Execution ExcellenceProject Management Office

Using Playbooks to Deliver Winning Projects

I was a pretty decent baseball player back in the day. Many business lessons were learned between the lines—leadership, trust, teamwork, to name a few. Another lesson was found in the use of a playbook.

The value from the playbook was ensuring the team was aligned on what to do in any given situation. This allowed all of us to build trust in one another, knowing that we would be in the right place at the right time. It didn’t matter if we had a reserve playing shortstop or left field or catcher. Everyone knew what to do. The cutoff man was in place for balls in the gap. The pitcher was always backing up the bases in the right spot. We weren’t the most talented team in our league, but we were the most prepared.

The playbook is also a perfect tool for project managers. The project manager, like a baseball manager, is building a team to work together and deliver winning projects. Once you build your initial template, the playbook is easily modified for each successive project. The key sections that have proven to be beneficial to me include the project delivery model, communication plan, project RACI, project governance, and change control. I’ll adjust the playbook to add/subtract sections based on the needs of that specific project and/or stakeholders.

It is critical to introduce the playbook prior to the start of the project or at the kickoff meeting. Setting expectations early will help the project team and project champions establish a cadence and begin to build trust in one another. Remember, the benefit of the playbook is to create alignment so the team can operate cohesively throughout the life of the project.

An example of how the communication plan will build alignment is with timing and distribution of status reports: Perhaps the team reports status to the project champion every Friday. To adhere to this timing the project manager has requested that team members provide individual status every Thursday. The Friday status review with the champion then leads to a Monday report sent to the steering committee. Week after week this cadence plays out. All team members should be aware of this timing and understand how important it is for them to stay on track with their respective deliverables. If the process fails anywhere along the path, the entire team can be impacted.

The project RACI is another great tool to build unity and trust on a project. By utilizing a RACI, the roles and responsibilities for each team member are clearly defined. Each team member should sign off on the RACI to acknowledge they understand all the roles on the team. This collective and public understanding of all project roles allows each team member to focus on their individual items, trusting that the team will handle other tasks as assigned.

Just as with the players on a baseball team, project team members need to work together to achieve project objectives. They should understand how the work will get done, who will do the work, how progress will be communicated, and seek guidance from leadership at defined intervals. Effective use of a project management playbook can make the difference between “winning” and “losing” when delivering your projects!

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