Keeping a project’s momentum while your stakeholders are on holiday

17-December-smallAs soon as I saw Monty the penguin make his debut in November, I knew the holiday season had arrived. While I’m now eagerly waiting for snow to fall and Santa to pop down the chimney with a sack of presents, I’m also silently wondering if my projects will come down with a case of holiday blues.

Lots of agencies close over Christmas but those that stay open usually run a skeleton staff to provide client support. This can be a really tricky time for projects; any digital project manager working over Christmas could be forgiven for wondering just how they’ll keep project momentum while their stakeholders are sipping eggnog at home.

It’s not just a lack of access to clients that can be tough, having slim to no access to internal stakeholders can mean your project falls way behind where it should be.

This Christmas I’ll be managing several projects which need constant love and attention over the holiday period. These are a few tips I’ll be using to keep my projects on the up and up.

Manage your own expectations

Book your team for as much time as you can! With fewer people in the office this can be a great time for team members to work uninterrupted and make huge strides forward, but be realistic. Plan that your team will only work at 40% capacity maximum (even if you keep this information to yourself).

Christmas spirit will inevitably mean later starts and earlier finishes, not to mention some jovial office fun and games. Unfortunately if you’re running a skeleton staff your team will also need to support other projects.

Expecting only 40% utilisation means that you won’t be over committing your team and won’t need to play catch-up in the new year.

Organise a substitute sign-off

Senior members of staff often act as quality checkers and ensure work meets both project and business objectives. The last thing you want is to end up with a huge bottle neck of work because your point of internal sign off is enjoying some much needed R&R.

Before your stakeholders finish for the year agree with them who will sign off work in their absence, and what can and can’t be signed off or sent to a client without their eyes seeing it first.

Get time in the diary

If you’ve organised a substitute sign off, make sure you book time in their diary to review work. If they’re the most senior person in the office, they’ll likely be in demand. I’d recommend not booking slots first thing in the morning or right at the end of the day to ensure a late start or early finish doesn’t mean your review slot is overlooked.

If you don’t have a substitute sign-off, book some time in your key stakeholder’s diary for the first and second day they’re back. I’d recommend an early’ish slot, but not first thing.

Have an ace up your sleeve

With the best will in the world, unforeseen things happen. Having a backlog of other project work your team can start on may not get you where you need to be in the short term, but it can help you avoid any long term impact.

Be up-front

Be clear with your stakeholders – internal and external – that a ‘support’ team is available but you can’t guarantee a dedicated project team every day. Although conversations like this can be difficult if you’re running to a tight deadline, they’re much easier to have beforehand. The last thing your stakeholder wants is to hear is project delays because of Christmas.

If you’re working this holiday season, make sure the grinch doesn’t steal your Christmas spirit or your projects’ momentum! With a little forward planning and some timely conversations you can ensure a happy Christmas for you and your projects.