As a continuation of the 7 Habits for Highly Effective Project Risk Management, this blog post will focus on a habit related to the closeout phase of a project – prioritize the critical path.

A critical path is the method (or algorithm) used for scheduling a set of project activities. In any project, it is an absolute necessity to understand which key tasks require immediate attention and which can be addressed later on. A successful PM can recognize the difference and will map out benchmark points at the beginning of the project, paying particular attention to issues that have repeatedly occurred in the past. The importance of this practice can be seen in the example of project closeout.
Project closeout is the final step in any project plan, and begins with an agreement on the project deliverables. Once it has been established that the project goals have been met, the project closeout phase is complete. The idea, in layman’s terms, is to wrap up the project with a big bow – tying up all loose ends. Closeout is a process that too often ends up falling by the wayside because milestones for key activities have not been established prior to the start of a project. Accountability often becomes an issue when important tasks are delegated to different positions, and in the end, it becomes clear that priorities were never set to begin with. At this point, it is often too late to correct any errors that have been made as a result of poor planning. The closeout process becomes a nightmare, because too many steps were skipped, missed, or incorrectly completed as the project moved through its critical path.
Project risk management software is an easy and effective way to do avoid issues surrounding project closeout planning. Take these additional steps to ensure a successful end to your project:

  • Create a plan, identifying your critical path at the beginning of the project. Identify key milestones that must be met for a successful closeout and recognize those items that will require attention throughout the project based on issues that have come up in the past
  • Delegate tasks to specific people who will be responsible for carrying those tasks out to the project’s close
  • Create an atmosphere of accountability

Everyone related to a project should understand its critical path, not just the PM. Project risk managers in particular need to understand the path in depth, so that they can work with the team to address/mitigate the risks that may come up along the way. In addition, project risk managers need to understand how those risks might be connected to each other and to other risks within the organization. Learn more about risk connectivity here.

Tell us how prioritizing the critical path has helped in the completion of your projects in the comments section below or connect with us on Twitter at @ActiveRisk.

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