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 vtifft@clinicalrm.com. For more information, visit www.clinicalrm.com.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/victoriatifft

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Understanding the critical role that compliance plays within a firm is a fundamental cornerstone for successful leadership. The changes in government regulations over the past several years affect all businesses and require a higher level of compliance and oversight. 

Regulations governing the management of staff, reporting of financial information, environmental impact, stock transactions, and adherence to regulatory authorities must be complied with or the business could face legal charges.

Following the steps below will aid in the creation of your firm’s compliance framework:

Identify requirements first

Make a list of each of the compliance areas for your entire company. This should be a collaborative project so meet with each of your managers and ask them to compile requirements for their area.

Document compliance deadlines and data

Once requirements have been identified, make sure you document them in one place. List the compliance requirement, timelines and dates for reporting data, and the person responsible for reporting.

Listing the information in a spreadsheet allows for rapid sorting of upcoming due dates.

Assess compliance status

Now that you have a comprehensive spreadsheet, ask your team to assess whether or not the processes or tools you currently have in place are adequate to assess the areas where you have gaps. Develop a plan to address the gaps that need to be fixed.

Establish compliance risk/escalation policy

Identify thresholds for compliance ranges and establish a policy for personnel to notify management when thresholds are out of range.

Assign oversight responsibility

Have an individual in your firm oversee managing the compliance document. This person should be familiar with the compliance timelines in the document and check in with responsible parties to ensure that compliance requirements and reporting activities are on target. The person can also be the point of contact for personnel to notify when escalating compliance risks.

Establish compliance audit programs

Once your compliance structure has been developed, establish an audit program. This can be internal as well as external and is usually conducted on an annual basis.

For internal programs, set a time for senior management or experts within the firm to perform a “mock audit” to review various areas of the firm that fall under the compliance program. These internal programs may suffice, however, when there are times that business leaders want outside opinions.

At that point, consult with a firm that has expertise in the compliance area and ask them to conduct an informal audit.

Create a continuous improvement process

Establish a process for analyzing the results of each internal or external audit. Determine whether or not the firm will invest time and energy to fix the gaps found during the audit.

Evaluate the compliance plan yearly

Review your compliance plan on an annual basis. This review should be conducted with the staff involved in the compliance areas. The annual review should include another assessment to identify areas where gaps or inefficiencies exist for compliance areas.

Business leaders have a responsibility to ensure that their firms comply with requirements. Establishing and implementing a structured compliance framework to assure that requirements are adhered to is a sign of proactive, responsible leadership.

Published in Columnist