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Who killed the conference? The zombie Project Manager

If you’ve taken on a big assignment -- moving the office, planning a big event, or developing a new system to track employees’ mobile devices – you’ve been asked to manage a project, with or without the title. If you have amazing organizational, people skills, and luck, you may have pulled it off without a hitch.

If you are like most mortals, you had a few stumbles and bumbles. A friend of mine was asked to put on a 1-day conference recently. He was energetic, dedicated, hardworking, and enthusiastic. His positive attitude was contagious. He lined up top speakers and recruited volunteers to help.

I heard mumblings over the months as preparations continued and problems mounted. The night before the conference, he held a reception for everyone who worked on the event. That’s when I saw it was a mess.

The next day I arrived early; parking was confusing, registration was chaos, and the exhibitors who were setting up didn’t know what was going on. OK, nothing disastrous...yet. Once the main program began, things seemed mostly OK to the audience until one speaker had to repeat his presentation because the AV was so screwed up.

Behind the scenes, insanity reigned. AV failed right and left, special sessions were disorganized, and nothing – nothing – seemed to be going right. The day finally ended but the real disasters weren’t over. There was not enough sponsorship money to cover expenses and pay vendors for food, AV, publicity, transportation, or anything else. Fallout just kept coming and things are still not resolved many months later.

Could the results have been different? Absolutely! If he had used a few basic skills of

Project Management, he might have avoided most of the problems under his control.

3 Tips to Manage Any Project:

Define a clear Business Purpose. What outcome are you expecting? For this project it was not, “We will have a great conference.” It should have been, “As a result of this conference Trainers will introduce their portfolio to potential buyers.” Vet every idea with, “Will this help fulfill the Business Purpose?” This is critical whether you are in the public. private, or nonprofit/NGO sector.

Assume the worst. Risk management is THE priority. A project creates a unique product, information or service. Of course, you’ll have a Project Plan; detailed tasks, people assigned to do the task, people assigned to assure the task is completed properly, time deadlines for tasks, and a description of the desired result and its target. You must perform risk analysis in depth and constantly scan for early warning signs. You must have a generic plan for unexpected risks.

Have Plans B and C ready to go. If risk is first, contingency planning is next on the list to deal with the most likely and devastating risks. Plan B won’t be enough. You’ll need a backup for the backup. These plans are written and ready to go and adapt when the risk arises. Organizing backups creates a new mindset; Murphy’s Law is optimistic.

What would have been the difference for my friend with just these 3 items of good Project Management? (1) He would have kept everyone focused on the outcomes, not the activity of performing tasks. (2) He would have examined the Risk Management Plan every day as results came in and looked for those early warning signs, especially the lack of sponsorship money. (3) He would have had backup AV, trained volunteers, and other contingencies ready to go.

You do not have to flail, fumble or fail at your next big assignment or project. Learn the most important elements of good project management in webinars designed to keep out of the Night of the Living Dead.

Even if you’re not a “project manager” but do tackle large assignments, sign up for our webinar, 6 Hours Virtual Seminar - Project Management for Human Resources Friday, January 27, 2023. Master the basics to succeed.

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