“Being a Project Manager is like being an artist, you have the different colored process streams combining into a work of art” – Greg Cimmarrusti, PMP
Project Management is a term used quite liberally in workplaces these days. Although practiced informally from almost the beginning of time, it was in the mid-20th century that Project Management truly started to emerge as a stand-alone profession.
From the basic day-to-day, seemingly mundane activities, to the more complex tasks that could make or break your organization, Project Management has now become an absolutely critical aspect of corporate management.
So, what exactly is a project and what is Project Management? And, most importantly, what constitutes a successfully managed project?
Defining Project Management
The Project Management Institute defines a project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result” and Project Management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements”. Or, to put it simply, Project Management is all about organizing and managing your resources to reach a defined goal.
But what makes for a successfully managed project? These are some of the top keys to Project Management essentials that I’ve encountered while managing myriad of projects over the years. Hopefully these will help you to effectively manage your projects as well.
“Plans are worthless. Planning is essential.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
The most fundamental aspect of any project is the planning process. As the old adage goes: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. One can even argue that planning is the most important activity of a Project Manager. But of course, proper planning has to be well organized and should be a team exercise.
It is also important to understand that plans need to be changed and adapted according to the situation. Accurate planning will not only result in reduced project costs, but it will also reduce the duration of the project, increase its quality and have in-built flexibility when unexpected things happen (as they always do!).
2. Identifying and understanding risks (early)
Tom Mochal, in his piece for techrepublic.com titled 10 best practices for successful Project Management, cites that risks should be identified at the planning stage itself. Risks may be categorized as high, medium and low.
“High-risk items should have specific plans put into place to mitigate them so they do not occur,” wrote Mochal. “Medium risks should be evaluated to see whether they need to be proactively managed, while low-level risks may be identified as assumptions.”
In many complex projects, some risks are ‘inherent’ and these can have a significant impact on the project team as well as the company in general. Hence, it is ideal that each project team assigns a member, or a risk officer, to look in to these possible pitfalls.
3. Top management support
As with many things in a corporate environment, support from management is essential for project success. This is not only important at the start of the project, where you secure approval and corporate sponsorship (funds), but also throughout each major stage and milestone to ensure budgets and scope don’t creep along the road to completion.
4. Micro-managing? DON’T!
Many projects face a ‘natural and untimely’ death because the team leader or the project manager tries to micro-manage everything. No one. I repeat no one, wants to work with control freaks. Project managers need to empower their team members and focus more on the big picture – achieving milestones and trying to meet project deadlines. Don’t fret. Trust your team members and motivate them. They will meet their delivery deadlines for you.
5. Choosing the right people for the right job
Every team member has their own strengths and weaknesses. As the project manager, you need to identify what those strengths and weaknesses are at a very early stage of the project planning process. And then, allocate tasks accordingly – not based on who should have certain skills, but who actually does have the right skills. Some team members have many strengths and, if used wisely, they can be utilized for several project tasks –but don’t spread a good thing too thin.
Your team is bound to have comparatively weaker members as well. As the leader, the project manager is expected to cushion the team against any possible issues that may arise from this disparity, while motivating the weaker team members to always give it their best shot. Good leaders thrive on challenges such as these, and bring out extraordinary results from ordinary team members.
6. Effective communication
“Communication must be HOT. That’s Honest, Open and Two-way” – Dan Oswald
Effective communication is one of the most critical aspects of managing any project in the workplace. Have regular team meetings or briefings to iron-out or discuss vital project related issues. You need to hear team members’ concerns, and allow them to voice their opinions.
In her article, 11 Communication Skills of Effective Project Leaders, Moira Alexander points out that the communication of project leaders should have “transparency, trustworthiness, focus, fairness and consistency”. Unfortunately, these are things many of our project teams lack. As a project management professional, you need to rise above frustration and the particulars of team dynamics. Always take the (HOT) high road.
7. Instil a sense of urgency (but not emergency) within your team
No one will have the urgency of the leader. This is a fundamental fact of life. The project manager has to guard against complacency within the team – especially when team members lose focus. This is where the regular team meetings, follow-ups and sometimes even some old fashioned ‘nagging’ help. Your team members should understand that the resources, budgets and timelines are set to ensure project success – not to make their life difficult.
But, there’s a big difference between instilling a sense of urgency, and creating a state of emergency. Whilst it might seem like a fine line at the time, impressing the importance of maintaining work ethic and diligence isn’t the same thing as (metaphorically) screaming ‘fire’, and inducing a climate of chaos.
8. Have clearly defined goals and project milestones (and celebrate your wins)
Over the years, I’ve realized that setting the final outcome, and carefully analyzing backwards – identifying each milestone along the way – is the best way to define project goals. These goals have to be distinct with timelines and budgetary allocations, which are properly communicated with every member of the team. This establishes clear guidelines, creates a sense of belonging within the team, and ensures each team member can clearly measure their progress words your end-goal.That way, your team members are aligned by a common, well-defined, purpose.
And, as rudimentary as it sounds, reinforcing positive outcomes and behaviors is critical for team morale and sustained success. So, when time permits, give yourself – and your team – license to celebrate your wins.
9. Resolve issues – fast
Issues in any project are common. It’s the skill and ability of the project manager to quickly identify those issues, and resolve them, that matters. Similar to Risk Management, categorizing these issues according to their urgency and potential impact is critical. But remember: Even small issues tend to become big ones over time. So, the sooner you effectively address them, the better!
10. Measuring project success
An area often overlooked by project teams is the post-mortem. This is an extremely critical aspect, which can dictate the success of future projects. Looking back at the various issues the project team faced, and how they were handled, is one of the basic things that project managers can easily get right (because it’s entirely in your control), but often don’t. Comparing the anticipated outcomes with the actual outcomes is the only true way to measure project success. Otherwise, what was the point of establishing all those KPIs and benchmarks at the beginning of your journey? Don’t feel like it was a success; know it was.
Where to next?
But, to achieve these top 10 keys to Project Management success, you need to pair your determination with the right tools for the job. With cammsproject, you can organize, prioritize and measure success – all while collaborating with your team and tracking progress in one place..
cammsproject was named a FrontRunner in project management software by Gartner and its website for 2017. The software complies with the ISO 21500:2012 Standard, PMBOK and APM frameworks and PRINCE2 and LEAN methodologies.
For regular news, views and best practices on Project Management, follow cammsproject on Twitter (@cammsproject).
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