Victoria Tifft: Effective project plans and a quality team can be the key to satisfying customers

Have you ever wondered why simple projects often fail during execution? It could be because project planning strategies were not implemented. You might not think this is important, but many organizations have found that adhering to basic project management principles saves time and energy.

To create a strong project plan, start with the end in mind by defining the deliverables that will be provided to the customer. Once this has been established, the project manager can determine and outline the steps needed to attain the deliverables.

While these steps might initially be easy to identify, assigning a realistic timeline and the associated tasks can be difficult for the project manager alone, so he or she must depend on stakeholders to help assess these tasks.

Making key assignments

It is important to identify the appropriate stakeholders to fill these roles. The project manager, along with the stakeholders, should be able to identify hurdles and potential problems before the project starts. These should be factored into the project plan as well as potential ways to manage these problems on the front end.  

The role of the stakeholders does not stop with the development of the project plan and input related to timelines. Both are dynamic documents and changes are expected as the plan is implemented.  

When problems arise

A detailed project plan developed by a project manager and key team members can help identify potential problem areas. It can also aid the project manager and sponsor in making quick, confident decisions. To facilitate project plan implementation and processes:

  • Identify hurdles early, consider what to assess and when further assessments should occur.
  • Begin parallel activity (key team members working on activities within their area of expertise at the same time).
  • Implement a method that applies advanced work, utilizing templates to complete as much pre-work as possible that will be integrated into the final product.
  • Determine what the critical activities are, which if delayed will delay the entire project.
  • Maintain the project plan in a highly visible area to serve as a road map for the project manager and all key team members.
  • Use previous project plans and timelines to identify inefficiencies, wasted time and poorly matched tasks.

Tips for project managers:

  • Trust in your team and respect its members.
  • Ensure that there is evidence of constant management and participation without being restrictive.
  • Go into the project identifying the objectives and deliverables and be able to communicate these to the team.
  • Maintain a highly visible project plan.
  • Clearly define expectations and relevant work processes.
  • When problems arise, meet briefly with key team members, identify problems and potential bottlenecks and deliver customer solutions.
  • Facilitate team member/customer communication.
  • Remove obstacles and manage conflict constructively.
  • Understand that not all teams are created equal.
  • Understand that adding more manpower does not always solve the problem.
  • Recognize and reward achievement.

To be effective, a project manager must be able to assess the project needs and respond with an effective plan. When everyone moves in the same direction, decisions are made quickly and with confidence, ensuring quality deliverables.

Victoria Tifft is founder and CEO of Clinical Research Management Inc., a full-service contract research organization that offers early to late-stage clinical research services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. She can be reached at [email protected]. For more information, visit