Author: Patrick Parnaby
Skilled project management can mean the difference between success and failure.
Managing your project effectively requires that you see the forest and the trees, and that you look at yourself.
You have tight budget constraints, numerous important deadlines, a small staff to accomplish a large task, and you need to keep your project on track.
Monitor your project closely, delegate responsibly, keep lines of communication open, adhere to budgetary requirements, and address evaluation problems as they arise.
Because evaluations typically have tight budgets, the eye of a skilled project manager can mean the difference between an evaluation’s success or failure. Frequent monitoring and sound management practices will ensure that a project remains feasible, realistic, and attuned to its audience’s needs.
As the project manager, it is your job to stay focussed on the evaluation objectives. Investing a portion of your budget in project management software can help you track your budget, deadlines, resources, and staff. It can also help you manage the project evaluation and can provide your stakeholders with useful information for progress reports. Good project management software allows you to create a project plan that can be monitored by other people. This means that you can manage the project plan and your stakeholders can view your progress independently.
When creating and managing an evaluation plan, be realistic about what you can accomplish with the resources and time that are available to you. A smaller scale evaluation that is competently executed is much more useful than a larger evaluation which fails to meet deadlines and budgetary constraints.
To help your staff work efficiently, keep team organization simple. Having too many managers is confusing and creates complicated lines of communication. Delineate clear lines of responsibility and provide each manager with a list of specific tasks and responsibilities, as well as benchmarks that indicate a task’s successful completion. Weekly management meetings (either in person or online) provide opportunities to review the project plan, assess progress, and monitor accountability. In addition, regular meetings and open communication allow minor challenges to be addressed before they become major problems.
Just as you encourage communication within your team, make sure you communicate effectively with your stakeholders and keep them actively involved. As experts in certain content areas, they are excellent resources to cultivate. Your effectiveness as an evaluator lies in your ability to draw out important information from the experts and transform it into meaningful conclusions and useful recommendations.
Regular communication with stakeholders also paves the way for the smooth presentation of evaluation results. By keeping them apprised of the project’s progress and course corrections, you will create a political climate that is receptive to implementing an evaluation’s findings and recommendations.
Operating within your project budget is essential to having resources for a successful evaluation. Although you are responsible for the overall project budget, individual managers are accountable for the costs associated with their tasks and teams. After providing staff training for expense reporting and accountability, use online tools to streamline reporting, reduce costs, and keep your finger on the pulse of the budget. During the project, make the necessary course corrections however painful that allow you to stay within your budget. Doing so will ensure that you will have the financial resources necessary to perform the promised evaluation. A proven track record in delivering evaluations will help you when you seek funding for future projects.
Although evaluation problems are common, they need not spell disaster. If you are alert to emerging problems, you can intervene quickly. Take care, however, not to make yourself the sole problem-solver. Empower your staff to resolve problems they encounter under your supervision while saving your time and energy for bigger problems should they arise.
Be responsive to feedback from both your staff and your stakeholders. Compare the intent of the feedback you received to your program goals and adjust your project plan accordingly.
Finally, not all deadlines are reasonable. By knowing where the project stands in relation to where it ought to be, you can negotiate an extended deadline in one area and make adjustments in other areas.