by Sinikka Waugh , PMP, VP of Communications and Marketing, PMI-Central Iowa Chapter
As we begin a new year, thinking about initiating seems timely. The following quotes are taken from Section 3.3 of the PMBOK 5th Edition.
- The key purpose of the Initiating Process Group is to align the stakeholder's expectations with the project's purpose, give them visibility about the scope and objectives, show how their participation in the project and it's associated phases can ensure that their expectations are achieved.
The PMBOK is telling us here that the most important thing we do in initiation is connecting with our stakeholders and helping them connect to the projects. This is one of those things that simply can't be done without talking to them, meeting with them, spending time with them.
Prefer desk time? Fight the urge to stay at your desk, and instead, make time to look your stakeholders in the eye. Schedule time in small intervals and reward yourself with time back at your desk updating your stakeholder register.
- Involving the sponsor's customers, and other stakeholders during initiation creates a shared understanding of success criteria, reduces the overhead of involvement, and generally improves deliverable acceptance, customer satisfaction, and order stakeholder satisfaction.
Did you catch it? Time that we invest up front in initiation pays off in tangible ways!
Have stakeholders who say they're too busy to meet? Remind them that even a few minutes today will reduce overhead later, and will result in higher satisfaction for them. Use negotiation....(like Geico)..."Give me 15 minutes and I'll save you 15% or more in future meetings or future pain."
- When the project charter is approved, the project becomes officially authorized.
In some organizations, project teams get involved with the creation of project charters, but in others, project teams are only assembled after the charter is approved.
Not sure how the charter is used in your organization? Ask around. Someone in your organization knows what the trigger is...charter, business case, approval to initiate, project approval doc - they go by many names, but it's important for you to know the trigger in your own environment for what makes a project authorized to move to the next step. Don't forget, though, that just because a project is authorized to start doesn't mean it's approved through to completion! There should be multiple opportunities to stop and ensure that the project still adds value to the organization.
- Large complex projects should be divided into separate phases. In such projects, the initiating processes are carried out during up sequent phases to validate the decisions made during the original Develop Project Charter and Identify Stakeholder processes."
What the PMBOK reminds us of here is that initiation isn't just once and done...we go back to the exercises of identifying and analyzing stakeholders and ensuring alignment with expectations whenever we move to the next phase, especially on larger projects.
Working on a smaller project? Even so, make an effort at each phase to revisit your stakeholder register and take concrete steps to ensure that your stakeholders' expectations are aligned with the project.
- As part of the Initiating Processes, the project manager is given the authority to apply organization resources to the subsequent project activities.
I was in a gathering of PM's the other day, where we were marveling at how many of us had been told, "Here's a couple million dollars, and a team of talented individuals; we trust you and your skills, and we believe in the power of project management. Go and do what you do best, and deliver results for our organization." Okay, so maybe it wasn't those exact words, but it makes me take a step back and pause. In initiating, we move from being individual contributors to serving as empowered leaders.
Not sure about your own authority level? Ask your sponsor or executive sponsor to help you be clear, and then apply your own relationship building skills, knowledge and expertise, and personal effectiveness to help serve and lead your team to success.