Project Management is no Rocket Science! You don’t have to be an erudite to become successful at Project Management. Although, there is much brouhaha about this term in corporate culture, but you will be amazed to see how in our daily life we all perform the activities that make us project managers in our own right.
For instance let me break down this simple scenario of looking for a new apartment into steps and then see how it goes –
- Step 1 – Knowing what your requirements are and what is the outcome of the search (Initiation)
- Step 2 – Understanding those requirements, setting priorities and then jotting down the options that you are going to do during your search (Planning)
- Step 3 – Performing activities as planned i.e. calling brokers, searching on the internet, set up visits (Execution)
- Step 4 – Unable to find an apartment that fits within your needs? So you reconsider your requirements and then begin the search again (Monitoring and Controlling)
- Step 5 – You end up finding an apartment to move in (Closing)
With a closer look, we can see that the steps are same as you would need to make a project successful. The question that arises now is when almost all of us can perform these tasks without any hassle, then why there is always so much fuss about project management? While it is easy to say that we handle the responsibilities of a project manager in our day to day activities, but reality is otherwise, simply because the job of a project manager is at a much larger scale as compared to the house job (besides the fact that there is always a boss shouting out loud on them to deliver the projects). Multiply the difficulties that you face while performing these tasks to a thousand times (or even more), and that’s what a project manager has to do on daily basis. Our daily activities can lay the foundation for developing a successful project manager’s brain, but it requires great skill to improve these abilities and come out on top and avoid the mistakes that can lead to failure of the projects.
Before we delve deep into the chronicles of successful Project Management, you must remember that ‘There are no new reasons for project failures, they go wrong for the same reasons all the time. And, the biggest sin in project management is to not learn the lessons of past failures.’
Well, let me share my list of 11 ways that can help you avoid these mistakes and excel at Project Management –
1. Lead like Leonidas
What was the biggest reason that the 300 spartans who fought in the battle of Thermopylae against 300,000 soldiers of the Persian army were able to create history? Well, it was the non-deterrent leader Leonidas, who gave chilblains to Xerxes and his men even with his meager army. A brave and a smart leader who knows how to bring the best out of his team can win battles, no matter how difficult they seem. This clearly explains the importance of leadership in successful completion of a project. So, being an able leader is the first thing in the list to become better at project management.
2. Document like a scientist
Do you know the best thing about scientists? Before they actually start working on how things happen, they first define what’s happening. And, this is something that applies to project management as well. Going haywire with the project straightway is one of the major causes that lead to failure. A clearly documented project scope, explaining the objectives, can set the tone right and put things in place for successful completion. Don’t forget, ‘What’ always comes before ‘How’ when we are looking to achieve something. Therefore, as soon as the project arrives you must go all guns blazing at preparing a scope document explaining the objectives of the project first, and then start working on how to achieve those objectives.
3. Plan like a grandmaster
Have you ever seen a grandmaster playing chess? He plans every move on the checkerboard in a meticulous manner so as to minimize the chances of a mistake. This creates a roadmap for winning the game. Being a project manager, you need to inculcate these grandmaster like abilities to plan each and every move that you are going to make in order to achieve success with the project. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.’ So, as a project manager planning should be the most important thing for you.
4. Define like an artist
Planning a project is one thing, but making the team members understand that plan is entirely different. This is where defining the objectives of the project come into the picture. In order for everyone to understand the intricacies involved in the project, there must be well defined objectives with each and every detail laid out in front of the people who are going to be involved in it. This is something that you can definitely learn from an artist, in the way they portray the minutest details of their imagination while defining their thoughts.
5. Risk it to get the biscuit (but, be sure to assess the risk first)
Risks are associated with every aspect of the project, and continue to change over the course of time. However, you need to learn the art to assess those risks beforehand so as to keep things under control. Remember, effective risk management can be the difference between success and failure of a project. The best way to do it – prioritise the objectives, be prepared with the preventive actions (in case of adversities) and track the updates. As they say, you need to risk it to get the biscuit!
6. Who’s the quarterback and who’s the placekicker?
No, I am not asking you to get out in the football field to identify the positions. All I am saying here is that you need to define the roles and responsibilities to individual team members so that every person gets to know his/her accountability for a particular task. This will not just help in achieving the objectives in a better way, but at the same time will also help in building better leaders out of all employees for the future.
7. Adorn the Coaches’ hat
What does a sports coach do? He monitors the team and communicates with them just to make sure that they have a clear mind about what needs to be achieved. The job of a project manager is no different. A team is a team, no matter if it is out on a football field or working in a corporate office, and it is the responsibility of the coach to keep them aligned towards the objective of winning the championship (which in our case is the successful completion of the project). So, adorn the hat of a coach and continue to monitor and communicate with the team members about what they are doing good and where they need to do better.
8. Test it before it’s too late
Sculpt this quote in the back of your mind ‘the later you leave the testing in the development cycle, the more it costs to fix’. This is the reason why you must not leave testing to the end moment. Testing lifecycle encompasses Test plan, Test specification, Code tests, Validate test, and Run tests. One of the major reasons why teams fail to deliver projects as per specifications is simply because they employ an ad hoc technique for testing. Plan your testing before it gets too late, and see how smoothly things turn out to be.
9. Apply the thumb rule
Wondering what’s that? The thumb rule that holds true for project of any shape or size is that there is always room for improvement. However, that can be figured out only when you review the product before delivering it finally. The timing of the review holds the key here. You would not want to leave it for too late to have no time left for making the final changes. Being in the position where it is your responsibility to ensure that the product is customer ready before the final delivery, you must always perform a post implementation review.
10. Delivery is not the final destination
Opinions may vary from person to person in this regard, but it has been proven time and again that believing a project to be complete once it is delivered is a big mistake. A large number of projects declared as successful initially, never deliver the planned results simply because the results are not reviewed in the longer run. The biggest mistake that project managers make in this scenario is to disband the team as soon as the project is delivered. You must not mark the project as complete unless the desired results are obtained. In fact, realising those benefits by conducting a post implementation review (within 3-6 months of the delivery of the project) is something that can help you to sustain in the longer run.
11. Don’t let history repeat itself
As stated in the beginning, projects go wrong for the same reasons all the time. In order to avoid the history from repeating itself you need to learn from the mistakes made in the past. Failing to learn the lessons from mistakes made in one project and moving straight away to the next one is going to land you even deeper in trouble with the next project. Remember, lessons apply to everyone. So, devote a big chunk of your time to evaluate the project that you have finished and document the mistakes that you need to avoid with the next project.
And, once you have managed to successfully complete all this, it’s time to party!!!
After all, spending some time with your team to appreciate their efforts and success of the project is really worth it.
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Until next time, happy reading…
Image Credit: Jotam Trejo/ Front Line on Flickr