An article in the Harvard Business Review discussed, “The Dirty Little Secret of Project Management.” The “secret” of the article was that most project managers have no idea when they’ll complete the project. Effective project planning and management have to be about delivering the project on time, within budget and in full.
It can be a challenge to keep a project on track and to deliver on everybody’s expectations. Project planning and management can be learned and improved with experience. Apply these tips to make big steps forward in your project delivery.
Read on for 5 tips for better project planning and management.
1. Get Clear Project Terms of Reference
One way to make sure you don’t meet the project owner’s expectations is to be unclear about what they are.
The first skill of an effective project manager is to clarify the project terms, including the project deadline. Work with your project owner to identify what the objectives of the project are. Clarifying what is included in the scope of the project is as important as what is not.
Use all of the resources you have at your disposal. Your resources can include budget and people. When you draw up a plan, check these resources are sufficient to deliver the project.
Leave the door open to negotiate more resources if your plan shows they are not sufficient.
2. Make a Plan
“If you fail to plan then you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin’s warning is well worth heading. Create a project plan that breaks down the project into tasks.
Work out how long it will take to complete each task and what order they need to be done in. Some tasks can only happen after other tasks. Some tasks can be done concurrently.
Draw the task breakdown into a simple chart. The visual plan will expose conflicts and opportunities more than a list or report format.
3. Test Assumptions
Ask lots of open-ended questions about the project to tease out any assumptions people may have. Use some of the following questions.
- Who will do the work?
- Who needs to be consulted?
- Who is accountable for project delivery?
- Who needs to be kept informed?
- What will success look like?
- How will you know that the project is complete?
Project planning and management failures often result from people assuming they understood something.
4. Manage Risks
What could go wrong? Risk management is about identifying the risks to project success. Consider the likelihood that this problem will occur and if it did, what would be the impact.
Work out what measures you need to put in place to combat the highest impacting risks. Pro-actively managing risks is much better than trying to deal with them after your project has crashed and burned.
5. Communicate Throughout
Communication is a key responsibility of a project manager. Have a plan for communication. Set expectations for people to communicate progress to you on a regular basis.
Set an example by communicating regularly, clearly, and honestly. Let stakeholders know how it’s going, so if you have a problem down the line, there are few surprises.
Project Planning and Management
Improving your project management is something you will do all your life. There is a place for education but there’s no substitute for real-life experience. Apply this learning, evaluate your performance and continuously improve as a project manager.
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