Project Management for HR Projects – the Initiating Process

When we first talked about using Project Management best practices for HR Projects, you asked us to focus in on each process using a real HR project – and so we did!

Here’s your mission, should you choose to accept it!


  • You have just been tasked with developing a performance management evaluation process
  • The outcome of each performance evaluation will determine merit raises for each employee

Background Story:

You are one of 10 managers of a building that reserves rooms to groups for meetings, events and parties.  The building is on a university campus and you cater to student organizations, faculty and external vendors and organizers.  You do the set-up, clean-up and scheduling of these events as well as troubleshooting customer needs, and you task assistants as needed to get everything done.  Here’s some additional relevant information you’ll need to know:

  • The last evaluation was done over 2 years ago.
  • Turnover is high.  Demographic of employees to be evaluated is full-time college students, so they come and go because of graduation, scheduling conflicts, or new job.  And chances are none of the current employees were around when the last evaluation was done.
  • The current raise structure is based on seniority
  • 23 employees (13 assistants, 10 managers including you)
  • You are a manager and the employees you are developing an evaluation for are your colleagues, now you are being promoted to take on this new project as you continue your daily tasks as manager.
  • While your boss tasked you with this project, you still need to do the research on the impact, how long it will take, budget proposal and validate the need to make this change.
  • Finally – where is all of this coming from? Some employees consistently go above and beyond the call of duty and exceed expectations of the customer, but some don’t.  Your boss’s hope is that by documenting and evaluating each employees performance it will help to improve performance and increase customer satisfaction.


What does the initiating process consist of?

The initiation process is about clarifying the project, getting approval and establishing a framework.  Project Management methods offer a variety of tools to accomplish this purpose – and remember to consider your organization and the process that works best within your environment.


Business Case

In practice, we’ve seen that generally the Business Case will come first as that is what addresses the business needs and scope of the project.  The business case justifies the business need and addresses the question “is this really worth the investment.”  Not just money, but time and resources.  Look for the areas of your project that can measure ROI.  Oftentimes we hear from HR professionals that it is hard to collect numerical data, or they don’t know how – but senior management makes decisions based on this kind of data.


In your HR project what can be measured?

  • Customer satisfaction (through evaluations and feedback)
  • Attitude of current employees about fellow employees job performance
  • Compensation forecast to determine the impact of the new merit system on the annual budget needs


Statement of Work

The statement of work consists of identifying your business need, the scope, and the business’ strategic plan.

The business needs will often come from the project initiator or sponsor – or in our project, your boss.  What are our business needs?  Or what organizational need is this project attending to?

Through this project we plan to improve employee performance by documenting performance and rewarding employees for going above and beyond their job duties and all the while increasing customer satisfaction.

Next, what product(s) or service(s) or result(s) will be created through this project?

At the end of this project we want to have replicable and reliable employee performance evaluation that fairly determines merit raises for high-performing employees.  Through this documentation and employee development process we plan to improve and document employee performance. Within this scope we also to start considering who should be on the team.

Finally, what are your organization’s strategic goals?  Why are the organization’s goals even important?  Because everything you do in this project should ultimately be aligned with the strategic plan of the organization.  This is how you tie what you are doing back to the bottom line.

For our organization, our goals are to always provide exquisite service to our customers and be their go-to place for meetings and big events.


In structured project management, the next piece is the contract.  Since this project is specific to our own organization this step does not apply in our example.  However, here are a few additional questions to think about to see if this step is something you should consider:


  • Are there charge backs to an internal business unit that impact their budget?
  • Would they like some kind of contract to establish deliverables?


  • Is there a 3rd party vendor involved?
  • Do you need to do an RFP?


Project Influences

There are a variety of influences called Enterprise Environmental Factors and Organizational Process Assets that can impact your project.

Enterprise Environmental Factors includes influences like standards, infrastructure and marketplace conditions.  For example, standards for a healthcare organization would be regulations like HIPPA or Joint Commission.  Infrastructure is about your organization’s culture and business structure (such as business units). In our example, we work with a university system and our budget is provided by the university.

Organizational process assets includes things like organizational policies and procedures, historical information, lessons learned, etc.  For our project, the organizational process assets would have a much larger influence than enterprise environmental factors.


Identifying your Stakeholders in the Stakeholder Register

So by now we’ve worked through the project charter and have a draft of what’s involved.

But now, who will be impacted by the outcome of this project?  For simplicity sake, for our project our stakeholders are the employees (both professional staff and student staff), customers (faculty, students and external meeting organizers) and your supervisor, and their supervisor.

For a larger project, you might consider interviewing potential stakeholders to fully understand how they may be impacted.  Also, ask other people who they think might be impacted by the project.  Ask senior management, other units within the organization, already identified stakeholders, subject matter experts, consultants, etc.

Each stakeholder has a different interest and influence in the project.   And that is why it’s critical to properly identify each stakeholder and their role.

Let’s use a power/interest grid to visualize the influence and interest each group has.  For example, for our employees, the professional staff (non-college students) are not part of this new evaluation.  So while they have a lot of power in the area of monitoring and improving employee performance, their interest and involvement in the actual evaluation process is low.  And really, we just want to keep them happy with how the tasks are being done.

On the opposite quadrant, our student staff have a high level of interest in this new evaluation process because it directly impacts their pay.  And while they are free to share their thoughts, concerns and ideas, they are not the “approving” authority for this project and have little influence on its direction.


Stakeholder Register

Your stakeholder analysis will help in your development of the stakeholder register.  This register is the “who’s who” of your project’s stakeholders.  You’ll want to ask yourself the following questions about each stakeholder:

  • Who are your stakeholders?
  • What can they influence?
  • What is most important to them?
  • What kind of obstacles do they pose or what level of support do they bring?
  • Why is it of interest to them?
  • Where are they located?
  • How can they influence your project?

Remember, this is just a tool you have available to use.  The stakeholder register can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet with the list of stakeholders, and how they might view the project from their perspective.

Once you’ve answered these questions and reflect from their perspective, how will you manage these stakeholders?

For our performance management project, there is a small group of student employees that are very wary of the new evaluation process because they are nervous about their evaluation – the other employees however are supportive.  Your boss’s boss is all about the numbers, so make sure you stay within the allotted budget provided to you at the beginning of the project.


Project management ground rules to keep yourself sane

  • Your project needs will vary, so be flexible and open-minded
  • You don’t have use every tool out there
  • Start out small and simple
  • Phases are your phriend (misspelling fully intended)

Now that you’ve heard the story, remember these basic ground rules to get you started.  Keep in mind your individual project needs will vary depending a lot of things like resources, time, scope, etc., so be open minded to the “purpose” of each project management tool and know you don’t have to use all of them.  Knowing what you have available to you is half the battle and having the ability to pick the tools that will bring the most value to the project at that point in time.

Start out small and simple when you first begin using PM for your HR projects.  You don’t have to be well-versed in every facet of project management, just know what’s out there and again, start out by picking the most valuable tools relevant to your project.


Project Initiation Checklist

Here are a few key checkpoints to make sure you initiate your project on the right foot.

  • I clearly outlined why this project is being done, what the desired results will be, who might be on the team, and how the project is aligned with the organization’s strategic goals.
  • I’ve identified the internal and external factors and assets that could impact or influence the project.
  • I know “who’s who” of my project stakeholders.
  • Project Charter has been approved!

Join us next time as we talk about the planning phase!


Our next HRL Lunch Break is Thursday, November 17th – same time – 1:15 – 1:45 ET and we will be talking about Quantifying HR Credibility with Relevance, Reliability, and Replication.

To check out and register for upcoming events, check out our Calendar

If you have any questions or would like the PowerPoint file, please send me a message.   Thanks for reading!


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