Effective Project Management and How to Achieve It
By Michelle Symonds
There is no doubt that every project requires good management if it is to deliver what the customer is expecting. And deliver it in an acceptable time frame and for an acceptable cost without any disasters along the way.
Even a team well-experienced in their individual roles need direction and every project requires efficient use of its resources: time, people and money. The right sort of management will also ensure a team achieves to their full capacity and doesn’t just trundle along in a low gear.
So we know we need to manage our projects effectively to achieve success but just what are the core skills that will enable us to be effective project managers?
- Be thorough
Well, the first “skill” is not really a skill at all or maybe we could call it the skill of being thorough. During the initiation phase and throughout the life of a project you must ensure that you understand all elements of the project and all external factors affecting the project. On complex projects this is a highly demanding task but without a knowledge and understanding of how all the elements of a project work and fit together there is little chance of understanding potential risks and how they might affect the end-result.
Once you have a good grasp of the basics of the project the next skill is thorough and detailed planning from the initiation of the project through to the delivered product and beyond. Although many projects, and particularly software development projects, usually end up being completed through an iterative process that adapts to change during its life, it is still important to start out with an end-to-end plan. The route you plan to achieve the objectives of the client may not always be obvious; there might be many inter-dependencies and options for scheduling particular tasks so this is not a process to be hashed together on a spreadsheet in a hurry.
Employ experienced team members
No project manager can hope to run a project effectively without the right team members and that doesn’t mean just the right experience but the right attitude and the right personality mix so that the members work co-operatively as a team and not as competing individuals. And when you have put your perfect team together don’t forget to put as much effort into retaining them as you did in selecting them. And if you can’t find team members with the right experience consider those that could become experienced with the right project management training.
Put milestones in place
People always work to a milestone or deadline – without one we could all continue fine-tuning a task long after it was completed. Milestones should be set at strategic points within the project. As it is likely that some parts of the project will change as the iterative process starts to reveal more efficient ways of completing a task and a clearer understanding of the requirements the estimates of many tasks will change but try to keep milestones the same wherever possible to prevent the underlying structure of the project plan from changing too often. Focus more on achieving the milestone and less on how much is delivered at the end of every day, week or month. But at the same time keep your finger on the pulse of progress to make sure there are no impending problems.
All good project managers will have put in place risk management and change management strategies to plan for a range of eventualities but it is impossible to be able to predict all risks or changes that could possibly occur. External factors that are outside your control can often throw up problems that could not have been anticipated in advance and for which there is no mitigating action plan. In situations like this you need to remain calm and level-headed – make a thorough assessment of the problem (remember skill #1) and consider all options before deciding on how to tackle the problem.
These are just 5 skills that will help you to manage your projects more effectively: be thorough, plan well, employ the right team members, set milestones and stay calm.
Michelle Symonds is a qualified PRINCE2 Project Manager and believes that the right project management training can transform a good project manager into a great project manager and is essential for a successful outcome to any project.
There is a wide range of formal and informal training courses now available that include online learning and podcasts as well as more traditional classroom courses from organizations such as Parallel Project Training.