How should independent convenience store operators approach project management?

Creating a plan and delivering the project on time and within budget is essential for successful project management.

“The good thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.” — John Harvey Jones

If you get in a car in Chicago with the intention of driving to Los Angeles, the GPS rarely plots the California portion of the map while you’re in your driveway. On the contrary, the GPS methodically and sequentially plots each route to be taken to reach the desired location. Project management follows the same logic of a series of key tasks or steps that must be completed in a systematic process to achieve the desired result. Traveling to Los Angeles from Chicago can only happen if the travel tasks through the Midwest and the Rockies are completed first.

This type of thinking seems elusive when it comes to business project management. Ask someone to “map out” the many steps required to achieve the desired outcome of managing a project and you often get resistance as in “overkill” or just a “deer in the headlights” stare. Yet the dollars at stake as well as operational disruption to the organization seem secondary to the tedious task of mapping out the process in advance. Lack of a plan almost certainly locks in failure as much as putting in place the wrong project manager.

Below are the key elements of project management:

On time, on budget: This should be every project manager’s mantra. There should be nothing more fundamental in the mind of the project manager than completing the project on time and within budget. Failure to adhere to an on-time and on-budget philosophy not only results in the failure of the current project, but also risks the failure of other dependent projects.

Know the end of the game: Determine in advance what a successful project conclusion looks like. Poorly managed projects fall victim to the duplication of resource allocations and cost overruns known as “capital creep”, and this can be crippling to an organization as it “sucks” future dollars to reinvest in the business.

Resource management: Let the battle begin ! Project management is the organization of systems and processes in a sequential manner to effectively accomplish the task at hand. Resources are limited and skilled people are always in demand. There can be intense competition for strong resources; the excessive allocation of their time is a constant concern.

Practice War games ” : Imagine if you could anticipate trouble before it happened – that’s what “war gaming” is all about. Play out possible scenarios and anticipate “broken pipes” before they happen. By laying out as many milestones as possible against a timeline, a project manager should be able to recognize obvious “hiccups” in the process in advance and devise alternative solutions.

To be realistic: Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your project. Setting realistic goals not only for the project, but especially for the approval committee, is key to managing expectations. The project cannot be built for free, nor can it be completed in an afternoon.

Daily impact on activity: The challenge of managing new projects for an organization is that it still has a day-to-day business to manage. Rarely do they have an idle body to be able to handle a project exclusively. Organizations that fail to recognize this impact will not only see their project fall short of expectations, but will run the risk of seeing their day-to-day operations go awry.

Deliver the items: Ultimately, the project manager has a clear job to do: deliver a completed project, on time and within budget. Leaving the whole project to chance will only guarantee one thing: a failed project.

Watch the video to learn more:

John Matthews, President and CEO of Gray Cat Enterprises, is responsible for managing all of the company’s consulting businesses, which include retail consulting for multi-unit operations; interim executive management; and project management. Prior to founding his own company in 2004, Matthews held leadership positions as President of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and as Vice President of Marketing, Merchandising, Facilities, Corporate Communications and real estate at Clark Retail Enterprises Inc. In addition, Matthews worked for nine years in marketing management as National Marketing Manager for Little Caesars Pizza Corp.