When I teach project management, I ask the participants to create a project charter (See my templates page for one I use to start). I recently encountered a battered project manager who does not have a project charter for a project with 6 or 7 sub-projects.
This PM is smart, but has never managed a project with multiple sub-projects before. (I would call this project a program.) All sub-projects are located in one large building (which is helpful). All are using the same language, configuration management system, and the same defect-tracking system. But the sub-projects are not all connected in the configuration management system. And, there is no overall schedule of deliverables, to connect and integrate the sub-projects together. And, there’s a separate integration team who will integrate the sub-projects together. And, a couple of the sub-project teams think it’s fine to change the agree-upon interfaces. Yes, it’s a mess.
Here’s what I suggested this PM do:
- Create a vision statement, so each sub-project team understands how their piece fits into the overall product deliverable.
- Create a schedule of deliverables. It doesn’t matter what lifecycle each sub-project is using–it matters that each sub-project deliver completed code into a common code base at the defined milestones.
- Start integrating now. Move all sub-projects to the same configuration management system. If necessary, give them each a branch and slowly integrate their pieces to the main.
- I suggested the PM bring the sub-project technical leads together on a weekly basis to discuss necessary changes to the interface, to make those changes more transparent.
Even if the PM had started with a vision of the product as a deliverable, it’s not clear the sub-project teams would be aligned. But there’s nothing to bring this program together. I don’t know if my suggestions for the project are reasonable, but without more information, they seem reasonable to me. 🙂
People are smart. People want to do a good job. And when sub-project teams move in different directions, it’s because they think that’s the best way to accomplish that team’s work. Without a project (or program) vision, people have no way to make decisions. A vision is the first decision a project manager makes. It’s certainly not the last.