The Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Project Management

Whether you’re developing software, launching products or building buildings, you’re managing on a project by project basis. The very success of your firm depends on effective project management. We could go into great detail on the right ways to run a project, but sometimes people need a few short rules to get things done. Here are the do’s and don’ts of effective project management.

Don’t Fail to Plan

Failing to plan the basic timeline, budget and to-do list for a project nearly guarantees its failure. A lack of effective planning will make things harder than it needs to be. Good project management of day to day operations can still lead to failure if you lack clear, accurate objectives or measurable outcomes. You have to determine what you’re aiming for and determine how you’ll reach that objective if you want your project to count as success.

Do Set a Specific Budget and Schedule

There are a number of reasons to create a specific budget and schedule. Creating a detailed schedule requires listing all of the tasks and the estimated time to complete each. When you lay out the detailed schedule while tying it to necessary prior steps, you may find that you need more time than you initially thought. The clear benefit of doing this is that you won’t promise to finish in three months when it will really take four. Furthermore, by creating the detailed schedule, you may be able to find ways to work concurrently or outsource work so that you can meet the three month deadline.

Setting a budget is equally important. How many people do you need and when do you need them? How much do they have to be paid? Do your research now and revise the project scope if necessary. You don’t want to cut back on project deliverables at the last minute because skilled talent turns out to be more expensive than you originally thought, disappointing your customers. When do you need the cash on hand to pay for labor and materials?

Knowing how much contractors and contingency labor costs can give you the information you need to make an informed trade-off between budget and schedule. Do not use numbers plucked out of thin air. This includes vendor and contractor quotes. Do ask them for detailed fixed price quotes so you know what to budget for. Don’t make assumptions – get specifics.

Creating the schedule and budget at the very start ensures you have sufficient resources to meet expectations. Do take the time to set your team up for success. Failing to do so hurts morale from the start.

Don’t Under-Communicate

One of the worst things you can do when managing a project is fail to keep in touch with everyone. In the middle of sending out project updates and planning status meetings, it is easy to let actual communications slide. However, a lack of clear and regular communication is one of the most common reasons projects fail.

Do take the time to talk to your project team. Once in a while, get together and open up the lines of communication. You may hear about potential problems they’re concerned about and be able to address it before it becomes a major issue. Just don’t have meetings to have meetings and hope that helps. Don’t get sucked into a blame game.

Talk to your stakeholders to understand their concerns, even if it is that the project is going along at the same slow pace. Always inform everyone involved when milestones are reached or there are changes in the direction of the project.

Do use software for scheduling and planning. A good way to do this is with Kanban board software.  This allows your team to visualize the workflow and see what is in progress; it provides a natural summary of activities still underway and what has recently been completed. You can learn more about Kanban board software here if you’re unfamiliar with how it’s used.

Don’t Fall for Scope Creep

Scope creep refers to the gradual expansion of a project’s scope. If you’re already working on X, why don’t you throw Y and Z into the to-do list? The answer is that it takes up time and money allocated for other things. Altering the scope of a project by adding new items means that you have to drop originally planned for items to stay on schedule and within budget.

The solution is documenting the basic project scope and having everyone agree upon it. Dig deep for requirements at the very start so that everyone agrees to what must be done and what they’d merely hope to see.

Set up a formal process for requesting changes to the scope, and then require all stakeholders to sign off on any proposed changes to the scope. If everyone agrees, then you can change the project documents while everyone involved understands the changes to be made.

Your project will run a lot smoother if you follow our list of do’s and don’ts. You’ll reduce the risk of going over budget, past the deadline or disappointing the customer.

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