Effective project management is all about getting the basics right.
The term Project Management paints a picture of something that is complex and burdensome. Missed deadlines. Needless review meetings. Frayed tempers. Blame games.
That’s because most projects aren’t handled effectively.
When a project is mismanaged, everything goes haywire – deadlines are thrown by the wayside, mistakes are made as there is no clear direction and everyone is tense. Yet, if you were to do a review, you will realize that if a few things were done right, things could have been very different.
When seen through this lens, managing a project effectively means doing a few things correctly. Of course, complex projects need more checks and balances, but in the quest to make things look bigger than they are, it’s easy to lose track of the basics.
For example, the captain of a football team is also a project manager in his own way. Each match is like a project and he has to assign roles to his players and marshall his resources according to the circumstances of each game. A sports team functions like any normal team in office. They are working towards a common goal, make plans and game strategies to meet that goal, and have on-field meetings to decide what to do next. If the captain fails to manage this, his team will be running around the field not knowing what to do. Not a winning formula by any stretch of imagination.
Now let’s look at what ails effective project management:
1. Failing to get team members engaged at the beginning
A crucial, and often under-valued step in project management is meeting with the whole team at the start and setting goals upfront. Everyone on the team needs to know the ultimate goal and what role they will play in it. Many project managers tackle this step by creating a project roadmap to get started.
2. Ineffective communication
Assumptions are a project management killer. The project manager assumes everyone knows their role, the employees assume the project manager knows what they’re doing, when in reality, everyone is unsure. This is a recipe for disaster. Managing a project is one of the few times when no one will blame the project manager for over-communicating. Communicate clearly, communicate often, and communicate repeatedly.
3. Accommodating constant changes
Once a plan is made, it’s foolish to assume that nothing will change along the way. Circumstances, new information, a change in the final goal, can all alter how a project moves forward. At the same time, constant changes can drive a wedge in a project. Allow for some buffer time in the project schedule to address additional requests and changes only if you think they won’t throw the project off track. If not, make it clear that those changes can’t be accommodated.
4. Not accounting for technical debt
Technical debt occurs in a project when someone takes a shortcut that results in more work down the line. In other words, the optimal route was overlooked in favour of the easy one. Learning how to manage technical debt can be a project lifesaver.
5. Compromising on the right project management tool
Most project management tools are a small investment when compared to the benefits they offer. Search for the right project management tool that fits your project and your pocket.
These are only a few examples of common mistakes made in project management. There are numerous others but a lot of project management disasters can be averted by getting the basics right. Setting clear goals, communicating clearly, sticking to the plan without making too many changes and using effective tools. All of these may sound simple – but how many teams have you seen that get these right on a consistent basis?
A good way to avoid mistakes is to be aware of the common ones. They are the ones that are easy to miss.
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