Project Management in 5 easy steps
In my many years in the industry, I have learned that, unless you set deliverables and deadlines, there are very few chances that the project you are planning will have any timely and accurate outcome. This very basic rule of engagement and commitment to get things going is the one that will make the difference between a test idea and a possible production item. Here are 5 easy steps that must be taken to ensure that your project will come to fruition, regardless of its size.
Let’s get down to business
There is no smoke without fire and there is no project without a project plan. After all, if you want to bake a cake, you need the ingredients; if you are planning a trip around the world, you will create travel plans and booking for accommodation. Yet, for many, it is just about getting the hands dirty and dig straight into the idea that might have crossed your mind this morning.
Don’t take me wrong… initiative is good and willingness to get started is great but, if you want to be taken serious about what you are wanting to achieve, hang on to your horses and start the thinking and the planning.
#1 Take the time to think
In today’s time, most would qualify thinking time as daydreaming, yet, this is the most important step to avoid frustration, waste resources by starting in the wrong direction and set the priorities in a structured order to speed up development. Paul B. Brown supports this approach and proposes 11 ways to create more time to think. Regardless of your position, employed, employer or entrepreneur, I believe that one should take the time to think about what she/he is about to do so it can be done in a better way, with better quality and satisfaction.
My personal experience is that my best time to think is when I wake up early morning; my mind is fresh and I am ready to tackle new ideas. Find when it is your best time to think and make sure you make time for it: it is worth (the time).
#2 Think big
Even if you are not ready for a large project, it is important to think big because it creates space for growth and does not limit your mind to a minimum size idea. Think of it as living in a small room and limiting the ideas of what you can do to the size of the room: bye-bye big TV screen, bye-bye chef kitchen, bye-bye parties with family and friends.
Now think of a large barn, a house and your mind might be reeling towards new horizons. Projects are made of smaller steps: sub-projects that are dependent on each other to constitute an assembly of tasks that work together. Thinking big only allows to have hooks ready for more layers of sub-projects, in turn making a larger project and possibly an even more interesting one.
#3 Create your team
It can be a group of friends, it can be valuable work partners; regardless of the count, there are some clear engagement rules that must be respected:
- You must trust each other: you will all go through rough times. Trust will help getting you through
- You must complement each other: if you all have the same qualifications and knowledge, the fight will be on who does it better. Complementarity will help avoid frictions about competitiveness
- Size does not matter: it is better to start with a small team and add as you need than with a big one and some don’t have a clear role to play
#4 Set deadlines
Regardless how we want to call it, procrastination is the killer of most projects. A lingering list of undone actions is the most frustrating sight your eyes can lay on. If you add the fact that others might be waiting after you (if you work in a team) and that it creates disagreements, discontentment and lack of trust, you have most of the reasons why projects end up failing at the very first stage of development.
Instead, set deadlines and keep each other accountable in a positive way to make it happen. If a task seem impossible to achieve, break it down to smaller tasks (sub-projects) and find help to make them happen. That’s what a team is there for and you must rely on those team members to turn a stumbling block into a positive achievement. If the knowledge required to achieve a deadline is not there, look outside of the team, call upon your respective networks (you never know… maybe you do need an extra team member).
Be honest with each other about missing deadlines and show grit to keep on track with what has been agreed upon. There is no better satisfaction than having checked all those boxes on the checklist for the day.
#5 Review your successes and failures
Nobody is perfect and that applies to you too: it is all about being honest with what you have achieved, celebrate the successes and evaluate what could have been better so you learn from it. Continuous improvement is the best culture you can set for yourself and your team as it will enable you to continuously grow. This applies to missed deadlines, missed business opportunities and behaviour shortcomings. Check out Six Sigma Methodologies business continuous improvement tools to make your future even stronger.
For sure project management is more than this but let’s start with the things that can be done without a rocket science course on project management methodology (which you might need once you move to bigger projects).
If you can master the 5 points above, you will be a better entrepreneur and innovator, ready to tackle challenges and deliver better results.
Here are a few interesting links to get you farther in being a better project leader:
- Project Leadership Cornell Certificate Program
- Software Engineering Institute Carnegie Mellon University
- Six Sigma Training Certification
More useful articles on the Stiffan Consulting website. We love supporting startups and established companies to link with universities and other education institutions to foster innovation and create valuable content via team assembly and partnerships. By assisting you in reviewing your goals, understanding the potential markets and validating your approach, we help create a winning strategy to ensure sustainable growth.