From Kickoff to Completion How to Rock Your Next Project.jpg

Project management requires both forethought and dedication. Forethought, as in the ability to think clearly about what the entire project will entail and lay out an adequate plan for it. Dedication, as in the perseverance to adhere to that plan and see things through. But the best-laid plans can still go awry. That’s where the third piece of the puzzle arises: flexibility. From project kickoff to submitting your final deliverable, here are the three steps to rocking your next project:

1. Prior and Proper Planning Prevents Poor Projects

Think of it as the six Ps. Lay out a project timeline ahead of your project kickoff meeting so that everyone is on the same page. When the team leaves the meeting room after the internal project kickoff, it should understand the entire project timeline, as envisioned by the project manager. This understanding is the foundation of the entire project.

The team should also be aware that, while your vision is the groundwork, it is by no means set in stone. Clients can change their minds, so the scope may be slightly altered. This in turn can put more pressure on a specific task or group of tasks, changing the timeline. But that can be addressed when it arises.

It’s a good idea to have a set of mental/internal checkpoints. Think of it as a video game: You need to progress through the project to the next save point. You don’t want to arrive at a stumbling block and have to retreat all the way to the project kickoff to start building up the timeline again, right? So when you arrive at these internal checkpoints, evaluate where the project is and whether or not the timeframes need to be adjusted. If a task has fallen behind, devote more resources to it. If another has surged ahead, you may need less staff on it to finish.

This works for every group that’s involved with the project kickoff. While your team doesn’t necessarily need to worry about your meetings with stakeholders, it’ll still be aware of when they occur. The client doesn’t need to worry about the specific plans for each task and deliverable—it’ll know how often to expect updates. This way, you have accountability across the board.

2. Dedication Deters Deadline Debacles

When you have a plan, you stick to it. Right? It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into laying out a project plan before the project kickoff if it isn’t followed. Encourage your team to see the bigger picture if your team gives you any pushback.

Quite often, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees when you’re working on a long project timeline. Someone can easily become disenchanted or outright discouraged when things seem to drag on, or the client continues to be fussy about the same aspect. As long as you’re on the right schedule, these details are fine to encounter. It’s when you weren’t planning for them that it becomes a little more involved.

3. Adjust Anything as Unanticipated Events Approach

Flexibility is the final piece of the puzzle. If you notice things going off track, then it’s time to reevaluate. Don’t wait for a few weeks to see if the ship rights itself. It won’t, and then you’ll be that much further away from the goal.

It takes an experienced project manager to know when to stay the course and when to steer out of danger. Think about it this way: If you feel like you might need to adjust things, it’s time to take a closer look at the entire picture. Awareness is key, but decision-making is also quite important; in reality, being completely aware of the situation will be the only way to make the correct decision. The two go hand in hand.

If you have a project kickoff meeting coming up, keep an eye on these three aspects of project management. It’s an ongoing and iterative process; each step feeds another. You plan, then execute, adjust as necessary, develop a new plan, adhere to it until it’s time to adjust again. Keep the circle of project management a closed loop from project kickoff until completion and you’ll have success the entire way through!