Manage Projects Effectively

Without proper planning, projects tend to get delayed or incur cost overruns. What does proper planning consist of? In this month’s SkillBites Show, Jon McGlothian shared a number of tools and techniques for managing projects effectively.

Jon is the co-founder and president of TMOG LLC, providing project management training and consulting. He is a Project Management Professional (PMP)® as well as a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt. He is also the author of The Project Manager’s Quick Start Guide.

Jon defined a project broadly as anything that has a start date, an end date, and a unique deliverable. That could be starting a business, or undertaking a joint venture, or completing a contract for a customer.

When starting a project, a good first step is to hold an initial meeting with the key stakeholders and project leaders to discuss the mission or charter for the project, including the goals and objectives, the authorization and boundaries. It’s beneficial to gain an understanding of the customer’s priorities at this stage. For instance, is the client most concerned with getting the project done by a certain deadline, or with the quality of the result, or with keeping costs down?

The next step is project planning. This includes identifying the team members and digging into the details of the project. Inquire into who, what, when, where, and how. This is also when the team should develop the work breakdown structure, decomposing the project into small deliverables or work packages and assigning an owner to each step. The team should conduct a risk analysis of what could go wrong so they can develop a plan and allocate the requisite resources where needed to ensure that things go smoothly. Another aspect of planning is managing the involvement of the stakeholders, including identifying who are the stakeholders, determining what to communicate when, what information is needed and what their needs are.

The third stage of the process consists of doing the work and producing the deliverables, as well as getting feedback. Closely tied in with this stage is managing the project to make sure the project stays within the charter parameters.

The final phase is closing. This stage may consist of getting paid if the project is an external one, or handing over the reins to an internal group. An important element of closing is conducting a review of the project to identify areas of improvement for the next project, or lessons learned and best practices.

Every project is different, so every project will involve a different approach. The key is to understand the issues that could arise and be prepared to adjust or change direction if needed. For more information, read Jon’s book (available on Amazon) or email Jon at jon@tmogllc.com. Mention in the subject line that you heard about him through the SkillBites Show and he will provide a free consultation.

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