As a person is promoted in the hierarchical structure of an organization, his scope of work is increased along with accountability and power. The person is entrusted with large projects which have more complexities and require resources on a large scale, requiring the manager to deliver the best of his skills and talents to meet the deadline. Starting with the formation of a team with the best skills to proper planning, execution, and launching, all is done by the manager alone. Bigger the projects, the higher are the risks involved in it, because of which the manager needs to be alert and sound with every action he or his team is performing.
What Is Actually Project Management?
Project management is an art that requires sound planning, executing and managing skills in a person responsible for management i.e. a project manager. But as one says, nothing is served prepared in a platter to you, a manager also needs to check that the project is meeting the client’s standards and instructions, resources are being used at its optimum level, anticipating all the avoidable problems or gauging the whole team to troubleshoot problems which you didn’t anticipate.
Project Management Skills:
To be a manager or a leader, one must have the desired skills to lead a team of talented individuals effectively and efficiently, not only to achieve the determined goal but also to make the team develop and enhance their interpersonal skills, which will help them grow in the organization. There are some well-defined project management skills that every manager should have not only to get the project completed on time per the set standards but also to make a mark and prove that your team is the best.
Communication- The manager must be smart enough to be answerable to everyone both in good and adverse situations, taking accountability for all the work done on himself. He must avoid over and under communication at all levels. He must clarify all rules and tasks clearly to the team members, provide timely updates to the stakeholders and deliver proper results to the sponsors.
Time Management- Apart from keeping the project running per the schedule, the manager needs to keep meetings at frequent intervals and on time so that the trust of the sponsors and stakeholders is maintained in you and your time. He should even be able to manage his own time to run his other official duties per the schedule.
Problem Solving- A manager must keep his “Thinking Cap” on 24×7. He must anticipate all the possible problems which the team or the project could face during its tenure and must keep themselves braced and well equipped with sufficient resources to mitigate those issues. He must always stay sound and alert with knowledge of everything going around him.
Organizational Awareness- A manager should be well aware of other activities or projects running in the organization or the ones which would be coming in the future. This is said to imply that the team and resources with which the manager is working on his project might find the requirement in other projects too during its time period. So, the manager must find the best possible alternative to this which will not hamper the productivity of the project and the team as a whole.
Diplomacy- The manager must be polite as well as clever at the same time with people at all levels to get his things done. He must be persuasive and convincing to bring out the resources which he wants from others. He must be able to negotiate scheduling issues with such grace that the sponsors think that it is the only best option for the project. He must also be able to able to handle conflicting priorities and personality clashes with utmost perfection.
The most important skill in a project manager is his ability to segregate his daily job work from his project and devote all his time, energy and determination to this project with dedication and professionalism.
Project Management Steps:
Following is the key that would unlock the steps for a project manager to successfully complete a large project on time and per the set standards.
Step 1- Envision It: In this step, a project manager must imagine and create a roadmap in his mind of the whole project, before making a blueprint of it. He must thoroughly understand the requirements of the project and should not start until he is confident that he is on the right track.
Build The Project Case- A project case is of utmost importance in order to know whether the wants and demands of the customer are in proportion to the project in which you are in the process of developing. You must focus on what you want the customer to be able to do. For this, you must do a market survey or customer interview as part of the R&D process.
Form The Project Team- A project manager must compose a multi-disciplinary team, with people of different backgrounds and skills. Per the research, a diverse team delivers more quality results. For this, he must undertake activities such as Rules of Engagement, where you have established a social contract of the team and a Health Monitor, where the team will be put to a self-assessment of their strengths and risk areas.
Define “Success”- The project manager must determine the correct metrics and tools to measure the outcomes to track whether you are on the right part. You must set goals as a team and define a proper metric to measure the progress.
Brainstorm Solutions- Must be able to anticipate all the possible problems and try and solve it with all his problem-solving skills. The manager, as well as his whole team, must think about specific solutions and ways to implement it. Always aim to think an idea which is safe as well as innovative in solving the problem. For this, the manager must collect and write down a list of possible solutions/ideas and must also do Mind Mapping i.e. explore different facets of a problem and organize your list of ideas to resolve the problem.
Prototype & Test- On the basis of the type of project, the manager must create a prototype to test it in front of his target audiences and stakeholders for initial feedback. The prototype can be anything from flowcharts to codes etc, which will make people understand its usage and purpose. The manager must visualize his project concept because it appeals and makes understanding ready. And, must make sure that the concept is user-friendly, feasible and valuable to both customers and stakeholders.
Step 2- Plan It: The planning process must be short, achievable and to the point process. The planning must be an in-depth one, considering every situation and tasks, which also involves certain few-high order tasks to be performed before transiting to the execution mode.
List-Down The Project’s Scope- On the basis of the early trial and error approach and keeping in mind the determined success metrics, a manager must prioritize what must be included in the project, how it should be included and when. He must implement Trade-off Sliders to create sliding scales to important each metric is and agree to your priority list. He must understand how beneficial and worthy it has been the journey till now, to design a better-experienced one for the future.
Understand and Manage Dependencies- If the manager thinks he will require resources, manpower or assets outside his core team, then he must identify each of them factors into the planning process so that they are pre-identified and noted for the future work and are also made available to do it. For this, the manager must delegate each member with his role and responsibilities, including those whose services will be required at a later stage.
Build A Roadmap And Backlog- With scope determined and all the resources managed, the manager must break down the project plan into discrete pieces of work, with an estimation of time and effort required to complete each work i.e. create a roadmap. This will help him anticipate the target completion date. He must then collect all the discrete pieces of work at one place into the backlog to combine and make the final product/service out of it.
Anticipate And Mitigate Risks- A manager must think of all the possible ways his project might fail, to access and procure all the prevention measures to save the project from the failures i.e. conducting a pre-mortem analysis of the project. The manager must also look for some other ways to achieve the targets which might be more beneficial and efficient for the project, which he might have missed out at an earlier stage.
Design A Sound Communication Plan- Recurring meetings at regular intervals must be called by the manager both with the team members for analyzing the work and with the stakeholders and sponsors to update them on the project. or put reminders on his calendars or the company’s dashboard regularly to keep everyone informed. He must use Stand-ups for his team to share the status of their daily work and to discuss blockers if any. For the company, he must use Project Posters to share their daily targets and the status of its achievement.
Step 3- Execute It: The manager must execute the project on a repetitive basis for 1-2 weeks, with a demo for the stakeholders and the team, with the execution of the actual plan at the end of each cycle.
Work Iteratively- Start each phase with proper planning, with a short analysis of each phase at its end. This analysis will help you to check where the team is going right and wrong, to help execute the next phase in a much better way.
Track Your Progress- This phase will help the manager in assessing how much of the total assigned work is completed, how much of the total budget is remains unused and how far is the team from meeting the deadline. He must deploy digital tools like Google Docs, Trello or Jira, which will help everyone track the information you have provided in a custom layout. If the project is running out of time, money or both, then this issue must be raised the manager in front of the sponsors so that things remain under control till the end.
Test and Incorporate Feedback- After the end of each iteration phase, the manager must demonstrate the whole process in a demo presentation to the stakeholders and sponsors, to get their feedback and incorporate it into the next phase. Use of Sparring technique (Letting others’ challenge your own ideas and inspire new ones, if any) by the manager will be a great option.
Step 4- Project Delivery: Now, this is the phase where the manager’s and his teams’ effort and hard work will be paid off. The delivery phase is not only the successful completion of the project but also the faith deciding phase for the people who were involved in it, in whatever manner.
Deliver Your ‘Minimum Viable Product” (MVP)- The manager in the presence of his team should handover the project to the clients with full confidence and must see that the project is accepted by the clients as complete, which they must give in writing.
Present The Accounts- After clearing all the due invoices and settling all the vendor accounts, the manager must collect all the data and prepare a final accounts report of the project. He must show all the money receipts and payments of all sorts incurred for and during the project to give a net amount to the clients, stakeholders, and sponsors.
Project Performance Analysis- Bring the whole team together and discuss their project experience and learning. Discuss questions like what worked out? What did not work out? What did they learn or how their overall experience was? Whether they are open to such projects in the future or not? etc., etc. Record the statements of the whole team and present it to the stakeholders for future growth and development of both the company and the employees.
Step 5- Improvisation: A perfect project manager is the one who never thinks that his job is completed once the MVP is delivered. He always introspects and evaluates himself and his teams’ performance to achieve perfectionism by asking the questions following questions to himself;
Has he achieved the definition of “success” for the project? and
Are there any ideas that were excluded from the scope of MVP?
With the best of the team and resources alone, such large projects cannot be completed. Every project is incomplete without the implementation of technology in it. And, with technology assuming human roles too, it is next to impossible to finish a project with the use of it. So, to ease out the work of project managers and his team, there are good Project Management Softwares in the market which a manager can use to effectively finish his project, Few of such Project Management Softwares providers are listed below, which can help a manager keep his tasks organized and will enable better and effective communication within the team.
And many more.
All’s well that ends well comes true when such large projects are delivered on time with desired results, leaving the clients completely satisfied. So, the manager must celebrate this victory religiously with all his team with a party. To gain the trust and confidence of your team members, take them for lunch or dinner and spend some quality informal time with them in the way friends do.
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