Have you ever managed a project where no sooner had you resolved one problem than a new one presented itself? Some problems may be small and easily resolved, but others may be more detrimental to your project’s success. Project failure can feel incredibly frustrating; not only have you lost time and money, but project failure can also deal a debilitating blow to your confidence, leaving you wondering how to move forward. Though project success is never 100% certain, there are steps you can take throughout a project that will improve your chances for a better outcome and help you mitigate the effects of those common issues that tend to arise with any project. Has your interest been piqued? If so, then read on!
Below are some suggestions you can follow that should help set you and your project up for success. Keep in mind, however, that while we are presenting these as a linear set of steps, many of these stages happen simultaneously or in a more circuitous way than the list below implies. You will find that many of these steps are dependent on others and therefore must be considered together.
- Determine the goals of your project.
It’s difficult to measure success without first defining what success means! A great first step is to determine what the project goals are. Doing so will involve working with all of the various team members involved to hear their perspectives and input. Are you developing or creating something, in which case the goal will be that final deliverable? Or, are you trying to solve a problem? Institute a new workflow? Once you have determined what goals your project will achieve, you will be able to define the project scope, develop a plan, and delegate responsibilities.
- Create a budget.
Now that you have determined the goals of your project, you can start to sketch out your project budget. If you don’t have sufficient funds, you will not be able to complete your project successfully, so it is crucial that your project budget be as accurate and comprehensive as possible. Reference past projects and draw from previous experience to help determine your costs. Analyze rate sheets, do your research, and make sure you have an accurate understanding of industry standard rates. Having a budget will not only help you control your costs, but it will also help you track progress on your project as you move forward. By tracking the costs you have incurred to date against the total budget, you will know what percentage of the budget has been expended and be able to compare that to actual work completed.
- Develop a plan and assign responsibilities.
Once you have determined the goals of your project, you can then develop a plan that will help you reach those goals. Think about all the tasks that must be completed to achieve your objective and the various team members you will need to engage to help complete those tasks. Divvy up responsibilities accordingly while implementing a risk management strategy. What if someone drops off mid-project? If you do not have enough resources at the onset of the project to fill any potential vacancies that could occur, you are setting yourself up for failure—so plan ahead! In addition, think about the overall deadline for your project. When will work begin, and by when will work need to be completed? Create a realistic schedule and hold your stakeholders accountable with due dates for their assigned tasks.
- Manage scope.
Once you have identified your project goals and developed your plan, you have essentially defined your project scope. And although there are times when your project’s scope will remain the same from start to finish, that is not the case 100% of the time. You must be on the lookout for things that pop up that will change your project’s scope and manage them carefully. You will need to decide if the changes are necessary and vital to achieving your goal and measure their necessity against the overall impact to schedule, budget, and perhaps even the team’s morale. When scope changes are approved, communicate them clearly to your entire team so everyone is aware of the revised plan. In addition, be sure to adapt your schedule and budget to realistically reflect the adjustments. Scope creep will inevitably increase costs and you can’t expect your team members to be successful with the same schedule when the amount of work has increased.
- Monitor progress.
As your project progresses, be sure to reach out frequently to your team members to monitor overall status. You will need to evaluate progress against all deadlines to determine if your project is on time, ahead of schedule, or behind. Some great tools include shared status reports and regular meetings where all members can share their updates. Regular check-ins will ensure all stakeholders are engaged and that your project remains on track until successful completion.
- Communicate effectively.
Another way to ensure project success is to encourage frequent, timely, effective forms of communication across all team members. Issues can be resolved quickly if they are brought up as soon as possible. As noted above, one method to ensure effective communication is to set up a regularly scheduled meeting where all team members can report on the status of their respective tasks. Another method of more formal communication is the creation of documentation. Document the progress of your project by detailing successes, failures, best practices, and lessons learned. Having this documentation already prepared will help you immensely with the next project you take on. In addition, encourage forms of informal communication too—emails, phone calls, instant messages, and so on. Teams who communicate regularly with one another will be better equipped to generate successes on their projects.
- Project closure.
One final tip to ensure your project’s success is to close out your project officially. You and your team must decide if the project goals have been achieved and if your project is deemed complete. If a project is not closed officially, it will continue to consume time and resources, incurring additional costs that were not part of your original budget. Once you have determined that your goals have been met and your project is complete, update your documentation with final insights for future reference. Send out customer satisfaction surveys soliciting feedback. Consider developing internal surveys to be completed by your team members, detailing what went well during your project and what can be improved upon for the future. Schedule a wrap up meeting to discuss successes, challenges, best practices, and to achieve a feeling of closure.
And finally, if your project hits a snag or two, don’t look at those as failures. Think of those snags as learning opportunities from which you can gain insight, refine internal processes, and grow as a manager and leader within your company.
If you follow these steps closely, your team will be sure to achieve success in all projects it takes on! What are your team’s secrets to success? Do you want to hear more about Lumina’s fantastic project management teams? We want to hear from you! Email our team to share your thoughts on this topic, or visit our website to learn more about Lumina Datamatics.