The Project Notebook

Herding Cats Not Required

Some people like to refer to project management as herding cats. With all due respect, project management should be more about planning the work and then working the plan. This is usually very easy with a group of dedicated resources working on a single project, but gets to be much more difficult when fractional resources working for multiple project managers are involved.

Without the proper planning and preparation, these projects can become a little like herding cats — you constantly have to be checking in on the team to make sure the tasks for your project are getting the proper level of attention. Properly planned and executed, however, these projects can finish smoothly without the need for micro-management or cat herding.

Here are a few things you can consider to make the management of multi-project, fractional resources an easier management task:

Start with the kickoff meeting — make sure the expectations and ground rules for handling competing priorities and planning are known up front.

Plan the work and work the plan — a thorough plan with well estimated and defined tasks goes a long way to making sure everyone is on the same page. Ask everyone to carefully consider their estimates and the commitment in light of their other work.

Don’t micro manage — encourage the team to follow the plan, but be available if needed to resolve conflicts. Use the flexibility of scope and schedule to negotiate.

Enlist the aid of the functional manager — the functional manager who manages the resources needs to be sure they understand the nature of their commitment.

Handle issues promptly — since there are competing priorities, be sure issues get sorted out as soon as possible to make sure all tasks stay on track.

There will obviously be other challenges, but focusing the team on the plan will help you to spend more time planning and managing than herding cats.

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© 2010-2012 Ray W. Frohnhoefer, MBA, PMP, CCP