Though it may seem straightforward, successful project management is complex. Project managers bring projects of all sizes to completion, on time and within budget. There are many reasons a project can derail; however, skilled project managers are able to organize the various elements involved and keep a project on course from start to finish.
By taking necessary precautions and having a detailed plan in place, project managers can ensure success. What can team leaders and project managers do to help keep projects on track when problems arise? The following strategies for successful project management offer both solutions and best practices.
Finalize Project Details
Before you begin a project, make sure that you’ve laid the foundation for success. This means getting buy-in from all stakeholders and understanding the expectations involved. You should clearly define the scope of the project itself, including the various roles and responsibilities of team members. Develop a detailed plan and define goals, then create measurable criteria for success. Factor in deliverable dates and create your timeline. Of course, certain elements will likely change along the way. But if your initial plan has enough detail, your team will be able to adapt.
Set Clear Expectations
Another key part of successful project management is being clear about which team members are responsible for all the components of a project. This makes it easier to create accountability. Once you’ve set expectations, make sure everyone is on the same page and knows when their deliverables are due and how their work contributes to the project as a whole. While it is important for the internal team to be clear on expectations, don’t forget to keep stakeholders informed as well.
Choose the Right Team and System
When your plan is in place and expectations are clear, you will be able to assign tasks to team members. It is the role of a project manager to put together a winning combination of skills, talent and personalities that are right for each particular project. Keep in mind that skill sets should align with specific project requirements. “In order for a project to be successful, you need to have the right project team in place, people whose skills and experience can benefit the project,” CIO explains.
Try to avoid having too many people on a team as well; for example, Amazon uses the “pizza” methodology, based on the idea that “a team shouldn’t be larger than 6 to 10 people,” CIO reports. Another important element to any project’s success is having the right task management system. Email can sometimes make communication more difficult, so you may want to use software designed to keep all project information in one place.
It is important to define key milestones throughout the lifecycle of the project. A good way to get started is by including four main phases: initiation, planning, execution, and closure. Then you can perform an evaluation after each phase and know how your team is doing by examining deliverables. This process keeps you informed about any problems that arise while ensuring that each phase of the project is completed successfully.
Establish Clear Communication
Another element that can make or break a project is communication. You’ll need to create a communication plan featuring how often the team will check in with stakeholders, when status meetings will be held, and more. It is the responsibility of project managers to create status reports, so you should also plan how often you will be sending those out and who needs to receive them.
Manage Project Risks
There are always risks involved in projects. When you are aware of them at the start, however, you can manage them and ensure that potential problems don’t arise. Skilled project managers are able to have contingency plans in place, take preventive action, or even step in with corrective measures.
Avoid Scope Creep
One of the most important roles a project manager plays is keeping a project on track. Although change will always happen, it is important to know how much change can occur before affecting deadlines and deliverables. Scope creep generally takes place when there are additions to a project, which is not revised accordingly.
Evaluate the Project After Completion
Each project provides information that you can utilize in the future. This is why reviewing the project as a whole is such a valuable practice. Note wins as well as areas for improvement, and be sure to consider the planned return on investment in comparison to the actual ROI. When project managers know what went right, what went wrong, and how to make adjustments next time, they are able to develop best practices for future work.
Successful Project Management and King University
Project management is one of the most desired skill sets employers seek, according to U.S. News and World Report, and job growth for project managers is expected to be 12 percent through 2020. This makes pursuing specialized project management education a smart move for professionals seeking career advancement. King University’s fully online MBA features a project management specialization that takes 16 months to complete. The program teaches the relevant skills to successfully manage projects, from start to finish. Our MBA also helps you develop skills critical to project management through a team-based learning model.