There’s something to be said about simplification: Everyone looks for a quick fix, an easy to-do guide, a no-brainer shortcut to getting the job done. And where does that leave project managers? They’re bound to going by the book, stuck to a 20-step run-down handed to them by their superiors as recommended management practice. What happened to the principles on which project management methodology was based? I dare but whisper: They were ‘simplified’.
And what a pity that is too. The privilege of being a project manager is being able to do things your way. With these fundamentals as a reminder, you can chuck the guides and get down to really managing your projects.
Prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more. Gather project requirements, detail project deliverables, outline business rules, develop your solution plan and establish your budget requirements before you start anything else. The end result is a project document that will be your guide for the life of the project.
It may be obvious, but if you’ve ever worked on a failed project, you’ll appreciate the importance of assembling a good team. While relevant skill sets and experience are definitely your top priority, remember to blend youth with experience to get the best results. Projects are not only about getting the job done; they also serve to train new employees. Unless you’re working on a critical project, consider mixing and matching backgrounds and experience to get your choice of atmosphere. And speaking about atmosphere, nothing beats a good start like an open, honest team-building session before embarking on a project.
Before there was light, there was a plan. From assigning individual tasks to breaking down deliverables into manageable components to setting interim targets, you must design a complete framework within which the project will execute. Ensure that each and every member of the team knows exactly what they are supposed to do, and ensure that they know what everyone else is doing as well. Information sharing within a project can lead to unexpected benefits (team members will always be backing each other up, and input from one member can easily help another get their work done quickly / better), and the trust it builds is priceless for the organization. This framework will be your blueprint, and thus you should spend as much time on getting it right (but not more than what is necessary).
You’ve done your research, you’ve got your crack squad, you have your map and you’ve started working. Now what? Now you ensure that all targets are being met. Most projects fail in this crucial regard. Creating a feedback loop within the project on a ground level will help both team members and project managers to ascertain that requirements are being met within the established timeframe, and will bring out any problems before they can seriously have a negative impact on the project. It helps to use key performance indicators (KPI) to have a quantitative measure of progress, but the feedback loop should also accommodate individual members’ evaluations and concerns.
If you do everything right, this becomes the easiest, and the most satisfying part of the project. Once requirements have been met and the proposed solution implemented, it’s time to close the deal and sign off on the project.
No model, no framework is ever perfect. And there’s no fixed pattern that you can follow for each situation either. Use your experience to refine and tune your project management skills, and learn from your mistakes. In the end, it’s about how well the project is done, and not what methods you applied.