When you’re working in a private or government setting, it’s easy to assume that a project is on track – that a policy is being updated, say – when in reality it’s stuck spinning its wheels.
This kind of project rut can occur as a result of poor transparency and entrenched habits. In some organizations, for example, it may be difficult to get buy-in for weekly meetings. Some decision-makers may claim that they don’t have time. In these cases, the key is to demonstrate that regular meetings can be easily and unobtrusively conducted.
The fact is proper project maintenance makes organizations more efficient rather than less. Yes, it requires detailed planning on the front-end, but the impact this planning will make on your project and overall organizational success can be transformative.
The heart of project maintenance
At its heart, project maintenance is a matter of practicing some very simple values throughout the course of your project. It means being very intentional about tracking your progress toward milestones and goals, instead of assuming everything will happen as planned. It means keeping things on track through clear and continuous communication.
You should have project maintenance meetings no less than once a week. Think about (and frame) these meetings less as ensuring that your team performs their tasks, and more a verification that your project is on track and your tasks are making an impact.
At some stages, it will be necessary to brief many decision-makers with the same information before you can move forward on a given project or task. If you haven’t laid the groundwork through clear communication with all parties, you can end up with a lot of pushback and decision-makers may wonder why they were not consulted on a certain issue.
In some cases, you’ll need to communicate with decision-makers one-on-one. In other cases, it will be more effective to communicate with the full team at once. Part of your job in maintaining your project is assessing which communication style will be most fruitful in a given situation and proceeding accordingly.
In project maintenance and in your project as a whole, a plan is critical – but it can’t be the end of the story. In all likelihood, you will encounter unforeseen challenges, and aspects of your project may take unexpected directions. The key is to be prepared and to make adjustments as you move ahead.
Project maintenance is a matter of being flexibly deliberate. If you can maintain a plan even as it must shift and evolve, and you will be ready to succeed.