6 Steps Approach to Effective Project Management
6 Steps Approach to Effective Project Management
Practical and effective project management has its roots in simplicity. Keeping it Simple makes it easy to understand for stakeholders with clear expectations/ requirements having measurable elements of project delivery and their benefits.
These days being efficient is expected. Always. How can you make the difference is being effective. Here is 6 steps approach to do effective project management for your organization and drive better results.
Before project manager or portfolio manager jump on to project planning, performing ground work helps immensely. As mentioned earlier you should identify
- Who are the stakeholders, beneficiaries?
- What are expected benefits?
- Based on these benefits, how you can garner buy-in from senior management or customers?
- High level of deliverable, skill set required to deliver those
- Identify metrics to define project success
- How project artifacts, progress, issues, deliverable will be communication i.e. communication plan
Let’s look at these six basic steps for effective project management – planning and execution that project manager can follow in almost every project to ensure project is delivered successfully.
Clarity of project requirements, project scope
In most cases, unclear project requirement definitely results in project failure. Right at the beginning ensure all relevant stakeholders understand project requirements clearly and the importance of having unambiguous project scope. It is not uncommon to see that sales team, project managers have to work with clients and help him articulate client’s requirements. Based on project requirement, you can chalk out project charter, project scope.
If you would like to avoid project scope, you will have to make stakeholders aware that project scope is sacrosanct. Having said that total inflexibility can also kill project outcome (i.e. project outcome will not be useful or beneficial to customer as expected). You can accommodate change request after reviewing its value to project outcome. It is crucial for effective project management to be able to have complete and clear project requirement, right at the beginning and avoiding scope creep later-on. You can use apt project management tools to draft, articulate project requirements, review and seek approvals, so that transparency and accountability for project requirement is ensured.
Planning schedule, risks, resources
Once a project charter and project scope is defined, you will have to identify project manager and project planners. Having project manager, project planner and team members who are subject matter expert for a project in consideration wins half-battle. As project manager & project planners define work-breakdown-structure (WBS) and identify high level deliverable, identifying right skillset to work on those deliverable is equally important. So based on these identified skillset, project manager has to select resources who will be allocated to project and will be assigned work.
The planning phase of project requires well defined project charter and project scope. Based on this project manager can work on project schedule identifying important deliverable, WBS, milestones. As he gets better understanding of project scope, available resources, he can create detailed project schedule identifying minute level details of project schedule – i.e. tasks, milestones, subtasks, allocating and assigning resources to each of these tasks. As we know, detailing leads to questions, questions brings clarity, and clarity drives predictability.
This phase marks a clear assignment, responsibility for project team members. Again it is important to have detailed project schedule for effective project management.
Planning for Project Risks
Managing project risks is integral part of project management. If your projects are not trivial, whether you like it or not -risk will be inevitable part of your projects. If it is not done as an academic exercise of managing project risks, project risk management saves you greatly from surprises. It is important for effective project management to plan for project risks right at the beginning. You need to make team members aware of project risks also provide a platform like online risk register where team members and other stakeholders can quickly record & highlight project risks.
Communication plan – clarity & frequency
At every phase and step of managing project, project manager has to communicate. Communication strategy and plan is crucial for greater project visibility and ultimately for project success. Project communication is required for
- Informing stakeholder about project plan, scope; review and approvals thereof
- Keeping team members informed about change in project schedule
- Being able to highlight issues and risks in project
- Being able to provide clear and better visibility to project sponsors, senior project managers and portfolio managers
- Getting buy-in or support from senior management if anything is going wrong
Nobody likes bad surprises, clear and frequent project communication will save you from surprising your customer or senior project management.
Even today most people rely on emails for day to day communication. But if you are sending emails manually to stakeholders, then you are certainly doing it wrong, spending time in things which are best done by a tool. A project management software
is indispensable to automate project communication. Any change in project schedule will be communicated automatically by a project management system and thereby leaving no communication gap or manual error in informing project team members, project sponsors or senior management within your organization.
Now everything is ready on paper, it is a time for a project team to take a dive-in and start working on minute level tasks. As mentioned earlier, every team member, vendor, customer should be informed and made aware of clear expectations from them i.e.
- When a specific task is supposed to start,
- Who will do it,
- When it should be completed
- What information should be updated (timesheet, expenses, document, and deliverable)?
It is then becomes the work to be done on the ground. As team members start working on it, project manager and project leaders can play a role of facilitator, guide/coach so that there is a productive and positive environment for project team.
Monitor & Control
As the project is kicked-off and project team has started working on project deliverable, as project manager you need to track project progress, communicate it to senior project managers, customers as appropriate. In order to monitor and control project
- You will have to collect progress updates, and check project is not going off-the-track
- Adhere to the project schedule, cost and keep watching project baseline
- Follow the mantra Get Things done, no matter what are obstacles
- Check project deliverable for quality
- Involve project sponsors, customers and end-users informed
- Take a regular feedback from team, customers and end users
- Manage change requests, issues and risks judiciously; as these are inevitable but if not managed well can take project off the track
Deliver, close and Review
When you will deliver project artifacts, meet milestone – you would like your project customers to see the benefits. You would like customer to actually make use of it. Hence you will have to see
- Project deliverable are working for customer
- Address any issue, gaps
- Work with customer to identify trainer or champion
- Train the trainer
- Run a pilot, make it successful and enable customer to market it inside and outside customer’s organization
To get customer confirm successful project deliverable, you can schedule a pre-planned review meeting to get a formal agreement, seek feedback, identify positives and negatives of the whole exercise of delivering projects – project review. Thereafter, you should also conduct an internal review of the project to identify mistakes made, learning thereof and best way to move forward.
Successful project delivery is not a rocket science. But it is perceived to be complicated and demanding process and if these perceptions are not clarified, it induces errors, risks and makes project go off-track, overrun cost, deliver sub-standard outcome. Though it can be complicated and demanding processes, it is not conquerable. As per industry reports, there is still large percentage of project which are delivered successfully (on time, within budget, of desired quality). Following closing points will help you in succeeding project delivery.
- Get clear project requirement, have clear understanding of project requirements
- Have an eye for detailing – be it requirements, tasks, issues, risks or communications
- Ensure team members have enough information to perform tasks, make them accountable
- Stick to project schedule, yet things can go wrong with project so deliberately have buffer while creating project schedule
- Review project progress, initiate corrective actions quickly– stop project from failing
- Keep key stakeholders informed, seek buy-in wherever, whenever necessary
- Articulate key learning before closing project and utilize these learning aptly for future projects.
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