Project management is about making things happen in the most efficient and productive way. Many people think they don’t need to spend the time learning project management techniques because they are already achieving their objectives – but there’s always room for improvement.
One place to start is clarifying the definition of a project. What is a project?
The tips below are general pointers that apply to all the different project management frameworks. If you think they may be of use to you, your department or business, you’ll want to find a specific project management process such as PRINCE2 or Agile that fits best with your individual needs.
Some departments shy away from using project management techniques because they think the time spent planning could be better spent doing. The truth is that without utilising project management techniques more time is wasted through inefficiency and achieving the wrong objectives.
Project management assures all parties that they are on the same page regarding the results they want to see, and the ongoing benefits that last long after the project finishes.
The project management process is initiation, planning, executing and closure.
The first step when initiating a project is to ensure the objective is valid and that expectations are set correctly for all parties. Questioning the expected outcome is important to ensure the objective is the correct one in the first place.
At this stage, make sure you are aware of who you will be working with and of any restrictions that may apply, e.g. staff holidays, departmental priorities, etc.
Planning and Execution
In project management, planning is done by working backwards from the final objective. This helps you establish that all steps are covered and nothing is missed out. You can set milestones along the way and timescales for when they should/could be reached. Each of these milestones should, where possible, be the responsibility of just one person. Milestones like this mean you can keep track of exactly how far along the project is.
Use our top tips to avoid project management failure.
Your planning should include any necessary training, and thought into how and when you will communicate with the client and anyone else involved in the project. Anyone with a vested interest in the outcome of the project may approach you for updates during its duration, so should be involved in the planning process.
Another big part of your plan should be of how decisions will be made when the plan goes off course. It’s necessary to have contingency plans for how you will adapt the plan when/if things go wrong. The most important thing to remember when adapting to change is to review your original objective and, again, work your plan backwards to where you are now.
A project is not necessarily closed when the original objective is met. Rather, once it’s handed over as complete, it will undoubtedly be subject to improvements or ongoing support. During the planning stage, you should have outlined at which stage you feel the original project should end and where ongoing support will begin. At this point, you meet with the person who initiated the project and close it together.
If you are still in doubt as to whether the project management framework will be of use to you, give it a go! You are likely to find that even using the basic tips above gives you that extra focus and efficiency you need for your project to succeed.
Image by Victor1558 on Flickr.
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