Spring is in the air! Leaves are green, gardens are planted, and the smell of fresh cut grass is all around. The yellow haze of pollen is behind us and May flowers are on the way. Before you know it, you’ll be in your driveway shoveling snow!
Wait, what? What happened to summer and fall? Nothing. They just flew by as per usual. No sooner does one season start than another one has us looking back and wondering where the time went.
The same thing happens within our organizations. Assuming a fiscal year is the same as the calendar year, Q1 typically starts out slow, while projects and budgets are finalized and employees ease into the new year. Then, Q2 booms; spring is in the air outside and inside your business. Projects are funded, customers are moving forward with initiatives, and project teams are as busy as bees.
In Q3, summer carries spring’s busy-ness forward, with a number of reenergizing vacations sprinkled in along the way. Finally, the reality of fall in Q4 hits us hard as things begin to wind down. November and December are when we scramble to catch up on initiatives, administrative tasks and other activities, and feel like it was just yesterday we had the whole year to get it all done!
How can you prevent the end of the year from sneaking up and catching you by surprise?
Take Stock Mid-Year
The end of Q2 is the perfect time to reflect on the accomplishments of the first half of the year, and what remains in the second. Enough time has passed that substantial work will have been done on projects, and progress made in working with your team; and at the same time, there is still plenty of room to make adjustments. Now’s the time to apply the project management principles of Lessons Learned, Retrospectives, or as we call them at The PMO Squad, Debriefs. Lessons Learned are generally applied towards a project, but broadening the scope to what is occurring within your PMO, department, or team will benefit your organization.
Consider the following five areas where you can adjust things now, in order to finish strong by the end of the year
- General Project Health - The year starts off with how each project is going to be managed, what reporting is in place, what artifacts will be created, and how projects will be closed out. Then, reality hits. Time runs short and our best intentions fall by the wayside. Now’s the time to perform a review of your project(s) and ask: Is there a detailed plan in place with a clear path to closure? Are sufficient resources positioned to complete the project? Do project stakeholders still agree with the definition of its success? Are agreed-upon deliverables and project artifacts being created? If you don’t like the answers to some of these questions, you still have time to correct things in the second half of the year.
- Budgets - Do a deep dive on your project budgets. Depending upon the size of your organization, budgets could be tracked and monitored by another department, or just something that magically gets done behind the scenes. You may be approving timesheets and looking at the bottom line each month, but now, dig into the details. Is time being recorded against appropriate projects, and in the proper expense or capital categories? Are accruals, depreciation, and amortization set up and being charged properly? Are all employees in the right departments? What expenses are not showing up on your profit and loss statement that should be? There are many horror stories of vendors skipping a month or two of billing only to catch up months later and submit “surprise” invoices. It’s better to find these surprises now, fix them, and make adjustments to the forecast rather than at year’s end when nothing can be done.
- Performance Reviews - Aren’t performance reviews done at the end of the year? Typically, yes, but meaningful input needs to be gathered and discussed throughout the year. How are you doing in this area? Do you meet regularly with your employees to discuss what they’ve done well? Have you provided meaningful and constructive feedback designed to help them perform their job better and enhance their careers? Do you have a system in place that captures this detailed information so your end-of-year reviews aren’t filled with platitudes or vague generalities? Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the end of the year, staring at a blank screen, and not even knowing where to start the review.
- Training / PDUs - Here’s another area that many feel is important but not urgent during the first half of the year, until it becomes important and urgent at the end of the year. Unfortunately, because you’re out of time, you now have a fire drill on your hands. Do your career a favor and schedule training and professional development. How are you doing in this area? Make the adjustment now if you’re behind!
- Vacation Schedules - You’ll want to get ahead of summer vacation schedules and definitely end of year time off. Utilize a resource tracker and have everyone submit their proposed vacation schedules. How does it look? Entire team out of the office at the same time? Now is the time to find out and make adjustments before it becomes a crisis later in the year. Depending upon the tenure of your team members, you could find yourself with zero staff for the entire month of December!
These five recommendations are a starting point for you to compile your own list, which should reflect what’s important to your managers and your company. Take your list and objectively determine if things are on track or off track for completion in the second half of the year. On track? Great. Keep doing what you are doing. Off track? Come up with a plan to get things back on-track while you still have six months to go, and you don’t have to worry about shoveling snow!