A project leader has many responsibilities, paramount among them is to always be thinking of ways to improve your project’s success. It’s an overriding mandate that we can sometimes forget as we get bogged down in the details of moving the work forward.
You won’t find success defined even on our extensive list of project management terms, because that definition can shift from project to project depending on your sponsor’s goals. There are, however, practical tips you can apply to any project, in whatever industry, that will steer your work more efficiently to success.
Here are 10 of them.
1. Starting Out
As noted, a customer can have myriad goals and expectations for the project. Your first order of business is to find out what those are, and get them collected in great detail and depth, formally in writing. If you don’t know exact what your deliverables are, who they’re delivered to and when, then you’re in big trouble. We cannot stress enough the importance of this document as it will be the one by which you measure your project’s success.
You’ll want to involve your customer not merely in the start of the project as you hash out the goals and objectives, but throughout its lifecycle. It’s good to have them there every step of the way, from analysis and planning to the executive. You don’t have to run everything by them for approval, which would just slow things down, but by keeping them informed of your progress you’ll find it easier to manager their expectations.
It’s best to have short and realistic timeframes for your deliverables. If you agree to lengthy ones, there’s too much room for problems to arise that you’re not able to deal with quickly and efficiently. To do this, break down your larger tasks into smaller ones, none exceeding six months. By doing this you’ll have a more focused and motivated team.
Milestones are a great way to make tasks and time-frames more manageable. Break your overall project into a series of milestones to indicate when a specific piece of the project has been successfully completed. You’ll want hard deadlines attached to these milestones, and you’ll need to do everything within your power to meet them. If you find the task is running late and the deadline is in danger of being missed, the first person you must inform in your customer.
It’s not just your customers who you need to be transparent with, everyone from your team to your sponsors must be kept informed. But that doesn’t mean an onslaught of useless information. You want to have the right information delivered at the right time to the right people. The best way to do this is by producing weekly status reports and having regular meet-ups with your team. There are software solutions to help facilitate these reports and offer you shortcuts so your time isn’t bottlenecked with these time-consuming but crucial communications.
Don’t change your project scope unless you can be sure it will not negatively impact the project timeline. If you must authorize a change in project scope, get approval from your customers first. You need their buy-in to extend delivery dates.
The quality of your deliverables must be keep high as possible, so you must be constantly vigilant and review often so as not to allow it to slip. One way to do this is by having peer reviews, which allow team members to comment on other team members’ deliverables. On top of this, implement external reviews to ensure that the solutions recommended to up the quality of the deliverables meets with your customers’ needs.
When you find a potential risk or issue in your project, address it immediately. Once identified, then you have to prioritize the problem and work on how to resolve it before it becomes a bigger problem and may derail your project. It’s your job to keep risks and issues to a minimum. Take pride in the fact that you’ve planned for them, but don’t ignore those that come up regardless of your due diligence.
When you’ve finished a deliverable, formally hand it over to your customer and have them sign off on it, also formally, as in an acceptance form or some such document to acknowledge that it has met with their expectations. Once you and your customer are satisfied with the deliverable then and only then can you check off this task as being 100% complete.
10. Your team
A project lives and dies by the team assembled to run it. It’s your job to make sure that they’re the best for the job within your budget. Therefore, you’ll want to spend a good amount of your planning time finding those people with the proper skills. Do that and you’ll save time when you’re in the heat of the project because you’ll have trusted resources who care able to do what needs to be done. Good workers are easy to motivate if you can lead with vision and show them how to get things done. Value them, for they truly are your most valuable tool.
Take it further: You can improve the success of your projects if you’re not able to measure them. Leadership coach, Susanne Madsen, offers you tools to help measure the success of your project in the video below.
One thing you’ll want to invest in for project success is a robust online software tool that offers you and your team the collaborative features needed to plan, monitor and report on the project. ProjectManager.com fits this bill and, better still, offers a 30-day free trial to see for yourself.