Usually projects are built around different phases. PMI has the standard Initiation, Planning, Executing, Controlling, and Closing and most PMO’s have a variation of these five phases. Project Managers can get in trouble if they move from one phase without making sure the previous phase is complete. I have found these four questions to essential for every phase from initiation to planning or controlling to closing.
- Where are we today (i.e., time and cost)?
- Where will we end up (i.e., time and cost)?
- What are the present and future risks?
- What assistance is needed from management?
A good PM will ask between each phase “Where we are today?” Each week, the budget analysis should be reviewed, but taking a step back to determine how each task is being managed, what has been spent, and what the amount has been consumed, will make it real clear if the project is on track or not. Working with external clients, this information must be presented and agreed to before moving to the next phase.
Just as important as where the project stands today, knowing where the project will end up is equally important. Most projects have a budget, a set limit of money, time that the scope needs to be completed. At each phase, knowing how much more is needed to accomplish the scope is crucial to the decision to move to the next phase.
Risk assessment is next. What could go wrong? What do we do if it does? What is the probability of the event happening? All items that must be discussed when moving from one phase to the next. Thinking ahead in different scenarios will help you think of possible outcomes and then mitigation of those outcomes if needed.
Inevitably, management will give assistance when needed. It is important for a PM to review the entire project and have answers to questions that management will ask. How much are we over budget? How past due is the Client? How much more work is needed to finish the project? What additional resources are needed to finish the project? A good PM will have the answers, and possible solutions so management can agree and the project can move forward.
Each phase gate is designed to make course corrections with the project and to keep the project moving forward. A project should have a beginning and an End. Keep good records, answer the questions and move forward.