Help! I’ve just landed a really cool project and I don’t know where to start!
Perhaps, one of the most frustrating and stressful things a new Project Manager faces is to arrive at an organization and be expected to jump right in, take over from the previous manager and keep the project on track. To compound matters, documentation might be lacking, processes not well defined, and the tacit knowledge left with the previous manager.
Here is a formula I have used occasionally and would love to share. I have used this method to get myself up and running quickly, and it has also worked well as a framework when I trained new Project Managers. I used the three Ps (Product, Process, and People) of understanding.
Product. My first task was to fully immerse myself in every aspect of the available documentation of the product or service being offered. I asked for all Business documents used for initiating the project, the Project Charters, Project Plans, and Business Analysts documentation, etc. If there was a corporate repository for the project and related projects, I requested access and I read, read, read. I made sure to make notes along the way and did my best to interpret in my own words what the project/s was/were about and then I found someone knowledgeable to verify my understanding. Once I had a good understanding of the scope of the project, I then turned to the Processes.
Process. Most of the large organizations where I worked had Project Management Offices (PMO) and Corporate Project Repositories. Both of these were usually great starting points to begin learning how projects were initiated, managed, deployed, and closed. Additionally, The PMO provided the corporate structure for change control and the processes for escalation when needed. Each organization had its own processes, so I had to be sure to probe to find additional processes. For example, how teams were notified to engage and how work passed from one team to the other. Once I had a fair understanding of the processes, I moved on to the stakeholders.
People. Work gets done through people. It was vitally important to know the Business or Customer. I learned the business relationships and how involved they were with the projects. I found the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). These were the key individuals who provided expert knowledge and ensured the work got done correctly. I learned all I could about the supporting teams and how they interfaced and supported the projects. It was also important to know the support organizations like IT, Desktop Support, and similar agencies. Once I collected enough information about the key stakeholders, I made every effort to introduce myself to gain knowledge and build relationships.
Dr. Stan Brooks