PM4DEV Blog

Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Project Management Constraints

Every project has to manage four basic constraints; scope, schedule, budget and quality. The success of a project depends on the skills and knowledge of a project manager to take into consideration these constraints and develop the plans and processes to keep them in balance. It is not enough for a project to meet the budget targets or to show to the donor that all activities have been completed on time. Development projects need to balance all four constraints if they want to realize the full benefits of a project.

Classical project management usually considers three constrains on a project: scope, time and costs (known as the project triangle), we believe that it is important to place under this category the constraint of quality. For development projects it is not enough to deliver a project according to the scope, on time and under budget; but the project must meet the needs and expectation of the beneficiaries who are the ultimate judges of the project quality.

Managing these constrains requires careful analysis and an agreement on the priorities for the organizations, the donor and the final beneficiaries. Depending on those factors a project may place more importance to the budget and quality than to the schedule or scope; these types of decisions, early in the project, have a fundamental impact on all the project plans that will need to be designed to ensure that the project is able to manage the four constraints. Failure to do that may result in the use of resources on areas that do not contribute to the ultimate success of the project.

The definition of project management implies that projects have specific limits in scope, schedule, budget and quality.  Understanding the combination of elements will allow make better choices when the project needs to make tradeoffs. The use of a triangle helps understand these relationships, adjusting any one of these sides, the other two are affected. For example, a change in the project plan to shorten the schedule might result in an increase in costs or require a decrease in scope.

 

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How to Conduct Effective Project Meetings

b2ap3_thumbnail_meetings_20140423-162305_1.pngAs part of the role of the project manager is to make sure that the project is progressing as expected and that any issues are being addressed. Project meetings are one of the most common ways of doing this; here are some tips that will help making effective project meetings.  All project meetings should have an agenda. The creation of the agenda can be as simple as writing it in an email and sending it to the meeting participants.  On the first team meeting make sure everyone understands the agenda format. Once everyone understands the purpose and the regular flow, the standard agenda model can be reused every time.

  • For a large group of people attending the meetings, it is very helpful to have a meeting facilitator; in some cases it would be preferable to have somebody outside the project who has facilitating skills. For the regular ongoing status meetings, the facilitator is usually the project manager.
  • Ensure the participants know ahead of time what they need to bring to the meeting or any advance preparation that needs to take place. Make it a rule that only the people that need to be there are invited. Inviting other people not involved in the agenda topics to be discussed may distract and mitigate the effectiveness of the meeting.
  • Make it a practice that the meeting should start on time, with some allowance for those that may be coming from another meeting.
  • The first item on the meeting is that the project manager should explain the purpose and the expected outcome of the meeting, and make sure that to follow the agenda and watch · the time to make sure everything gets covered.
  • A team member should be in charge of document any action items assigned during the meeting. The documents will become the meeting minutes that will be circulated to all participants after the meeting.
  • The meeting minutes should recap all outstanding action items toward the end of the meeting, including who is responsible, what is expected, and when the action item is due. The meeting minutes should also recap any decisions that were made and that will be followed in the next project meeting.

 Keep The Meetings Focused

To keep a focus on the meeting keep the time to discuss general status, issues, scope and risks. These are the key components to check on the overall project health and should be of interest to all team members. Allow some space for some problem solving, but making sure that the problems are of interest to most of the team members. The most common complaint in project meetings is that they take too long. Long meetings are usually caused by too much problem solving that is not relevant to all of the meeting participants. A good practice to simply stick to the time allocated to the meeting. For example, if a meeting is taking too much time and still cannot complete all the items on the agenda, then end the meeting and take any other outstanding issues offline or to a separate meeting that focuses on these items with the people that are most interested.

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