Project management is the art of defining, planning and coordinating the implementation of a complex piece of work. Companies and organisations are increasingly finding that project approaches improve work outcomes in a wide range of activities, not just those that are defined as projects but “business as usual” as well.
One of the most crucial factors in successful project work is getting the project off to a good start. This can be more difficult than it sounds. Project team members are often unused to working together, and may be unfamiliar with the disciplines and conventions of project management. Team members may well be seconded, full-time or part-time, from their permanent jobs and still have responsibilities and demands which can distract them from their work on the project.
Project initiation workshops, also known as on-boarding events, are a tried and tested way to ensure that everyone understands what the project is about, its place in the wider organisation, and their own role in bringing it to a successful conclusion. Successful projects have common attributes including clear roles & responsibilities, SMART objectives and a clear scope definition, formal project initiation, clear and agreed Project Management Plan, benefits realization linked to the Business Case, an approvals process, good risk management, realistic project plans, effective project monitoring and control, an effective Project Board, formal change control and issue management, project closeout, benefits and dis-benefits review, a post project evaluation & lessons learned process.
Just as every project is unique, so every project initiation workshop is carefully tailored to the needs of the individual project and the people involved. The workshop is designed for project teams at the earliest stage of developing their project plans. The workshop should be attended by all those with a key role to play in the project.
A typical workshop might cover:
- the overall purpose of the project; its fit with the organisation’s strategy
- what the project will deliver
- who will make use of the deliverables, and how they will be used
- agreeing the scope and objectives of the project
- preparing key deliverables
- agreeing a staged gate review process where applicable
- the senior management perspective; who champions the project
- the project manager’s authority and the reporting structures
- providing an overview of best practice project management
- agreeing project controls
- what each team member will contribute
- ensuring that roles and responsibilities are agreed and understood
- the who, what, why, when and how of the project
- aiding in the development of a high performance project team
- how the project will be structure and planned
- monitoring and control
- project documentation; as little as possible but as much as necessary
Through participation in the workshop, project team members get to know each other, so short sessions are often included on the dynamics of how teams function. An overview of the principles of project management is often useful where people are new to this approach.
At the conclusion of the project initiation workshop the team leave confident, enthusiastic and well informed, with a detailed action plan to ensure the project rolls on, full steam ahead.