Project management applies knowledge, skills, and techniques to ensure the overall success of a project. While there are different approaches to managing projects, successful project managers follow a similar process. However, that process requires specific steps to be successful. We'll outline and describe each step in that process below.
1. Envision the Finish Line
All great athletes envision the outcome before the game starts. They create a mental picture of the desired outcome, which helps them map out success. The same is true for a project. Once assigned a project, you should consider how you want to complete the project. What are the specific goals and outcomes you would like to see? By understanding each of your goals along the way, you will have an easier time completing the overall task. Distractions are also easier to overcome if you understand your goals and recognize time constraints.
2. Understand the Scope of Work
It's essential to understand exactly what the project scope entails. You should know and understand the project scope from the inside out. Ensuring that you understand the scope will allow you the proper foundation to begin the planning process. Understanding stakeholder and client expectations should come first. From that point, you can assign roles and responsibilities so everyone can start working on the project plan.
3. Communicate Clearly
Communication is essential in many facets of life, but when explicitly referring to project management, you should communicate clearly between the stakeholders and clients. Any changes made during the project should be promptly communicated. You must also ensure open communication between you and the project team members. You want to ensure that everyone has the most up-to-date information. Clear communication is vital to decision-making. Ineffective communication can lead to project failure.
4. Manage Risks
A risk can potentially impact your project deliverables, timeline, and budget. When crafting the project plan, you should consider what could go wrong. If this step feels a bit negative, it's even more critical that you implement it. Optimism is an excellent quality, but you must be realistic about the challenges you'll face. This also applies to your expectations of project team members. Try to anticipate their challenges and work to mitigate them. It is always better to be proactive than reactive. If a risk becomes a reality, you will be prepared and well-positioned to manage it.
5. Test Deliverables
Specific goals should have deadlines. As you reach those deadlines, test deliverables to ensure they meet the project's standards. Testing each deliverable at designated milestones helps you understand if the project is meeting expectations. With proper planning, you'll have time to correct deficiencies and get the project back on track. Learning of issues and fixing them as they arise is better than waiting until it's too late.
6. Evaluate the Final Outcome
At the end of every project, it's a good idea to take a step back and analyze the outcome. A successful project manager will use each project as a learning tool for the next. By taking time to evaluate and understand a project's successes and failures, you'll be better prepared for the projects ahead.
Managing projects is not easy. It takes hard work, dedication, organization, and time. However, by utilizing the guidance provided in this article, you will be better prepared to tackle your project head-on. As Larry Edwards once famously said, "A goal without a plan is just a wish!"