By Adrian Johansen
All projects come with inherent risks. Any new company or new project that team members are unfamiliar with will undoubtedly hit snags along the way. However, even well-established companies and familiar projects can run into issues. It’s all too easy to let things slide when project team members get too comfortable doing the same things over and over again.
So whether you’re handling new or old projects, it is highly beneficial to take a close look at how your projects are being managed to help mitigate any potential risks. Risk management is essential with any project because it can help you identify potential risks ahead of time so you can better prepare your team for possible setbacks.
Additionally, aside from identifying and mitigating specific risks per project, there are other things you can do to help improve the overall success of every project, such as bringing on the right managers and team members, being mindful of deadlines, developing a clear communication strategy, and more.
1. Hire the Right Project Managers
If you are struggling to successfully complete projects, you may need to take a closer look at your team leaders. Project managers, as you would imagine, play a crucial role in how your projects play out, and if they don’t have the right management skills, it could negatively impact the project itself as well as the other team members and their productivity.
The success of any company relies on the success of its projects, and the success of its projects will depend on the people you hire to manage them. When bringing on new project managers or when retraining the ones you already have, make sure they have these specific skills:
- Clear Communication
- Problem Solving
- Time Management
- Risk Management
- Team Management
- Decision Making
Understandably, it’s not always easy to find individuals who are adept in all of these areas, but the more well-rounded your project managers are, the more success you will have with your projects and your company as a whole. So look for as many of these skills as possible and encourage your project managers to continue learning and developing their skills through regular training sessions or educational programs or courses.
2. Don’t Overlook Soft Skills in Team Members
A common issue that many companies run into with their projects is having team members with all the right hard skills but little to no quality soft skills. For example, if your company or a specific project requires coding or design skills, you may prioritize these skills and overlook others. However, while these hard skills are necessary for accomplishing particular technical tasks, it leaves out the general soft skills that make someone an overall good team member.
Soft, non-technical skills such as listening skills and good communication are essential when working on a project with other team members. Again, the technical skills might help your teams accomplish very specific tasks, but soft skills are important for interpersonal relations, communication, teamwork, and critical thinking. So when hiring people and putting together teams, make sure they have a good balance of technical and soft skills that can better help them work as a team on projects.
3. Develop a Risk Management Strategy
The idea with all of these tips is to help your teams and managers better mitigate projects risks, but it is helpful with each project to develop a new risk management strategy that addresses the specific risks for that individual project. Of course, there are inherent risks that are the same across all projects, but there can also be new risks specific to the project at hand that could easily be overlooked if you simply utilize the same risk management strategy for each project.
With every project, make sure you are:
- Identifying the risks, whether the same or unique to the project.
- Clearly communicating these potential risks to all team members.
- Analyzing potential risks to determine how they will affect the project.
- Prioritizing the risks from high-degree of risk to low-degree of risk to ensure time is spent accordingly on the risk or issue—should it arise.
- Implementing a strategy for how you respond to each risk.
- Continually checking and tracking for any new or developing risks.
4. Be Mindful of Deadlines
When setting deadlines for your projects, it’s important to make sure you aren’t making promises you can’t meet. If you set unrealistic deadlines and continually miss them, it can negatively impact your business. Missed deadlines are hard on teams and internal operations, but they can also leave your customers and clients constantly disappointed and unsatisfied, which can result in a loss of business.
So when planning new projects, make sure you thoroughly evaluate the situation to ensure you are setting attainable goals and timelines. And to ensure you consistently meet your deadlines once they are set, make sure you are delegating and prioritizing your tasks wisely and using project management tools and systems to help you stay on task.
5. Prevent Scope Creep
Scope creep is a common issue that can arise during a project and can occur when the scope of the project changes or faces potential changes. This can happen when the goals and parameters of the project are not clearly identified and communicated from the start or when team members or customers push for changes that were not a part of the original plan. Even if those changes seem like a grand idea, they more often than not lead to project failure or missed deadlines.
To prevent this from happening, it’s best to be very clear upfront about the parameters of the project and to set boundaries with clients. This requires having a project manager who has good communicating and negotiating skills, in addition to creating a project charter that clearly outlines what your team is delivering and when. It can also be helpful to add a section noting what will happen if the client makes significant changes and tries to deviate from this plan. Taking these steps to avoid scope creep will also ensure your project stays on budget.
Successfully managing a project and mitigating risks is primarily about clear communication and paying attention to the details. If you have a solid project manager and a risk management strategy, your team will better understand what is expected and how to stay on task, especially if any issues arise. Additionally, with so many things to keep track of, your teams need to make use of the latest technology and project management tools to help them work smarter and more efficiently.