Reimagine Learning

Four Project Review Frameworks by Svend Rummel

 

Team Second Avenue 

We are in the re-imagine learning business helping leaders in both education and business build tools, platforms and resources to increase participation in their given audiences. It is important that we are learners too. One of the best ways we as an organization learn is through our project review process. Having been the QA lead for 11  years and now a project manager, there are some key fundamentals frameworks that allow our work to increasingly get better. 

Know Your Client

Knowing our client is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of project management as each type of client has different needs. We have to have a compassionate and flexible approach to project management. During the course of being a project manager you run into many different types of clients:

  • An organization–the most common client we work with.
  • A singular entity. Sometimes your client can be just a single person. 
  • Multiple stakeholders for a single client (may include other partners, grant recipients, etc). In this situation it is important to ensure there is an employee appointed to the client side in order to facilitate communication and feedback. 
  • A client with a new idea who needs support to build that idea into something scalable. Here the client should be proactively approached with suggestions and be given the necessary guidance to realize their idea. A simplistic example of this is rather than asking them “what color would you like?” it is better to ask them “Do you prefer yellow or blue?” 
  • A client who thinks they want one thing and you have to support them going in a different direction to achieve their end goal.  

 

Perhaps the most essential skill in project management is communication. Emotional intelligence and empathy are critically important to support the client relationship and the project outcomes. Both managing the process and the client experience are important factors in the Second Avenue experience.

Escalation

Escalation is an unpleasant but necessary part of project managing. There comes a point in some projects where you need to raise your hand and say “I need help” or “This needs to be addressed at a higher level.” A good rule of thumb here is that problems do not get better with age and raising them early is best. The more a culture creates openness, the more that issues such as capacity planning and additional client support can be allocated. In my role, I have to have a bird’s eye view to ensure that the diverse types of projects get the resources customization they need. The adjustments always impact the whole system like dominoes –  attention to detail and systems thinking are really important aspects of the project management function.

Own Best Practices

Every organization will have their own best practices documented. Given the complexity of doing business with COVID19, there may be an impulse to perhaps push those aside in the interest of expediency or convenience. If a project starts with a tight schedule or starts late it can be tempting to skip the initial steps that are no doubt documented in your organization. These can include a formal products requirement document or initial research. While you can sometimes get away with this behavior it will eventually come back to bite you and when it does it bites hard. Another area where you have to be careful is proposals. Oftentimes you are on a tight deadline to answer an RFP or get information to a potential client. Be aware that time you shave off from estimating or research here can often lead to unforeseen extra expenses later on. Being in business since 2006, we have learned that no matter what external pressure there might be, taking the necessary time to honor internal best practices always saves time in the long run. 

Documentation and Accountability

I am sure everyone has heard some variation of the phrase “pics or it didn’t happen.” The project management version of this is paper trail or it didn’t happen. When you are putting together a response to an RFP make sure that each stakeholder has signed off on their estimate once everyone’s data has been collected. This should include some way of physically ‘signing off’ on their own input. This catches any errors in transferring estimates and makes sure they have thought of everything. Probably one of the more important duties of a project manager is not only assembling meeting notes but also distributing them. Meeting notes are not just a summary of what happened at a meeting they are a paper trail of decisions made during the meeting. If you have proper documentation of “X” being decided during the meeting on paper it is difficult for someone to later dispute the situation if you can refer back to meeting notes that were sent out shortly after. On the other hand if your meeting notes are not kept then no one has any record that a meeting actually took place.

As Second Avenue continues to grow and attract more complex clients, we sharpen these skills regularly.

I hope these frameworks support your project growth and company growth. 

 

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