Project Management Skills: A Simple Guide To Effective Project Management




Project-work is the future of work.

- Tom Peters

 

You have no future unless you add value and create projects.

- Rosabeth Moss Kanter

 

The Ideal Project is one where people don’t have meetings, they’ve lunch. The size of the team should be the size of a lunch table.

- Bill Joy

 

1. A movie is the ideal project work environment.

Once finished, the people move onto a different project, and often their demand is decided by the success and quality of their work.

 

2. Stages of a typical project

- Project initiation stage

- Project planning or design stage

- Project execution or production stage

- Project monitoring and controlling systems

- Project completion stage

 

3. Management skills that help finish a project

1. The ability to lead and work with others

2. The ability to converse with technical experts in their applied field

3. The ability to interface with operations, finance, and human resources personnel

4. The ability to participate in strategic and operational planning

5. The ability to mentor, negotiate, and make decisions

- Harvey A. Levine

 

4. Top tips for project managers:

- Estimate time accurately: Set out extra time for breakdowns, emergencies and other unforeseen stoppages. Allow for 'slippages.' (contingency planning).

- Plan for everything: Reviews, changes, dependencies, etc. Never freak out.

- Track everything (on paper/on computer) using tracking sheets. Some just make do with a notebook.

- The best project managers try to look at the project/problems from as many angles as possible - technical, design, marketing, users, internal and external politics, etc. They may not be specialists in every field involved, but they sure know a little of ‘all’ of the aspects.

- Remember the old saying, 'There's good, fast and cheap - pick two.'

- It is hard to be 'on time, on budget, and to spec (specifications)'. It is specially hard to follow specifications 100%.

 

 

Part 1: The basics of project management

 

1. What are you going to do

- What is the goal of the project? Produce a written 'project definition statement'. ('We will make a movie that shows the face of politics no movie has ever done before')

- Create a precise specification for the project: Goals, Time, Team, Activities, Resources, Financials

 

Use this template for writing a 'project specification document':

Describe purpose, aims and deliverables.

State parameters (timescales, budgets, range, scope, territory, authority).

State people involved and the way the team will work (frequency of meetings, decision-making process).

Put in 'break-points' where you will review and check progress, and also how you will measure progress and results.

 

2. Complex projects often go through a feasibility stage (a small sample of the project is done first) before people decide to make a detailed plan.

 

3. Who is going to do it: Use the SMART acronym to help you delegate tasks properly.

Don't delegate anything unless it passes the SMART test.

 

4. Team forming and planning: Analyze whether they have the skills required to enable them to carry out their role.

If not, ensure they receive the right training. Also check they are available for the period of the project.

 

- Identify who has responsibility for what in the project.

 

- Monitor and communicate with team members constantly.

 

- Use one-on-one meetings if anyone has issues. Otherwise, daily project briefing/updates will do.

 

The Responsibility Chart: It is a shareable record of who is taking on what responsibilities in the project. This chart defines who will,

- Carry out what work.

- Take decisions alone.

- Take decisions jointly.

- Manage progress.

- Have to be consulted before a decision or action.

- Have to be informed before a decision or action.

- Be available for advice and coaching.

- Provide detailed help with a task.

- Break big tasks into smaller bits to enable people to have a weekly set of activities.

 

Use a spreadsheet to track people and their tasks, timelines and progress.

 

5. How are you going to do it

- Create a work breakdown structure (WBS) for the project.

- Group tasks under different headings once you have a list. Update the task list whenever something news comes up.

- Identify dependencies (or predecessors) of all activities.

- Estimate how long each activity will take.

- Identify the critical path for the project. The critical path identifies those activities, which yu=u must complete by a due date in order to complete the project on time.

- Draw up a 'milestone plan'. Milestones are stages in the project. You can use the milestone dates to check the project is where it should be, and to know what needs to be done to meet the next milestone.

 

6. Team management: How to manage/motivate/inform/encourage/enable the project team

 

Praise loudly; blame softly.

- Catherine the Great

 

The project manager's motto: 'What have you done, and what can I do for you?'

 

The secret to getting people to do more and do it faster:

- Ask them what they think is reasonable to produce by when. When they are asked, people will often come up with a tighter deadline and offer to do more than you would have asked for.

 

- Manage the team and activities by meeting, communicating, supporting, and helping with decisions (but not making them for people who can make them for themselves).

 

- You must decide how much freedom you want to give to team members for each delegated activity.

 

- Look out for differences in personality and working styles in your team.

 

- Face to face meetings are usually the best way to avoid issues and relationships becoming personalized and emotional

 

- Identify reliable advisers and experts in the team and use them.

 

- Keep talking to people, and make yourself available to all.

 

7. Project maintenance: Check, measure, review project progress; adjust project plans, and inform the project team and others.

 

Analyze causes and learn from mistakes.

 

Tip: Adding more people to a late project makes it late still.

 

Record your work: You should keep accurate records of your project not only for audit purposes but also to ensure you have documents, which enable you to monitor changes sooner than later.

- Produce one-page reports frequently highlighting key issues.

- Use a series of templates to support the monitoring process - E.g. milestone reporting, change control, log, planned v. actual.

 

When the project is over, thank the team, do a post-mortem

How else will you know how to do better next time?

 

Write a review report, and make observations and recommendations about follow up issues and priorities.

 

Part 2: A summary of the main project documents you will need

 

1. Project definition statement: The vision. Why are you doing it?

2. Project specification document (aka specs): The details. How will you do it?

3. The Responsibility Chart: The responsibilities. Who will do what?

4. Milestones: Important stages of the project and their completion dates.

 

And,

 

5. Work breakdowns: Listing tasks (and sub tasks), who will do it, by when.

6. Problem statements: 1-2 line descriptions of specific user problems (in case of software projects) or, for example audience needs (in case of a movie - 'audience doesn't how Congress has been totally bought by big business'.)

7. Feature statements: 1-2 line descriptions of benefits customers/end users will have as a result of a task/feature. Feature statements talk about the impact of end user.

 

Every project has its own set of documents, but all cover the same things as shown above. In case of movies for example, the document would be script and other production documents.

 

Thank you for reading.
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In: Business Skills