Whichever way you look it planning and executing a project can be monumentally hard work with lots of strands to tie together, not to mention delegation and evaluation. Not everyone is a natural project manager but with a few inside hacks, you’ll be taking your project to the next level.
1. Start Slow, Build Momentum
You might be facing a tight deadline and be desperate to get off the ground and get the project moving but stop for a minute and take the time to think things through.
First set out the clear objectives of the project and the end aims. Make sure they are tangible and achievable rather than theoretical and hard to pin down.
Without excellent planning and milestone placing, you are bound to let things slip through the net. Set realistic goals in realistic time frames and assign tasks to the right people. You don’t need endless meetings but you will need to gather everyone involved together and make sure everyone knows what they’re doing.
2. Sit On Your Resources
The time to gather your project resources is before the project starts. Make sure you have an accurate breakdown of what this project will cost you or your company and set aside that budget where it cannot be redirected. Guard it fiercely and make it clear to everyone that the money is ring fenced. Once budgets get chipped away at they do not get replaced and having to drastically scale down a project half way through is embarrassing and demotivating.
Jon Shipman, a Business Writer at Writemyx, said: “There are two elements to budgeting that are important: careful planning and careful protection. If a project is to take place across more than one financial year, it’s easy to see that money being recalled or funnelled away towards other areas. Make your case early and assign budget for every step of your project, far in advance”.
3. Choose Your Team Wisely
With the right people around you, the whole project is going to gather momentum that much more quickly. Conversely a group of naysayers or simply a team with the wrong skills are not going to get you anywhere, fast. Don’t just choose team members based on personality or your personal preference but rather select people who you know have a proven track record for delivering great results on time and with the minimum of fuss. They may not be your closest colleagues but they’ll certainly make reaching your objectives that much easier.
4. Don’t Let Your Schedule Slip
While some problems and setbacks are inevitable, it’s vital that everyone working on the project adheres to your initial schedule. Shoddy time management is not acceptable and should not be tolerated. Your customers expect more and deserve to be given a realistic time frame that will be met without major delay.
If you’re deadline just can’t be met, for whatever reason, then you must inform your customer or senior management team without delay so expectations can be recalibrated and a new deadline set.
For team members who continually fail to meet expectations, a warning or removal from the project may be the only option. Objective delivery is key to a successful project.
5. Check In Regularly
With the above tip in mind, don’t let a fear of looking over-involved stop you from checking in regularly with project team members.
Set aside half an hour each day to ring around project leaders and check in. Don’t make the mistake of emailing where you run the risk of being ignored or given vague or intentionally obscure responses. A direct conversation will show colleagues you’re interested in hearing about any problems they may be experiencing and also relays the knowledge that you won’t be impressed with any delays.
As Suzanne Wilde, Project Manager at Originwritings and 1day2write, says: “This isn’t about micro-managing but it is about being accountable to everyone in your team and in turn them being accountable to you. It also gives you the opportunity to give praise where it’s deserved as well as picking up any issues that need solving”.
6. Don’t Have Anything To Hide
If you’re working on an internal project within your own organisation then make sure you don’t have anything to hide from senior management. If you’re facing difficulties, let them know sooner rather than later, before a problem spirals into a series of crises.
The same is true for a project co-managed with an outside client. Be upfront about any issues you’re having and you’ll foster a relationship where they will be able to do the same to you.
Ask your team members to have the same attitude towards you as project leader and let them know the importance of flagging up problems as the project progresses not nearer completion.
7. Learn From Your Mistakes and Successes
If you’ve been involved in project management in the past or even just been part of a team, try and remember what particular parts of the process felt easy and worked well and which were hard going and strained. You’ll be surprised at what a few so-called minor adjustments will make to the pace of a project. Perhaps previous reporting lines were confused and unclear, improve them. Maybe using a Gantt chart was the best tool for assigning tasks and following up on individual objectives, consider using one again.
Whatever it is you remember don’t be afraid to make improvements as you go along, no-one will mind if you make changes that benefit the whole team and make the project easier to manage.
Whether it’s your first project or you’re a seasoned professional, take the time to plan and execute your plans to perfection. With just a few simple guidelines you’ll find yourself ahead of the game and seeing your objectives through to the end with ease. Now is the time to get yourself a reputation as a professional with killer project management skills.
Tim Colley works at Academic Brits as a marketing and business writer. His passions include helping companies build effective marketing strategies and writing online articles and blogs.