A project without a project manager is a lot like a runaway train without a conductor. The most successful endeavors have someone at the helm to keep critical players moving in the right direction. Starting and stopping as needed, and ensuring employees are completing tasks on time. Despite this, one study of more than 10,000 projects across various industries found that only 2.5% of companies completed 100% of their projects successfully. That stat alone shows the importance of project management — and that there is room for improvement.
As is the case with most things, the simplest project management strategies tend to be the most effective. While every industry has its own nuances, there are some common threads in project management that apply across them all. If you’re looking for a few new ideas to implement, you’re in luck. Below, you’ll find three simple project management strategies to deploy that can keep your projects running smoothly.
Create a Gantt chart
While your employees all have their own learning styles, there’s no doubting the impact that a well-designed visual can have on keeping the team accountable. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through a Gantt chart. It produces visual timelines for your project with start and end dates for each task on the list.
Create a Gantt chart by vertically listing the task names, duration of the task, planned start date, and expected completion date on the left side. Next, you add dates and days of the week horizontally across the top of the page. Lastly, you color in a bar spanning the dates needed to complete the task. You can also try color-coding your chart by designating each department with its own unique color.
There are many benefits to a Gantt chart, including assistance with planning and scheduling, allowing the team to look ahead to see future phases, the ability to compare planned completion dates with actual completion dates, and to see how a delay on one task might affect the rest of the project. There are lots of options for software that can help you create Gantt charts. Common options include MS Project from Microsoft and offerings from smaller companies like TeamGantt. TeamGantt has a feature that allows the user to compare projected timelines versus current progress, which can be incredibly helpful when trying to determine long-term success.
Take it one step at a time
There are many different types of project management methods, including Agile, Waterfall, Rational Unified Process, PERT (program evaluation and review technique), and Critical Path, just to name a few. But regardless of your choice in methodology, keeping it simple and not overly complicating your project is your best bet.
Related: Why Outsourcing Makes Sense
One of the most common mistakes that inexperienced project managers (and companies working without a designated project leader) make is doing too much at once. While multitasking sounds good in theory, there’s a chance that it could lead to errors. Focus on completing one task at a time before moving on to the next. Additionally, try to finish the most difficult tasks first whenever possible. In many cases, these are the tasks that will take the longest and have the highest likelihood of complications. By getting them out of the way first, you may be able to avoid what could be lengthy and costly delays.
Manage projects risks and avoid scope creep
Before the start of every project, you should develop a scope of work that lays out the project’s goals, deliverables, tasks, team members, deadlines, and milestones. During the scoping phase, you’ll also want to assess any potential risks that could harm the project’s goals. From there, good project managers can build out preventive measures to ensure those risks are avoidable at all costs. And if they do happen, contingency plans should be at the ready to keep the project pushing forward.
Another benefit to project management is having someone who can shut down scope creep. That’s a term used to describe pile-ups of modifications and new feature requests throughout a project. A sound project management strategy includes the evaluation of each proposed change to estimate the influence on the budget and timeline to determine if it’s advisable.
The key with any project management plan is to evaluate it after completion and uncover what you could do differently next time. Those learnings are instrumental in making your organization more efficient and effective.
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