Project management is not something that only those with plenty of experience can be good at. Anyone can master the art of managing projects; all they really need is a bit of knowledge and creativity. Entrepreneurs, whether they are managing a startup or handling a well-established organization, need to be exceptionally good at the art of project management.
Here’s a choice selection of project management tips that explains how creative entrepreneurs get things done:
1. Avoid multitasking – at all costs
According to a study by Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, ‘Multitasking causes a greater decrease in IQ than smoking pot or losing a night’s sleep’. So, without a doubt this is one thing that every project manager must avoid at all times. Doing several things simultaneously does not mean that you are getting more done in less time. It only means you are building up on loads of errors and rework in future. Instead of cutting down the time, you are only wasting more of it while also reducing the levels of productivity.
2. Have a good project management tool
According to a survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse Cooper: “Use of commercially available PM software increases performance and satisfaction.”
The market is flooded with project management tools like ProofHub, Asana, Trello, Wrike, etc. Getting the one that everyone else is using is not going to cut it. You need to find the one that fits in seamlessly with your work style and requirements; something that will help you plan and manage more intelligently. Distributing tasks, collaborating, monitoring project progress – all this will become super simple with a good project management tool.
3. Give extensive training
To make a project function smoothly, give extensive training to everyone involved before getting started. Let everyone know thoroughly the ins and outs of their tasks, and to-do’s. Sure, it’s going to be a lot of work, but only initially. Once the training is over, teams are ready to work independently without too much of guidance. Team members can do their jobs and the managers can do theirs. No confusion and no waste of time.
In fact, according to one of the studies carried out at IBM, “75-80% of managers believe effective training is critical to project success, skill levels linked to business value yield a 10% increase in productivity.”
4. Avoid getting lost in the minor details
It is good to be detail-oriented, but don’t get lost so much into little things that bigger and really important ones get neglected. Look at the bigger picture, especially if the project is a major one. Being too detail-oriented can make you spend more time accomplishing relatively smaller and unimportant things. Always keep the focus on the most important aspects, and slowly build things around it.
Let’s say you are to create a new website for a product. Simply building a site is not enough. Everything from its designing and development to marketing is important. But, if you spend too much time micromanaging smaller things like, color of the website, placement of call to action buttons, and other stuff like this, you may be left with no time for other major tasks that are even more crucial. You need to know when to move on to the next thing so that each aspect gets your attention.
5. Design a critical path
Start the day with prioritization. Divide all the tasks into various categories and label them based on the degree of priority – low/high. Keep a few important tasks for each day. Try to complete the ones that fall into the critical path within the decided timeframe. Some tasks are first in the series; the building blocks of the project. Failing to complete those would delay the entire process. Recognize those tasks and accordingly set dependencies between them and work on the same basis.
For example, if the new project is about the launch of a new website, then the process would include creation of new site followed by content development and then eventually marketing and promotion work. In this case, the priority would naturally be first given to designing and development instead of marketing, because the whole thing is sequential and you cannot break that chain. Similarly, depending on what project you are part of, you would have to design the critical path and stick to the process.
But, how to go about it? Well, there are tools out there which you can use to get it done. I personally am an advocate of using project management software as it comes with features like Gantt Charts that help discern the critical path. As you assign tasks and distribute work among team members in these tools, along the way you also go on creating a critical path which is visible in the Gantt chart.
6. Confirm that everyone has understood their role
The biggest reason for mismatch between expected vs. actual output is when people fail to understand the project details. Be sure that the people have understood the details of the project in the exact same way that you wanted them to. Keeping everyone on the same page is really important if you want to avoid errors. Be sure that there are no gaps in knowledge and everyone has understood the requirements in the right context.
A good way to be sure that people have understood the project is to make them phrase things in their own words. You could also have them write down their roles and responsibilities on paper to see if they have fully understood everything or not.
7. Leave room for changes
It’s unwise to expect things to go as you planned. So, you must always be ready for unexpected/unseen problems to creep in. Create multiple contingency plans as backups. Have a safety net to fall back on should things go south. Think of all the things that could go wrong, and then make room for adjustments in the process.
Let’s take resources for example. The wise thing is to maintain flexibility in terms of how many people will handle the project. Who knows, you might need to cut the number down later on. Or, you could also need to increase that number. It could be anything. Being rigid in terms of how many people will handle the project is not a smart idea. You must be ready for the possibilities of making alterations any time depending on what the situation demands.
8. Have detailed documentation of the entire process
Team members are going to need something to refer to every now and then. Be sure to document every conversation, every presentation, computer screenshots and everything else explaining the intricacies. Document important information like minutes of meetings in textual as well as every other form of writing for team members to use as a reference point for future. This will eliminate the need to spend time in contacting one another to clarify certain points; which can lead to quite a lot of time wastage.
Primarily, there are three concepts that are taken care of by documentation – traceability, history, and control. You can trace each and every step back along with all the additional weekly and daily updates. Other than that, you get to maintain the history of project which could prove useful somewhere in the future. The practice makes it easier to exercise control by offering a common source of information for everyone.
According to what I feel, the best way of documentation is resorting to a good project management software. Coupled with all the other powerful functionalities that the software offers, the documentation will make sure you have permanent record of everything right along with all your other critical project information.
Just a few simple yet effective techniques to make project management creative. These tips are sure to work wonders if you follow them religiously. Project management is not rocket science. It’s about taking care of just a few things here and there, and everything else will be corrected automatically.
Author: Shikha Menwal