how to manage projects by alma12


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How to manage projects effectively
In this article, Tim Saunders introduces key project management concepts, explains how to apply them and gives tips for success



  Identify knowledge gaps
  1. What does project management involve?
  2. What are the key stages of a project?
  3. What things go wrong in projects?

  Before reading on, think about how this article
  may help you to do your job better. The Royal
  Pharmaceutical Society’s areas of competence
  for pharmacists are listed in “Plan and record,”
  (available at: This
  article relates to “effective management” (see
  appendix 4 of “Plan and record”).

      roject management, as my friends delight                decide what SOPs to implement? How will              report to the Australian Minister of Defence

P     in reminding me, is something that can be
      done by anyone. I agree with them, but
always point out that just as anyone can drive
                                                              they be developed and what will they look
                                                              like when they are complete? Who will write
                                                              the SOPs and how will you give them time
                                                                                                                   noted:“In summary, the primary prerequisites
                                                                                                                   for a successful project — clear and shared
                                                                                                                   aims, competent, committed and well man-
a car, drivers are required to be trained and                 to do so while ensuring the pharmacy runs            aged parties, properly communicating, and
tested before they are allowed to mix freely                  smoothly? How are you going to train your            brought together by an appropriate contract
with other road users. In the same way,                       staff on SOPs and how can you be sure you            along with related mechanisms to bring it all
managing projects effectively is a skill that                 are going to have everything ready by an             together — are all missing.”Three years later,
must be learnt and practised.                                 agreed deadline? Project management skills           the submarines were in service, but only just
    A “project” can be defined as a temporary                 will help you find the best answers.                 — they are reputed to be noisy, leaky and
scheme that has, usually, not been attempted                      Alternatively, you might have to choose          inferior to original specifications in impor-
before. But even if the scheme is similar to a                between managing a project yourself or               tant respects. In addition, the Australian navy’s
past project, it is likely that the people and                bringing in a project manager. Again, a good         procurement division may take years to
conditions will be different. Managing proj-                  idea of what project management involves             recover its tarnished reputation.
ects may, therefore, be outside the core skill set            will help you make this decision.                       To summarise, a successful project has:
of many pharmacists. For example, dispensing,
counselling or designing a drug regimen for a                 Features of a successful project                     ■ A clear and agreed idea among stakehold-
patient is routine and predictable — not                      Project management is, essentially, a series of        ers of what the finished project looks like
project work. However, it is increasingly likely              methods of managing a unique and transient           ■ An organisational structure with sufficient
that pharmacists will be required to participate              venture in order to achieve a goal. It is a young      technical capability
in and even lead projects. Community phar-                    science, despite being an ancient skill.The skills   ■ Enough resources (time, money, facilities
macists, for example, might have to introduce                 that were used to build the pyramids and               and people)
a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs)                 ancient cities are now being applied to projects
to meet Royal Pharmaceutical Society re-                      such as developing a new chemical entity or          Organisational structure
quirements and hospital pharmacists might                     improving customer service. Formal project           There are three main project management
find themselves having to introduce or up-                    management theory has its roots in the               roles: sponsor, project manager and team
grade an automated system.                                    management of large engineering enterprises,         member. By making the organisational struc-
    Such situations present various questions.                most notably in the application of technologies      ture clear and setting up effective reporting
Take the introduction of SOPs: How might                      that are combined to make large battleships.         lines, a good project management environ-
you get the outcomes you need? How do you                         In the mid 1990s, the Australian navy            ment will be created. In a small project, these
                                                              embarked on an ambitious project to build a          roles can be performed by one person.
         Tim Saunders, BPharm, MRPharmS, runs a               fleet of long-range, diesel-powered sub-
         project management department at Mayne               marines. Within two years, things were               Sponsor The project sponsor is responsible
         Pharma in Melbourne, Australia                       seriously awry and a 1999 Government                 for authorising the project. The sponsor is a

156    The Pharmaceutical Journal (Vol 272) 7 February 2004                                                                       
                                                                                                              sponsor may assign a manager and team
  Panel 1: Organisational structure and project complexity                                                    members to the project.

                                                                                                              Definition A project definition is a descrip-
  Project complexity    Project manager           Project team               Sponsorship                      tion of what the project has to achieve and
                                                                                                              how it will go about it.This is usually written
  Simple                Trusted individual with   Team of willing and able   Work colleague                   by the project manager and team members
                        aptitude                  personnel                                                   and approved by the sponsor.The customer is
                                                                                                              involved as necessary. Key sections include:
  Standard              Experienced individual    Trusted and experienced    Your line manager
                        with aptitude and         staff preferably with a                                     ■ Objectives
                        proven project            track record of working                                     ■ Risk management plan (see below)
                        management ability        well together                                               ■ Budget (costs need to be quantified and
                                                                                                                resource allocated)
  Complex               Formally trained          Expert with proven track   Senior or executive managers,    ■ Communications plan (a description of
                        project manager with      record of delivery of      principles of the company or a     how and when the project participants
                        appropriate experience    similar projects to time   formal steering committee          will communicate with stakeholders)
                                                                                                              ■ Schedule (see below)
                                                                                                              ■ Exclusions (a list of related issues you will
person or committee (eg, board of directors)               All team members should have the proven              not address during the project — this is an
sufficiently experienced and committed to the          skills to deliver what is required of them and           excellent way of managing stakeholder
success of a project to provide support, direc-        the ability to work well with others.                    expectations)
tion and resources to the project manager.             However, bringing an effective team together           ■ Standards (see below)
                                                       quickly and getting that team on track can be          ■ Assignment of responsibility within the
Project manager The project manager is                 a challenge. One useful strategy is to make              project team
responsible for the day-to-day running of the          sure that all team members are involved in the
project, and is usually appointed by the spon-         planning of project activities.                            Small projects will only need a simple
sor. A large project may require an overall                Gathering people from different depart-            definition document with one or two pages
project manager and several sub-managers.              ments in a company might mean that an em-              of actions. In comparison, a large project can
Similarly, large projects are likely to require a      ployee has to report to a line manager and a           require a signed project definition, signed
more structured style of management than               project manager and find him or herself being          contracts, an agreed formal invoicing and
smaller projects.                                      pulled in different directions by the demands          accounting process, a risk management plan,
    The project manager is the most influential        of the project and their normal job. In such           a contractor management plan and a project
figure in a project.And, although ideally, he or       cases, a good project manager will come to an          management system.
she should be technically qualified in the             understanding with both line managers and                  Project management tools, such as
project area, it is more important for him or          team members, with respect to work priori-             document templates, checklists and project
her to be sufficiently qualified and experienced       ties, and keep communication channels open.            planning software can make your work easier
in managing the type of project at hand. My                                                                   and you should use them whenever you can.
own rule of thumb for projects of moderate or          Project complexity Larger projects gener-              Most large organisations will design their
high complexity is that I must see proof of at         ally need more structure than smaller ones.            own tools.Tools such as PRINCE 2 (a widely
least two successful project outcomes of proj-         Panel 1 suggests the organisational structures         used “off-the-shelf ” project management
ects of a similar type before handing over to a        required to manage projects of different levels        system) allow a project to be managed from
potential project manager. If these require-           of complexity.Technical projects are easier to         start to finish.
ments are not met, I will ask the person to            achieve than those that involve cultural
deliver sections of a project under the supervi-       change where the engagement of change                  Risk management plan Making a risk
sion of a more senior project manager. Other           management experts is recommended.                     management plan means listing things that
requisites of a good project manager are:                                                                     might go wrong, assessing their consequences
                                                       Stages of a project                                    (severe, moderate or negligible) and their
■ The ability to communicate clearly                   The basic stages of a project are shown in             likelihood (high, medium or low) and decid-
■ The ability to solve problems and to                 Figure 1. Projects should be designed to               ing what you are going to do about them.
  handle interpersonal conflicts                       progress one stage at a time. It is fine to back-      Possible responses to a risk are to:
■ The ability to plan and secure commitments           track to a previous stage if things get tough, but
                                                       it could be disastrous to leap-frog any stage in       ■ Take action to avoid or mitigate it
   If you are given a project to manage and            the belief that it will save time and effort.The       ■ Transfer it (eg, take out insurance)
have no experience, improve your chances of            stages are there to reduce the risk of failure.        ■ Accept it
success by enlisting an experienced project
manager to act as your mentor.Ask for advice           Proposal At the proposal stage, the “cus-
at key stages and, if you can, persuade him or         tomer” (eg, business owner, regulatory body)                                 Proposal
her to audit your progress and methods.                describes what is required. The sponsor then
                                                       formalises the proposal by providing informa-                               Definition
Project team members Project work                      tion such as the time available or how the
often involves the creation of multi-                  project fits into a larger scenario.The require-
disciplinary teams, with people coming                 ments should be clear, so a written proposal is                             Execution
together from different departments, and               best. A good proposal will align with the
possibly organisations, to make the project            overall objectives of an organisation. For                              Change control
happen. The success of a project relies on its         example, a proposal for a shop refit may have
team members and it requires skill and good            been identified as a means of meeting a busi-
judgement to get the right people on board.            ness’s objectives to return increased revenue                             Completion
Depending on the project, teams can be large           and margin, which in turn meet its target rate
or small, and full- or part-time.                      of return on investment. At this stage, the            Figure 1: Basic project model                                                                                              7 February 2004 The Pharmaceutical Journal (Vol 272) 157
                                                              Execution Once the project and its defini-           and report to the sponsor. If the overspend
                                                              tions have been approved, it can move into           looks unavoidable (eg, unexpected increase in
  Panel 2: Tips for project                                   the execution stage. For project managers,           prices or interest rates), redo the budget and
  success                                                     execution mostly means ensuring all the par-         get agreement to the new figure.
  ■ Get off to a good start — get your team                   ticipants achieve what they said they would,
    members motivated by making personal                      to agreed times and standards. Regular proj-         Departure of a team member Just as
    contact with them (eg, hold an informal get               ect progress briefings are a useful, formal way      everything seems to be running smoothly,
    together or arrange one-to-one discussions)               to do this. A large part of the fun of projects      one of your team members tells you that he
  ■ With long projects, it can be easy to lose sight          is the teamwork and feeling of camaraderie           is leaving. Panic sets in. What will you do
    of the aim, so it is a useful exercise to                 produced through making good progress, and           without him, at this crucial stage? Try to
    backtrack regularly and ask “what are we                  my advice is to get together regularly with          persuade him to stay. Sometimes a modest
    trying to achieve?”                                       your project team, both informally and               increase in remuneration is a cost-effective
  ■ Eliminate fears and uncertainty by holding a              formally, all together and one to one.               way of achieving this, especially if the cost of
    formal analysis of what all project                                                                            delay and readvertising are considered.
    stakeholders want                                         Change control Regardless of how well                However, you need to accept that departures
  ■ Keep morale up by dealing with staff concerns             planned your project is, unpredictable things        are a fact of life.What you will need to do is
    immediately — it is easy for people to worry              always happen. Projects have three constraints:      find the right person to fill the position as
    that any failure will reflect on them badly,              time, quality and cost. If any of these changes      soon as possible and ensure that he or she is
    about what will happen to them at the end of              to a significant extent the project will have to     seamlessly integrated into the team. This can
    the project or, if they have duties outside the           be replanned or it may fail to meet all its          be achieved by a thorough induction so that
    project, how they can effectively meet these              objectives. Change control involves team             he or she feels part of the project team as
  ■ Make sure the project has input from separate             members redefining the project and gaining           early as possible. Project teams go through
    interested parties, eg, if the aim of the project         agreement from the sponsor.This can be time          exactly the same group dynamics as any other
    is to develop a new product, parties                      consuming and disruptive, but is an excellent        work group.
    representing business and consumers should                way of ensuring that when things go wrong,
    be invited to contribute                                  the problems are acknowledged and the proj-          Conflicts Some sort of conflict is inevitable
  ■ Nurture an open environment to encourage                  ect continued with revised parameters. When          in a project, be it a disagreement about avail-
    sharing of ideas                                          the alternative is to give your customer a nasty     able resources or a personality clash. An
  ■ Although projects do not provide the best                 surprise by bringing the project in late or over     empathetic approach is vital here. Try to get
    conditions for formal training, to maintain a             cost, or not fulfilling all of the expectations,     to the root cause by being tough on the prob-
    motivated environment, the project could be               the value of change control is clear.                lem, not on the people. Although conflicts
    promoted as providing an opportunity to                                                                        can have a negative effect on the team’s
    work with professionals from other areas,                 Completion When the project manager,                 morale, it is important the issues are not
    allowing team members to experience a wider               sponsor and customer have verified delivery          buried and differences are openly expressed
    variety of working practices and develop                  of objectives, the project can be closed.            so they can be addressed and resolved.
    their skills                                              Remember to have a formal celebration with
  ■ Break projects into small sections to make it             your team. In addition, take time to analyse
    easier to follow progress — this will make                what went well and not so well. It is useful to      Further reading and information
    your team confident that the project is                   learn from mistakes and, if you are involved in      ■ J Rodney Turner. The handbook of project based
    achievable and that they are on the right track           projects often, it is good practice to analyse           management. London: McGraw Hill; 1999.
                                                              the strengths and weaknesses of each project         ■ Project Management Institute.
                                                              and commit this to paper.                            ■ Association for Project Management
It is typical to mitigate all risks with a high
likelihood and severe consequences, transfer                  Things that can go wrong
those with severe consequences and low                        Four common project difficulties are meeting           Action: practice points
likelihood and accept the rest.                               deadlines, keeping to budgets and dealing              Reading is only one way to undertake CPD and the
                                                              with someone leaving or a conflict. However,           Society will expect to see various approaches in a
Schedule Having a schedule should help you                    if you follow good project management prin-            pharmacist’s CPD portfolio.
to keep to deadlines. A project schedule is a                 ciples, you should avoid such disasters. Panel 2       1. Think back to a project you observed or took
detailed list of activities and the resources                 gives a few tips for project success.                     part in. Make a list of what worked well and
needed. Deciding whether or not each activ-                                                                             what might have been improved.
ity has to be finished before starting the next               Missing the deadline Evidence indicates                2. Imagine you are the project manager to
will produce a schedule. Project planning                     that if a project is late by the time it is 15 per        produce a supersonic successor to Concorde
software, such as Microsoft Project, is                       cent complete, it will never recover. I have              or a new pharmacy service. List the risks you
designed to automate this. Placing milestones                 found this to be true in practice and have                can think of, categorise them and then decide
at natural breaks (eg, when SOPs are written                  used this early warning system to manage the              whether to mitigate, transfer or accept them.
and the training is to start) in the schedule is              expectations of my customers. If you receive           3. List people you know who would make good
a good way of reporting and checking                          information that indicates you may be late,               sponsors or project managers. What qualities
progress. There should be at least six mile-                  communicate this quickly and honestly to the              did you look for?
stones in a schedule.                                         sponsor. Late projects can often be brought
                                                              back on schedule by cutting back on luxuries
Appropriate standards The project definition                  or allowing a small overspend on overtime.
should refer to external, commonly under-                                                                            For your work to be presented as CPD, you need to
stood principles you will work to, without                    Exceeding your budget You should have                  evaluate your reading and any other activities.
going into unnecessary detail. This process is                a good idea of what you will have spent by             Answer the following three questions: What have
used extensively in construction and technol-                 the time each of your milestones is reached.           you learnt? How has it added value to your
ogy projects. Common standards pharmacists                    Ensure approval to spend and budget report-            practice? (Have you applied this learning or had
may encounter include Good Manufacturing                      ing is managed by one member of the team               any feedback?) What will you do now and how will
Practice, the Society’s Code of Ethics, tax                   so adverse trends are immediately obvious. If          this be achieved?
rules, SOPs and company standards.                            overspends are discovered, investigate quickly

158    The Pharmaceutical Journal (Vol 272) 7 February 2004                                                                             

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