When you’re leading a project, there is a never-ending list of things you’re responsible for managing. Whether it’s your resources, finances, suppliers or equipment, there’s always another item to tack onto that list.
Is there a trick to doing all these disparate activities successfully? Well, yes. Stay focused. Easier said than done, you say? Sure, but it’s not impossible if you set yourself up with the right goals.
How you measure effectiveness of your goals, of course, depends on your definition of project success. Our contributor Susanne Madsen suggests going beyond “the triple constraint” (time, cost and quality) that PMs have historically used to measure project success. She recommends looking at strategy and sustainability and relevance as additional measures. Other PM experts look at personal goals of effectiveness, such as: Is the team happy? Or, Are the stakeholders well managed?
Then there’s our checklist of recommendations for effective managers. If you can achieve the handful of goals we’ve suggested below on each of your projects, then you’re going to have a higher likelihood of success on your project overall. Whether you’re a building a bridge or implementing an IT network, the following five goals are generic enough to apply to any industry and all types of projects. Whether you’re a journeyman or an apprentice, set yourself these goals and meet them, and you’ll manage your project from start to finish.
Goal 1: Meet Your Deadline
Sounds simple, right? Hardly. A deadline is firm, but the natural state of your project is fluid. Things change all the time, except for the date of delivery. Your schedule may have been optimistic, or at best unrealistic. Now it appears headed for the dreaded delay.
You still have to meet that deadline. It’s paramount for your credibility as a project leader and for the project you committed to complete on time. It’s not too late to manage the scope of your project, albeit carefully. Implement a change control process (and a point person or team of people to enforce it) to ensure that any changes to the scope are properly managed.
Also: be sure your plan is up-to-date. Enforce accurate time-tracking across all resources so that your project reports and your dashboard are accurately reflecting the real status of the project. This will help you to identify any deviations from the plan and, when you find them, fix them fast, before they have a chance to derail the whole project.
Goal 2: Meet Your Budget
You define your budget at the start of your project, but how often are you actually monitoring cost? You want to constantly monitor your projected costs compared to actual spending. Your budget should have all project costs accounted for, whether it’s resources, equipment, suppliers or related materials. Once you’ve worked out how much this will all cost, you’ll be able to spot any cost overruns.
If you overspend (and it’s quite likely you will), then you’re going to have to make up those costs elsewhere in your budget. See where you can under-spend to make up the difference. This might be fast-tracking certain parts of the project or negotiating a better rate with a supplier.
When you stay in control of your budget spending, then you have a better chance to deliver the project within your recorded budget or maybe even under-budget.
Goal 3: Meet Your Requirements
Every project, before it’s started, has a set of requirements. It doesn’t matter what those requirements are, and of course they differ from project to project and industry to industry, but what remains the same is your responsibility to meet them 100%.
Of course, for you to do this you have to know exactly what those requirements are. And you have to have them clearly defined at the very beginning of the project so you know what to do and how to proceed. If any part of your project is murky in any way then you’re in for a very unpleasant experience. Work that seemed small will become huge and gobble up valuable time and resources. And you don’t want to make assumptions about aspects of your project you think will be large and require more resources, when in fact a streamlined operation will do.
Use the valuable expertise of your team to both confirm the requirements at the start of your project and to estimate the tasks required to meet those requirements. Communication with your team throughout the project, and with excellent reporting along the way, will help make sure you’re on track to actually meet them.
Goal 4: Make Your Customers Happy
Even if you meet all the above goals, you may still complete the project with unhappy customers. That would be wrong. It means that you haven’t met their expectations or, perhaps, their expectations have changed over the lifecycle of the project. Either way, you’ve not properly managed your customers’ expectations.
To better manage your customers’ expectations, make sure you’re keeping them informed of the project’s progress and/or inviting them into the project to gather key feedback. If relevant, you might try prototyping the product to invite feedback into the project. Or invite them in to participate in surveys at different stages of the project. Or set up a team of beta clients.
When dealing with the end users, be transparent. Invite them to communicate their concerns or ideas about the project regularly. If you have a problem or can’t deliver when expected, tell them, and let them know what you’re doing to help meet their needs and expectations. (Within scope, of course.)
Goal 5: Make Your Team Happy
A happy team is not only a productive team, they are likely to become a loyal team who will follow you from project to project and deliver those future projects with the same professionalism and pride with which they did the one you’re currently working on. The satisfaction of your staff is just one more critical foundation to the success of the project.
How do you keep your team happy? Reward them for their successes. By recognizing their good work you’re building morale and doing the right thing. You can also employ team-building activities to boost morale. And be sure to assign them tasks that are complementary to their skills and strengths. Remember, a happy team is a motivated team and with a happy and motivated team you can do almost anything.
An effective project leader always skill-building, too. In this video, Jennifer Bridges, PMP, explores how to develop core skills for effective project management.
Here’s another goal you may want to add to the list: get yourself a robust software package that has the tools and features you need to better plan, monitor and report on your project like real-time dashboard for up-to-date project data, and collaboration features to engage your team. Take a free 30-day trial of ProjectManager.com and see how you can manage your project and your team more effectively.