Keys to project management success

Every business big or small will undertake projects from time to time.  Each project will vary in size and nature, but the keys to success will remain the same.

Objective – before starting any project, it is important to ask the question ‘why’?  Why are we doing this?  Is it something we need to do?  Or perhaps someone told us we need to?  Knowing why a project is needed will establish the overall objective and the desired outcome.

Planning – planning is a critical part of any project. Undertaking the right amount of planning at the start of a project can minimise wasted time, money and effort.  Circle back to the objective and establish what success should look like at the end.  Make sure you are certain on every aspect of the project and the desired outcome.  If you are unsure on any part of it, seek advice from a trusted advisor or mentor who can give you a fresh perspective and new ideas.

Break the project down into manageable chunks, each with their own deadline.  This will allow you to see at a glance how long you estimate each part of the project to take and assess where there is room for movement on those less critical parts of the project.  This will also help to keep the team focused during each stage of the project, as the time periods are smaller and the workload is more manageable.

Personnel – choose your team carefully.  Having the right team on board is very important as these are the people you will rely on to get the job done.  Take the time to assess what people and skills you have available and if they are right for the task, or if you need additional help.

Risk Analysis – with any project there will always be an element of risk.  Take the time to identify any risks that may exist.  Analyse those risks and evaluate their potential impact on the project.  Identifying as many risks as possible early on will help you to decide what actions, if any, need to be taken to minimise the impact of, or even avoid, these risks.

Timeframe – projects should generally have a target completion date. In some cases, the completion date may be determined by you, in other cases it could be imposed on you (such as a legislated change).  Irrespective of the situation, the deadline needs to be clear from the start and communicated to the team and stakeholders.  Projects with an imposed deadline should be assessed to confirm the target is achievable based on the resources that have been allocated and any restraints which may exist.  Be aware of project creep.  Don’t be tempted to alter the project’s scope or objectives part way through. This will devalue the planning to date and increase the chance of derailment.

Monitor Progress – have regular team meetings to ensure the project is being well managed and monitored over its lifetime.  At the beginning of each meeting, define what is to be achieved and ensure the team members stay focused on those objectives.

Project Completion – closing out the project is the last important step in a project timeline.  It is a necessary step to ensure the project actually closes down in a timely manner.  This can usually be done by having a meeting to discuss and agree that the project is completed, provide a handover to team members outside of the project if required, to look at any lessons learned and finally to document any process changes that may be required.

Published Summer 2012.

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