Project Practitioners > Swimming in Projects: How Knowledge Sharing and Technology Optimized our Project Management Methodology

Swimming in Projects: How Knowledge Sharing and Technology Optimized our Project Management Methodology

By Guest Contributor

By  Matthew Sharron, Project Manager and Rachel Jones, Project Coordinator Shepell·fgi

“Planning for the camping trip” is a commonly used example for demonstrating project tasks, dependencies, timing and milestones.  Laundry, packing bags, booking site…with all this meticulous planning, a relaxing swim is in order.  But what happens when you’re swimming in projects?!  What happens if there’s a current?!  I think something just bumped my leg?!  Please be a log….

Most organizations have multiple projects on the go, right?  Projects with different teams, resources, subject matter experts and goals: all backed by a sensible, long-term vision for the organization.  Projects with similar themes, overlapping resources and milestones with due dates that all seem eerily close together.  I’m sure you see where this is going. “Working in silos” is an overused cliché in our organization and it might be in yours too.

In our company, there are project managers and coordinators in Operations, IT, Business Development, Account Management, and Marketing all juggling multiple projects.  We all have varying levels of experience and education in PM methodology that, when combined, can be a very powerful learning and management tool.  With a little help from an influential director in our Operations department, we launched our Project Management Learning Group.  The group’s focus is to leverage knowledge across departments, discuss lessons learned and identify project interdependencies.

The group meets once a month - just us project folk allowed:  project managers, coordinators, administrators and business analysts.   Out of the 24 members, 18 of us are project managers.  We’re allowed to talk about everything, without consequence.  We meet with the door closed.  Sometimes there’s swearing. 

In our first meeting, in an effort to understand each other’s work and to emphasize the importance of the PM Learning Group, we listed out all of our existing projects on a large whiteboard and circled the project names.  We then drew lines from one project to another to identify relationships and dependencies.  The end product looked like a spaghetti dinner; the circled project names being the meatballs.  It was eye opening…it was overwhelming…it was appetizing!  So many projects!  So many dependencies!  Some of these projects had links to projects that I was working on, which was news to me!  One of the projects listed on the board didn’t have a name…well, not altogether true…the project’s name was simply a number!?   Hmmm…

Prior to the forming of the PM Learning Group, there was no central Project Management Office in the company to manage projects across the organization.  The potential for resource, timeline and scope conflict was high, and so was the PM Learning Group’s opportunity for improvement! 

Since the groups inception we’ve accomplished a number of things.  In terms of communication, the group updates and reviews the portfolio of projects regularly to advise senior management of potential risks or conflicts.  We’ve also been taking turns contributing to an internal Projects Newsletter, which raises awareness of our projects and our team’s successes.  We share knowledge, tools and tips about project tracking including measuring resource usage and project prioritization.  We have also gathered the various PM templates used by our departments and collectively determined standard versions to be used across the organization.  The standardized PM templates were then made into electronic versions by using Microsoft SharePoint Sites and Workspaces.  All of these improvement initiatives (PM Learning Group, standardization of templates and the creation of automatic templates) were expanded into a project, called PM Optimization.  We all wonder how we managed projects before PM Optimization!!!

The group continues to meet monthly with involvement from all departments.   With new projects launching and ending on a regular basis, there’s always something to talk about.  There are new challenges to overcome and successes to celebrate.  With summer months now distant memory, I’m hoping ‘camping stories’ makes it on one of our agendas, because as a group, we’re getting better and better at swimming in projects.

Related Links
Survey your project managers about the training and support they need most right now. If you're not sure how much you should ask for to create a chartered support group, this sample budget can help. Read about one company's comprehensive program for ongoing PM learning.

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