Welcome to part two of contract monitoring and managing for RFAs, RFPs and RFQs at Aidpreneur.com. In this section, will begin our discussion about project management by focusing on the most important aspect: achieving your objectives and deliverables. This is ultimately about the scope of your work. I always start with this because your client hired you to deliver something. This could be a physical object like a school, road or building, it could be informational product such as a report, survey or an opinion, or it may be a process such as a dialogue or a training. There are many other variations. My point here is that your client did not hire you to manage time, money and resources – they hired you to achieve an objective. At the end of the day, all of these other things are background noise to your client. Your conversations with your client should focus on this aspect, and in my opinion, the minutia related to how you deliver should only see the light of day when you are seeking approval or making a major adjustment.Here is something that I think is pretty funny about project management. In a perfect world, the the activities necessary for you to achieve your objectives should all be scheduled properly, with complete budgets and adequate resources in the proposal that you submitted in response to the tender put out by your client. In theory, it should be possible to put together a proposal that results in a contract that will require no actual “management,” – which is another word for decision-making.
But of course, this is only theory, and we all know where “best laid plans” often lead to. For the record, over the last decade in my personal practice and as the Principal of ISG, I have yet to see a project unfold in a fashion that requires no adjustment or evolution. Because of this, I like to think of any project or program as if it’s a cruise ship. As the captain of the ship, on your voyage, many things will happen exactly as you have planned them. However, there will also be a number of things that will not happen as you had hoped or planned, and more importantly, the ocean scape which you are navigating will always be shifting and evolving. The critical part about this is, also like a large ocean liner, navigating change in a project or program takes considerable time and energy. Going further, much like a cruise ship as well, you may even find yourself in the position of thinking that you are navigating just fine, only to suddenly run up against an iceberg. This, unfortunately, has happened ISG on at least one occasion. When delivering a large-scale evaluation for a client in the Middle East we tabled a massive three volume report that was grounded in intensive primary research undertaken over a six-month period throughout the country. However, rather than receiving kudos, we found ourselves facing a group of hostile stakeholders – so much so that we were potentially facing serious legal action. Because we had followed our proposed work plan almost to the letter, and produced a report we thought would help spur real change for the better, we found ourselves in a tailspin that took us more than six months to recover from – and only after we realized that our mistake originated from a deep cultural difference of opinion about how our work should be presented.
When your activities are going as planned, your job as a project manager is to shepherd the process and ensure that your personnel and team have the approvals they need to move forward. However, when you’re faced with situations other than those that you plan for, you’re required to take a decision. Whenever you take a decision as a project manager, your decision will either create new work or change existing work for one or more people or resources. Both of these directions instigate change, no matter how small, of the plans that you created in your proposal and then further refined in your negotiations and kickoff meeting.
When you’re about to take a decision as a project manager, I recommend you first consider six perspectives:
First, ask yourself if taking this decision will help you achieve your objectives more efficiently and/or effectively. It’s critical to ask both the efficiency and effectiveness questions. Increasing efficiency means doing things faster or for less cost, while increasing effectiveness implies higher quality, more impact, and greater satisfaction with results. Because we work in a very budget focused business, it’s almost always a good idea to make a decision that allows you to perform the same work for less money. However, sometimes spending more money is the correct answer, especially in the case when things are not going as planned. In a project recently completed for a UN agency, ISG fielded staff to three countries to perform data collection on a research project. While it wasn’t required, we took the decision to provide our staff with additional in country support in order to improve our data quality. This ultimately created high value impact for our client in our final report.
The second perspective to consider is whether or not the decision is relevant to the project. While this may seem like a no-brainer, you really want to make sure to double check that the decision is related to a relevant client or staff request. Relevance in this case should be measured against the achievement of your deliverables.
The third perspective you want to consider is whether or not your decision will affect the quality of your deliverables. Here the answer is obvious: if the decision will improve the quality, that’s great and conversely, if the decision will erode quality, you should probably look for an alternative.
Fourth, you want to consider how agile you are or your company is and how agile your client is. When you’re considering change in an ongoing project, the more agility you have usually, the better able you are to adapt to that change. This applies to both you and your client. Unfortunately, in many cases your clients will be large government agencies, which are the exact opposite of agile. In these cases you need to make sure to foreshadow and communicate change well in advance, and then be prepared to continue to communicate about change even after the decision’s been taken and actions implemented.
A fifth perspective to consider is that of risk. When changing an establish plan, there are risks involved related to money, time and the resources you have available.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, take time to consider how the decision you’re making will affect the scope of the project. While this is easier to see when were talking about large changes, scope creep, by definition, happens when there are many small changes that ultimately result in a major shift. In my experience over the last decade, scope creep is one of the most difficult, and yet most important, issues to pay attention to and hold the line on with your clients. Because they are always working with a finite budget, they will always ask for as much as they possibly can get within that budget. As an example in research projects, it’s super common to have your client asked for just a few more interviews, or for you to visit a few more sites, or for you to review just a few more documents. Another common request is to analyze the information from “another perspective.” It’s so easy to say yes to these requests, because we want our clients to be happy. But you should do so at your own peril, as everyone is happy to accept free labor.
After a decision is taken, you need to determine how it will affect the time, money and resources you’ve allocated to the project you’re managing. This is the topic of the next section of this training. Thank you for watching this part of contract monitoring and managing for RFAs, RFPs and RFQs. Remember if you have any questions at all please contact us at training@Aidpreneur.com.