
2. Productivity Tools
Online Shared Documents
3. Collaboration tools
Email and chats
Tools can include software applications like Adobe, Google, and Microsoft and specific work management tools like Jira and Asana. They can also include methodologies, techniques, formulas, concepts, and technologies related to project management.
Digital Tools for PM
Project management digital tools such as Asana, Monday.com, Basecamp, Trello and Smartsheets are among some of the top-ranked tools for managing projects. Being able to talk about these tools, and use them, will be crucial in developing and executing projects in this modern era.
There are plenty of Project management tools available, below is a short note of a few popular ones;
Smartsheet to maintain the project’s schedule, resources, and budget
Google Sheets to create task lists and project plans, and analyze data with charts
Cloud Storage such as Google Drive to store documents online
Emails such as Gmail or Outlook to send emails to vendors
Chat tools such as Slack to better communicate with your team members and stakeholders
Video conferencing tools such as Zoom or WebEx to host online meetings
Comprehensive tools like Microsoft Teams or Google Workplace to streamline productivity and collaboration
Asana, Trello, Monday.com, or Basecamp to help organize the work and visualize the team’s tasks
For further read on the project management article,
The first step towards project initiation - Setting the Foundation for Project Success: A Project Manager's Short Guide
A brief note on understanding project management can be read here.
Reference & Source:
Kermal Kochave, Unsplash, under creative commons