Project Management Guide
When a need arises in the life of a business, a project is born. Well-defined projects can propel a growing business to the next level of health and growth while optimizing resources and meeting deficiencies. Active project management requires specific plans, continuous reassessment, and a defined completion.
Analyze the current business situation and the desired state. The difference between these two states draws the boundaries around the project. Include a list of current resources and limitations in this first detailed analysis since they will play a major role in the project definition.
Define the project scope by listing all that will be included and a separate list of what is not included in this specific project. Scope creep will derail a project more quickly than any logistical problem encountered because including extraneous tasks in a project consumes resources that are needed elsewhere.
Reassess the analysis of the project. Will the completion of the project take the business from the current state to the desired state? Perform the first two steps repeatedly until you have a definite yes to this question. Obtain written agreement from all involved parties prior to taking the next step.
Once the plan has been defined and scope creep has been addressed, every high-level task must be broken down into specific tasks that can be completed. Mark tasks that are dependent on the completion of others. Estimate the length of time and the resources necessary to complete each task. Completion dates are not set at this point.
Assign tasks to appropriate people and include every planned day off for each participant. Task length is adjusted to accommodate the schedules of the people completing the work. Elapsed time estimates must change in this step. When the time estimates are written down, concurrent activities can be matched to optimize resources within the project.
Another reassessment will verify the completeness of the plan. Ask difficult questions that will surface any concerns and limitations that have not been identified. Mark milestones on the calendar that must be met to ensure the project proceeds on schedule. Completion dates can be estimated here. Obtain written agreement on the estimates and milestones prior to proceeding.
Work begins once the plan has been defined and the resources have been acquired. Beginning any part of the work prior to this point will result in rework, and project budgets are overrun if rework is required.
Constant progress checks against the plan will make everyone aware of areas that must be adjusted, and tasks that can be completed ahead of schedule. Work the plan from beginning to end to ensure successful completion of the project and to manage scope creep.
Each person involved can start clean-up activities as their own tasks within the plan are completed. Finishing details will be completed at about the same time the loose ends are tied up by those finishing the dependent tasks.
Conduct a final evaluation meeting to assess the activities within the project and the final product. Make notes to be used in the next project to include lessons learned. Spend more than fifty percent of your project time planning your strategy to reduce rework.
In conclusion, remember that project management is active effort at all times. Monitor every task that is being worked, and look ahead for any task that could be started ahead of schedule. Make daily notes and update the project plan each week. Expect some resistance if someone is behind schedule. Convey care and interest in their success and assign other resources to help. Reward quality rather than speed and your project will be a success!