Project Management in Any Industry
I recently didn’t get a project management consulting engagement because the client was concerned that I had experience in only a few projects in their particular industry. While I understand that someone of comparable skill with more experience in their domain would be preferable, the conversation had a “We are unique” vibe that was contradicted by some of the common problems we discussed.
Good project managers can anticipate and address the primary considerations for any project, regardless of industry. But if you encounter a skeptic, here’s a generic template you can use to pitch any project.
Projects in [specialty industry] are unique. It is important to have a clear understanding of the desired outcomes up front and solid executive sponsorship.
It’s also imperative in our industry that changes to the project definition be carefully managed and considered in the context of the schedule and resource consequences. Projects in other industries don’t suffer nearly as much as ours do when project definitions are vague, incorrect, or incomplete or when changes to the definition are not carefully controlled and communicated.
It is particularly important when engaging in a [type] project to identify and consider the needs of all stakeholders to assure that any requirements omitted or minimized are conscious choices by the project sponsor. Communication planning should work to keep stakeholders informed of project progress and solicit feedback on interim deliverable work products when they are available.
Unlike projects in other domains, [specialty industry] projects must pay particular attention to identifying work products and applicable quality standards early, with a “definition of done.” Project plans should clearly identify who is responsible for creating deliverables, when they are expected, and what they will require in terms of human and other resources to assure that the business case makes sense at the outset. Other industries have unlimited access to qualified personnel and funding, but ours is different, and we have to do our best to predict and monitor resource requirements.
Project managers must also pay particular attention to the special requirements of a project of [size], assuring that project policies and plans are consistent with the scope and complexity of the effort and the magnitude of the project team. For projects of [size], the administrative overhead should be commensurate with the size, complexity, and risk of the endeavor.
Finally, all projects of [type] in [specialty industry] should encourage a robust consideration of risk. Threats to project schedule, resources, scope, performance, or quality in [specialty industry] can never be completely eliminated, but informed choices are always possible about ways to reduce the probability of significant risks or the impact of those events if they occur.
These practices, specifically targeted to [size] projects of [type] in [specialty industry], should help improve overall executive decision-making and project success rates. We can only wish there were more project management literature that addressed our specific needs; definition, planning, and management would be much more straightforward.