A small project was launched, which was not expected to take more than a week. Gradually, many things were added. The project started six months ago, and it has really grown.

No project management has been established, and it should be done now. Is there a specific approach to be followed in such cases?

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I will bet you have more project management going on than what you are giving yourself credit for. The natural tendency of any group of individuals embarking on a task is to form a team, establish roles including leadership, establish rules, establish processes, and figure out solutions. Since this has grown from one week to six months, it shows that this must have occurred, else your team would have imploded and you would not be asking this question.

That it is undisciplined, informal, and immature from a capability perspective might be true, your project is being managed.

Two alternatives come to mind: 1) Take what you have and begin formalizing. This is the first step in growning your maturity level. Document your processes, establish documented roles and responsibilities, create your charter, formalize your requirements, formalize your project controls. The advantage to this is you are taking advantage of what has naturally started without stopping your project. The disadvantage is, growth is slow moving, some resistance can be expected, and performance may degrade for awhile.

2) Stop everything. Grind everything to a halt. Start over. Re-establish your charter and go from there with the intention of establishing better project requirements and goals, plans, processes, teams, etc. The advantage here is a clean start, automatically removing any existing bad habits from your previous projects. And you are likely to arrive at a higher capability in a shorter time than with the first alternative. The disadvantage is you are stopping everything. This can cost you financially and politically and whatever else.

I have no formal back-up on any of this, just my opinion on two possible alternatives.

  • +1 for option 2, also note that you can leverage what you already have in place to minimize the time to restart. – Doug B Jul 12 '12 at 19:28

This is clearly a case of scope-creep. However, you can handle this the same way you handle any project chartering exercise. Specifically, I would do the following:

  1. Determine the project sponsor.
  2. Get the sponsor and project stakeholders to sign off on a new charter that takes into account the current scope as it stands today, and limits future scope.
  3. Make sure the new plan has some sort of finish line or project close-out in order to prevent additional scope creep.

Specific methodology isn't what's important here. What is important is defining some sort of process to manage the remainder of the project and its deliverables.

What has happened to make you say that the project should have a project manager now?

First I would find out why the project needs a manager and act accordingly.

  • Is it hard to coordinate the work between the colleagues?
  • Is it hard to communicate with the customer or with the other teams?
  • Do you need somebody who understands economics?

Anyway I've seen two approaches so far:

  • a skilled developer becomes lead developer and project managers afterwards
    • Pros:
      • you have somebody who understands the domain
      • he knows the people and the environment
      • he has a technical background
    • Cons:
      • you'll lose a valuable developer
      • he has to learn how to manage projects and it can happen that he isn't a project management material
  • hiring someone
    • Pros:
      • no project management learning curve
      • new ideas, new network, more funds
    • Cons:
      • he has to learn the domain
      • might be expensive

I don't know that the actions are necessarily different, it just may be more difficult to implement the actions. If you need to implement project management, you need to implement it. You need to get the scope down on paper and signed off by everyone. You need a plan for how you are going to finish the work (and know you are done). You need a process to follow for when someone wants to add to the work again (get it down on paper again, re-plan, estimate the impact, have everyone sign off again).

The hard part will be re-teaching everyone how things work going forward. The biggest challenge may be finding a champion - someone in management that will support your efforts and let everyone else know that this is how it is going to be.

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