Project Managers in the GovLoop Community Offer You Their Advice

Last week, I posted about the Top 5 Challenges for Project Managers. It summarized some of the findings of a survey GovLoop conducted in October. In addition to sharing their challenges, our community’s Project Managers shared some advice for other government Project Managers on what makes projects run smoothly. We grouped the responses into three tips: plan, communicate, and focus on the people involved.


Make yourself a road-map before you dive into a project. As one of our respondents advised, “…sometimes it feels like there’s never enough time to stop the work long enough to make a work plan, but it’s critical and very worthwhile…a work plan will help define roles and responsibilities so that’s a key first step.” Another member provided steps that can be used when planning a project:

Step 1 Identify needs
Step 2 Develop objectives
Step 3 Identify resources and constraints
Step 4 Identify potential options
Step 5 Establish and apply screening criteria
Step 6 Develop alternatives
Step 7 Evaluate alternatives
Step 8 Select
Step 9 Implement
Step 10 Monitor and adapt

A plan allows you to track the progress of the project and addresses the problems of scope, ill-defined goals, and unclear roles.


In regards to communication, the most important aspects that cropped up in our survey were to communicate often and to communicate the good, the bad, and the ugly. As one respondent put it, “bad news does not get better with time,” so it’s best for a manager to keep the team in the loop whether the plan is going smoothly or is hitting a snag. A way to think about the Project Managers’ role is as a “Perception Manager.” “Managing stakeholder perceptions of program progress through clear, concise and regular communication is a large contributor to project success.”

Focus on People

Relationship-building is a major part of the Project Manager’s job. “Project managers spend most of their time trying to get people who do not report to them to do things. That works much better if there is a positive relationship in place.” Not only does relationship-building create a collaborative atmosphere, it also provides for Project Managers to learn best-practices and gain feedback on their processes. “Network to get advice on how to go
 about something; do not reinvent the wheel if someone else has already rounded it out for you already.”

Anyone have any other tips to offer on project management?

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Josh Nankivel

Good stuff. I firmly believe you shouldn’t go too far in planning ahead of time, particularly when it comes to things like detailed design. I’ve seen one too many programs/projects who go all out in the SRR/PDR/CDR phases getting way too detailed with design and low-level requirements.

I think it much more productive and effective to keep things as planning packages and high-level requirements – deferring detailed user stories / requirements / design decisions until the last responsible moment.

Otherwise, you end up wasting a lot of time and money for things that will change when you hit implementation anyway – or worse, lock yourself into a design that turns out not to meet the customer needs in reality. You’d be aiming at what the customer thought they wanted years ago, not the reality of what they know they want and need now they can start to see it.

Travis K. Anderson

Hannah, I really enjoy your posts. Keep up the great work!

I think it is important to adopt a planning approach that is repeatable and saleable in practice. There is no sense in re-creating the wheel every time one starts an initiative of similar scope. As projects expand in scope, time, and cost, scalability allows the project team to plan for small and large projects alike with consistency.

Communication is key to project success. Sometimes we forget that over communicating is equally important to understand. It is important that the project team knows that some information must be held close and secret from the rest of the team and customer. For example, the bid price the Project Manager builds into the final cost volume of the RFP. I think more pertinent is what is said during regular customer tag-ups. Sometimes we let our gaurd down and state more than is required, i.e. resource names, direct rates, etc. The PM should be vigilant that communication is being offered consistently as required by the contract.

Again, great post.


Mihail Sadeanu

Hello there,

Modestly introducing myself: I am a contributor of the new PMI PMBOK Standard version V/2012 to be issued in December 2012, a WG contributor of the new ISO 21500 Standard Guidance on Project Management issued in September 2012, a WG contributor of the future ISO standard 18126 Project and Programme Portfolio Management, and a contributor and reviewer of the ASAPM/IPMA USA asapm Performance Rated Organization Standard for Assessing Organizational Project Management Performance V. 1.0, issued on April 5, 2010. Related to the presented steps that can be used when planning a project, I would like to mention that (generally) the steps starting with number 4 to 8 (inclusive) especially pertain to corporate/organizational strategic planning and to project and program portfolio management. Please, read all these new standards and especially the only project management methodology PRINCE2:2009 and you may find the real steps in project planning, then especially for program planning the alternative standards from PMI ( ) and methodology from UK OGC ( ).