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  • Writer's pictureNathalie C. Chan King Choy

Follow-Through: 3 Unwritten Responsibilities of the Project Manager

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

3 identical unwritten posters on a grey wall near a window

The theme of the Project Management Institute Canadian West Coast Chapter (PMI CWCC) PM West Conference this November is Ignite, Innovate, Impact. I’m really excited to exchange knowledge with other Project Managers at the event! Here is a taste of what I’ll be presenting at my session “Mastering the follow-through: deliver the Impact with your Ignited Innovative team”.


How many times have you seen brilliant teams all fired up with ideas that have a ton of potential, armed with their project plan, but then they deliver something that is off the mark, because too many balls were dropped? Over-commitment of resources has been a historic problem, but this is now compounded by increasing distractions and shrinking attention spans.


As Project Managers, we play a critical role in driving the team toward success. We have the skills and the tools for producing the follow-through that it takes to get from concept to reality. It’s a matter of mastering all aspects of follow-through to maximize successful outcomes.


This advice assumes that your project starts off with some form of initial plan and work breakdown. Naturally, the plan evolves and initiatives and actions arise as the project unfolds, during calls/meetings, emails, and messaging – when we get into the detailed actions of what it takes to get things done. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.”


Successful follow-through takes much more than nagging each team member with a list of their open action items. It requires:

  1. Understanding how to prioritize what to follow-through/follow-up on

  2. Building a connection with/between teammates & stakeholders

  3. Motivating a culture of self-responsibility & making it easy to find the work to do


Understanding how to prioritize what to follow-through/follow-up on


Especially with ignited, innovative teams, you will have a lot of ideas being generated, and potentially a dynamic requirement landscape. It’s not possible nor sensible to take every idea to completion - some ideas are just stepping stones in the creative process to reach the best ideas. You also have constraints that bound what can be accomplished. So, you have to make sure to tease out what are the most important ideas and initiatives to pursue, to have a realistic scope for your team & use your limited resources effectively.


Building a connection with/between teammates & stakeholders


Getting everyone on the same page about the priorities and clarifying what needs to be done is helped immensely when there are open channels of communication. As Project Managers, we probably interface with the most people involved in the project, so have the opportunity to build connections with them, and also between the ones who are not connected.


Motivating a culture of self-responsibility & making it easy to find the work


Some Project Managers fall into the trap of parenting those who they support, chasing after each individual with constant reminders, and taking most of the action items in any given meeting. The project resources will then tend to only feel responsible for the execution of their piece, and not the part they play in the larger system. As Project Managers, we should advocate for empowering teams to play an active role in the larger system they are part of, encouraging a culture of self-responsibility where contributors do what needs to be done instead of waiting to be told, and organizing the information so that it’s easy for them to figure out what the team agreed needs to be done.


Conclusion


Holding dear these 3 responsibilities will help you to battle the 4 main categories of friction that make it difficult for the project team to follow through:

  • Forgot about action items

  • Lack of clarity

  • Overwhelm

  • Competing priorities


My presentation at PM West will go into techniques that can help against each category of friction. By understanding the categories of friction that interfere with following through, the tools and techniques at your disposal, and when to apply which, Project Managers can help their teams master the follow-through it takes to deliver the full impact of their projects.


Another major challenge for Project Managers is keeping up with the volume of action items. My presentation at PM West will also give some tips on how automation can be used to assist in follow-ups.


Since I do want people to come to my presentation, I will save these details for a future blog post after the event. Stay tuned!

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