Successful project management is complex. But good managers can make it look straightforward, bringing projects of all sizes to completion on time and within budget. Yet throughout even the most successful projects, there’s always the risk of it derailing. That’s why the best managers use tried and tested strategies to keep the project on course from start to finish.
Strategies will involve detailed planning from the outset, with precautionary measures and contingencies in place at all times. Effective solutions and best practices can vary depending on the nature of the project and your management style. However, there are some hard and fast rules for management strategies that apply across the board.
Before starting any project, it is essential that everyone involved – from stakeholders through to project managers – understands the expectations. The scope of the project needs to be clearly defined, with roles clearly set out. Develop your plan, define goals and then create measurable methods for achieving this in a set timeline. Of course, you need to be able to adapt, but without a clear plan from the beginning the project is susceptible to drift.
With a plan in place you will be able to assign specific tasks to members of your team. Try to assemble a team with a varied set of skills and personalities, and with the right ability level for the project in hand. Try to avoid having too many people on the team, but don’t overstretch or overburden people. Finding the right balance is the key to a successful team dynamic. If a pre-existing team already has the right dynamic, you can make it easier on yourself and everyone else by leaving them as they are.
A project with a final goal should also have milestones to reach along the way. These serve multiple purposes. For one, they help evaluate progress. Reaching milestones can also motivate and inspire the team at various intervals.
One of the most important roles of the manager is to avoid scope creep. This keeps the project focused on its original aim so it doesn’t take on too much additional baggage. Change can happen in any project, but overloading it at any stage is often a route to failure.
Every project has weak points – areas where there is potential for trouble or even failure. Understanding what these are and where they occur is the best way to avoid them. Skilled managers always have contingencies in place for when risk creeps in. They’ll take corrective measures, or ideally, preventative actions before they’re needed.
Effective communication, or lack thereof, can make or break a project. That’s why you need to make sure effective and clear channels of communication are in place. Everybody in the team, as well as stakeholders, should have their voice heard at all relevant stages of the process. Regular meetings, departmental updates and informal chats all encourage good levels of communication throughout any project.