You want to get your projects done with less stress and struggle. It seems there’s so much involved in the project and you want a way to get your arms around it.
You’d like to have it all laid out clearly and neatly, and know that things are moving forward as needed.
This is exactly what project managers do.
They identify all the work, plan it out, communicate with the team and stakeholders, and keep things moving forward smoothly. heir primary focus is successfully delivering projects on time and within budget. If you want more, here’s a full list of project manager roles and responsibilities.
But you don’t have to have the title of Project Manager to use the same strategies for successful delivery. You can apply project management practices to your work so that it runs more easily and smoothly no matter what role you’re in.
Use these project management basics listed below to increase your project success. You’ll be able to move your projects forward with more ease and confidence, knowing you’ve got it all under control.
Project Management Basics: Plan your Work
1. Identify Activities Needed To Reach Your Goals
To successfully deliver your project or meet your targets, you need to know what’s included in the work. Make sure you have a good understanding of what’s to be delivered and all the tasks included to get you there. Break your project out into large components so you see the chunks of work needed to get you to your goal. Then go a step further and break each of those large components out into smaller steps. By breaking these down into smaller tasks, you get a better picture of what’s needed to deliver the work. You can also better see dependencies between activities and in what order tasks need to be done. From this you can better estimate how long these tasks will take.
When doing this activity, include those who will be doing the work on your project. You’ll be less likely to miss anything, and everyone will have a better understanding of what’s needed to meet the goals. This is one of the fundamental project management basics.
2. Create a Schedule
When you and your team have identified the tasks and dependencies, determine how long each will take and who’s responsible for completing them. This provides better time estimates and more buy-in, since the information is coming from the people who will be doing the work. They’ll be better equipped to meet the target dates since they helped create the schedule. And you can hold the team more accountable if they help create the schedule and agree to the dates.
3. Identify Milestones as Periodic Targets to Stay on Track
Once you’ve created your schedule, identify several key deliverables as milestones. Milestones are point-in-time items that you use as markers to track status against. Examples of milestones might be a client design-approval sign-off, or delivering focus-group results to stakeholders. These aren’t the end of the project, but rather points throughout the schedule that you can use as common reporting targets in monitoring and communicating status.
4. Develop Your Budget
Lay out all your costs to get a clear picture of the budget you’ll need for executing your project. Be clear what costs to include. Will you print marketing materials? Will you need to travel for this project? If you identify all costs up front, you’ll be better able to track against your budget as you execute the project. Itemizing all the costs helps ensure you won’t miss anything and go over budget.
5. Identify Potential Risks
Understand what could sabotage your success, and be ready for it. Ask yourself what could go wrong. You have ideas about this from past experiences. Identify potential delays. Use your team’s experience as well. Create a plan for how you’ll mitigate or handle each risk if it arises.
Project Management Basics: Execute the Plan
6. Execute the Project Schedule
You’ve broken the activities down to clear tasks with dates and who’s responsible. Now work with your team to carry it out. Hold your team accountable for what they’ve committed to. Communicate with your team regularly on how they’re progressing on the plan. Remove roadblocks and help your team stay on track.
7. Track Your Budget
As you execute your plan, stay on top of spending. It’s possible that quotes have expired, or you need more licenses than you originally planned for. Don’t wait until the end of the project to look at what you’re spending. As you and the team make purchases for the project, be sure to track them. That way, if there are changes, at least you’ll know and be ready to explain any variance.
8. Manage Risk
Revisit your risk plan throughout the course of the project. Talk with team members about the potential risks they identified. Make sure none of them are happening. It’s another one of those essential project management basics. And if any of the potential risks do come to pass, execute the risk plan you created in your risk planning.
9. Communicate with Team Members and Stakeholders
As you execute your plan, have regular communications with stakeholders and team members. Share status so that everyone is aware of how things are progressing. Manage expectations along the way. Keeping everyone informed increases trust and confidence.
10. Stay Focused on the Right Work
Distractions and opportunities can take your focus away from your project. Don’t let low-value activities divert your attention. Help your team stay focused on completing activities that get you to your project goals. If your team doesn’t have bandwidth to take on more, be careful about accepting more work. When other teams or your boss ask you to take on more work, ask if it merits taking priority over the project goals. If not, guard your team’s time. Have candid conversations about priorities. Even if they’re uncomfortable conversations, it’s better to have the conversation now as opposed to when you miss project deadlines.
Bonus: Celebrate Successes
Give your team credit for work well-done. Find ways to praise the team for success along the way, even if it’s a small win. For example, if you present the team’s marketing campaign to the client and she loved it, make sure the team knows. They’ll appreciate the positive feedback and wins along the way.
When you want your project to run smoothly with fewer surprises, use these standard project management approaches to increase your project delivery success. There’s a reason project managers have been using this approach to execute projects for many years – it works!
Leigh Espy is a project management coach and consultant. She has over 20-years’ experience in Project Management and had led projects of all sizes and complexities, from small, local initiatives to large multi-million dollar international projects. She helps professionals move into project management careers and coaches new project managers to increase their skills and success rates. She writes about project management, leadership, and performance at ProjectBliss.net.