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Ron Thomas

Buck Consultants

Director of Talent And HR Solutions

Read more about Ron Thomas

Blog: 6 tips to ensure project success


I remember attending SHRM a few years back, and I met a gentleman who was diligently taking notes in each session.

He had sheaf of paper and was taking so many notes you would have thought that he was a stenographer.
I just had to wait for the right moment before I casually introduced myself. As the session ended, I noticed him sitting next to a wall reviewing his notes.
As I looked over at him, I thought back to my days in college before the big exam. Everyone would be scurrying around with notes all over the place taking last minute glances before they went in.
“Looking for a silver bullet” from the presenters
My thought was that he was probably doing research or maybe had a book deal, or something like that. It did not even cross my mind that he was an actual HR practitioner. If he was, why the sense of urgency? Why so many notes? My thought was, “what is up with that?”
I walked over to him, introduced myself, and we started a casual conversation. Yes, he was an actual HR practitioner. Yes, he worked in corporate HR. Yes, he had tons of projects back home that were in various stages of completion.
One of the things he said that resonated with me that day was the reason that he attends so many conferences. “I am just looking for the silver bullet from some of the presenters that will allow me to complete my project successfully,” he said. “That is why I go to so many. I am looking for ideas.”
Astonishingly, I was at a loss for words. As I processed this statement, I thought of all the folks there that day and how many are looking for that same silver bullet.
I too have attended conferences and seminars in the past that were chosen particularly for the project that either I was working on or anticipating. However, I never recall going over and over again looking for that inspiration.
What now?
Conferences and seminars are great for inspiration. They get the juices flowing. They also allow you to fall in love with your profession all over again — that is, if you ever were in love with it the first place.
However, the real work begins when the conference is over. What do you do with the burning ideas, the break-through thoughts, and most of all, your projects back at home awaiting your touch or guidance?
There must always be a plan for post-conference activity. How are you to take all those insight and get the needed mileage out of it? How can we take what we learned and put the finishing touches on that project that was languishing from no activity?
Don’t just let conference material become crendenza ware. What that means is don’t allow your conference material to end up in a drawer or shelf, thus becoming crendenza ware.
A road map for your project
Create a plan that will give you a road map for your project and that provides the direction for the project. Just as a driver may encounter road construction or new routes as they head to the final destination, you can always correct the course.
  1. Who are the key stakeholders? Identify them and explain your project. Who has a vested interest in either the project or the project outcome? There will be conflicting agendas and requirements, as well as different slants on who needs to be included.
  2. Define the roles and responsibilities of the project. Identifying stakeholders – those who have a vested interest in either the project or the project outcome – is challenging and especially difficult on large, risky, high-impact projects. There are likely to be conflicting agendas and requirements among stakeholders, as well as different slants on who needs to be included.
  3. Develop the scope statement. The scope statement is the most important document in the project plan. This will allow you to get common agreement among the stakeholders about the project definition, buy in, and agreement. It allows all parties to be on the same page — which decreases the chances of miscommunications.
  4. Develop the baseline of the project. This should include all the deliverables produced on the project, and importantly, identifies all the work to be done.
  5. Create a management plan. This plan will allow the team to manage the changes that inevitably will take place. This will include a review and approval process for modifying those changes. This process is needed to have a model in place to determine their impact to the project.
  6. Communicate, communicate and communicate some more. This plan should state who gets what and how often. How are issues to be handled? How are changes to be handled? Once the project plan is complete, it is important that its contents be delivered to key stakeholders.
Destination success
If a process is developed for each formal learning event, the success level will increase. Think of each event as an investment in your production, but more importantly, it is an investment in your career. The more successes you have in developing your projects, the more value you bring to your organization as well as yourself.
Finding the silver bullet is not hard. The hard part is converting it to success.

Ron Thomas is director of talent and HR solutions at HR consultancy, Buck Consultants.

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One Response

  1. project managing

    Great article. I think as well as defining roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders involved in the project, it is important that realistic and concise aims and objectives are developed so that there is something that feels tangible and achieveable to work towards. Also, having a ‘plan b’ is a good way of preparing yourself for unforeseen circumstances that may affect your original plan and that may throw your project off course. 


    David Evans, commercial director at accessplanit, specialising in learning management system and training administration software.

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Ron Thomas

Director of Talent And HR Solutions

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