Projects. They’re the lifeblood of most modern businesses, whether office-based or not. The complexity of your average business project seems to be getting more and more complex all the time, which is quite the concern when we consider the growing importance of efficiency in business!
There’s plenty of room for mistakes when it comes to project management, but there are also a lot of opportunities to shine. A modern business is heavily defined by the success of all its projects in ways that your clients and customers (and many other outsiders) probably don’t appreciate. It’s of the utmost importance that your projects go as smoothly as possible! This guide will take you through some of the right ways to go about project management, as well as going through some of the mistakes that it’s crucial for you to avoid.
Roles, authorities, and points of contact
A complex project will probably need to be helmed by quite a large team! And, as any manager will know, handling a lot of people can get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly. What you need to ensure is that everybody knows precisely who is the chosen authority in any given situation. The role of everyone should be clearly defined to both themselves and to other team members; you shouldn’t have a situation in which one team member doesn’t know precisely what another team member does! When people have a clear understanding of the abilities and responsibilities of their teammates, they’ll know precisely to who they should turn when a problem arises.
An employee knowing their specific role is an essential element of ensuring efficiency in the office. Without clearly defined roles, they may get tasks handed to them that would be much better handled by someone else. This also makes it clear that you should pick your team members very carefully. Define your project needs early on and ensure you have the best possible people working on the project.
Plan, plan, plan
The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (you may know him as the writer of The Little Prince) once wrote that a goal without a plan is just a wish. This can be applied to many things in life, but you need to keep in mind in the context of project management. Without a thorough and detailed plan, your business project could be heading towards disaster.
Of course, another writer – Robert Burns of Scotland – wrote that “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew”. As pessimistic as it may sound, you also need to consider the fact that was so elegantly worded by Mr Burns: things probably won’t go as you planned. Some managers take this to mean that thorough planning is thus a waste of time, but this isn’t so. Without a plan, your employees don’t have a sturdy path to follow – nor will they have a reliable course of action if (or, rather, when) things do go wrong.
Dealing with deadlines
This part is one of the trickiest aspects of the whole endeavor. There’s a sensitive balancing act at play here. You need to set a deadline that instils a mild sense or urgency, one that doesn’t allow people to get complacent. But it also needs to be reasonable; you need to give people plenty of time to get the work done, and you should probably also have a bit of slack to account for any mistakes or unexpected occurrences that arise.
It can be best to know precisely how much time you have between one date and another, so the use of a day duration calculator during the planning stages can be very helpful indeed. This allows you to properly assess how many work days you’re going to get between the chosen start date and the prospective deadline. One mistake you should certainly avoid is selecting a deadline that you know is a lot earlier than you need. You may think that this will encourage people to work harder, but more often than not the deadline will need to be extended – which can actually foster less respect for deadlines in your office and introduce a more relaxed approach to them.
A lot of project managers tend to prioritize tasks quite late into the project. This isn’t how you should be doing it! Task prioritization should be something that is done at the very beginning of the project, with focus placed on it throughout the lifespan on the project. Once you know what tasks need to be completed, you and the team should then collaborate on prioritizing.
Don’t be tempted to do this without the employees who will ultimately be working on those tasks. They will have some specific knowledge about each task, which means they’ll also know how a given task can potentially affect another. You may pick a task and think that it seems fairly small, something that can be lowered in terms of priority because it’s relatively quick. But someone else on the team – someone who specializes in that area – may see that the task could hinder someone’s ability to complete other tasks which are more evidently important. In which case, as small as the task might seem at first, it may need to be considered of the highest priority!
Project management software
A lot of business owners make the mistake of assuming that certain software is going to solve all of their office problems. While it’s true that the importance of a lot of software is overplayed somewhat – nothing is going to make up for a lack of hard work and brainpower, after all – the right software can make things so much more efficient. This is certainly true of project management. Otherwise, you have to rely on whiteboards, Post-Its, and other physical media which might make the management process a lot less dynamic than it really needs to be.
A lot of micromanagement is required when you’re dealing with a complex project. Software that helps you with visualization, editing, assignment, and even document creation can be a lifesaver for the project management process. Software for juggling the several schedules and tasks scattered across team members is essential. Services that will help with the management of digital assets that can work in conjunction with other pieces of software may also be required. Research your options thoroughly!
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