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3 Simple but Critical Steps for Project Management

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The concept of project management can be intimidating to many small companies but it needn’t be. By focusing on a few simple concepts your ability to manage projects to successful completion can be greatly enhanced.

 

Define the Project

Defining the project can spell success or failure from the very start. Projects that have unrealistic goals, are poorly conceived in the first place, and don’t have bounded timeframes are common mistakes during project definition. Consider the following elements of a project during your company’s next project.

A project is defined as a temporary endeavor, having a defined beginning and end, undertaken to meet particular goals and objectives.

·          A temporary endeavor – projects are an activity performed to achieve a specific goal. Activities that support on-going production and operations of the business are not projects. Ensure your project is a temporary work effort and not an effort likely to never end.

·          A defined beginning and end - projects must be time bound with a beginning and end date that realistically allows enough time to perform the work effort required of the project but not too long so as to lose focus, funding, and control. The duration of a project is obviously impacted by the size of the project effort – but keep in mind that the longer a project lasts the more likely it is to miss its target date and run over on budget. Also, projects lasting many months or even years often no longer meet the needs and goals of the business they were designed to achieve in the first place.

·          Meet particular goals and objectives – a project must have a goal or objective and while some projects can be loosely defined (e.g. lower operating costs) the most successful projects clearly articulate the project goal (e.g. lower operating costs by 10% in 12 months). A clear project goal or objective reduces ambiguity and holds project team members accountable for their actions.

Keeping these three concepts in mind will help you define your project in a way that helps everyone understand the timeframe and goals of the project.

Assign Project Tasks

Once you have defined the timeframe and goals for your project begin breaking down the tasks required to accomplish the project. Rarely is a project made up of one task (if it is it’s probably not a project) so analyze the work effort required for the multiple steps along the project lifespan. For example, to transition to a new accounting system you must first analyze the similarities/differences in system data, then export data from the old system, perform any data manipulation, import the data into the new accounting system, and quality check data in the new accounting system against the old system. Each one of these actions becomes a task on the project task list (and most can be broken down even further).

Once the tasks have been identified assign each one to an owner. A task owner is not a title (e.g. Business Analyst) but rather someone (e.g. John Doe) so that an individual is accountable for performing and completing that task. Assigning an individual to own a task also helps reduce duplication of efforts caused when two people think they own the same task. If resources leave during the project reassign their tasks to someone else so that no tasks sit idle.

Track Status

Possibly the most important part of the project is tracking task status. I recommend meeting at least weekly to discuss progress made on assigned tasks. What’s important to determine is the progress made on a task over the past week, the likelihood of the task owner meeting the expected completion date, and identifying and discussions any impacts to other tasks. (A free and simple project management template is provided at KellyRShort.com) Meet with team members during your weekly project status meeting and review every active task notating progress in the notes column as well as adjusting expected completion dates that may have changed. If dates are missed or continually slip immediately address the issue and individual assigned to the task to reduce further slippage. Keep in mind the assigned individual may be working diligently to complete the task but factors outside their control may keep them from completing the task. If this is the case help them remove the barrier keeping them from completing their task.

Keep It Simple

By keeping these simple concepts in mind and practicing them on a daily basis your organization can become better at managing projects no matter their kind. Don’t get consumed by project methodology, project management software tools or even Project Management Institute certification – these concepts are all built on the universal fundamentals of project management described above.

Tags: Project management, managing, coordinating, measuring, execution, business and technology industries, disciplines, project methodologies, project management training, project managers, project management software, Microsoft Project, free project management software, Project Management Institute, PMI Certification

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