An efficient project manager must meet the project timeline at all costs. Various bottlenecks, that hinder the timely completion of milestones, could crop up during a project, depending on the nature of the project and the industry. Irrespective of these filter parameters, such as the industry and nature of the project, below practices can be adopted for managing a project effectively and to complete it in the stipulated timeframe.
1. Effective Stakeholder Engagement
The success of a project depends on its acceptance by all key stakeholders. In a project, there can be internal and external stakeholders. Often stakeholders are those entities who have either invested in the project or have specific interest in them. Key stakeholders can easily define the success of a project. For example, even though the project is completed with all of its scope done in entirety, if the stakeholders are unhappy, then no one is happy. Generally, the following entities are considered to be key stakeholders in a project
- Top-level management
- Project Team manager and members
- Auxiliary teams within the company (such as accounts)
- Government bodies
It is very important to periodically appraise all key stakeholders about the status, ensuring the success of the project.
2. Implement Issue Management Process
It is important to give work and decision-making authority or ownership, of an issue/milestone, to your team heads over a project’s timeline. Delegation of work should be understood, not as an excuse to be employed in case one has multiple projects at hand, but as an important management responsibility. Key milestones can be delegated to locally identified resources after a thorough evaluation of their capabilities. It also helps develop individual capabilities and help teams evolve into better managers. Different companies have different organizational structures. An effective project manager must navigate the structure with relative ease. Certain projects demand that the structure of the organization be tweaked to form an escalation matrix for the client. Such projects have to be dealt with extreme care and multi-vertical experience. Immediate managers have to be appraised periodically of the project status and any hindering issues at hand. Only then will they be able to appraise the stakeholders about the ground situation, to take top-level decisions, if necessary.
Also, for providing more clarity in the role of an individual employee in handling an issue, a tool such as ‘Responsibility Assignment Matrix’ can be defined. This matrix is commonly known as ‘Raci Matrix’, and defines all the process roles are aligned with the company policy and project requisites. The letter ‘R’ stands for ‘Responsible’, ‘A’ stands for ‘Accountable’, ‘C’ stands for Consulted’, and ‘I’ stands for ‘Informed’. The tool entails listing of the different roles and responsibilities associated with each designation, involved in the different projects. This tool is very effective in meeting the project deadline and handling the issues.
3. Adapt The Methodology To The Nature Of Your Project (and not the other way round)
For every type of project, relevant and prior experience is expected. This guarantees that the firm/person, to whom the project is awarded, is capable of doing the project. In every company/firm, there would be custom templets and formats for handling a type of project. Such material often comes pre-loaded with certain ways/preset methodologies of doing a project. As an efficient project manager, rather than adapting the project to a preset methodology, strive to tweak your methodology to suit your project. Such an approach requires a non-conventional thought process and the ability to think long term. This approach also makes sure that the person heading the project can effectively handle any issues that might arise during the project time.
4. Prioritize Each Issue Based On Severity And Impact
Timeline is one of the significant aspects, to consider, in the success of your project. Provided you can factor in a bit of lee-room in every milestone for issues that might crop up in between the project, you should be able to achieve the objectives within the mandated time. Agreeing to unrealistic timelines can bring a lot of stress and confusion during a project on the people responsible for the delivery of the milestones. Stepwise approach should be followed while deciding on the project timeframe. Determining the scope of the project, breakdown manner, division of tasks, creation of dependable capacities, discussion with resources on the time needed by them, evaluation of resource capability, and earmarking key objectives are some of the steps that are often followed while deciding on the total time required for completing your project.
5. Address Each Issue Individually
Irrespective of the scale, scope or intricacy, two aspects, effort and uncertainty saddle every project. Even if 100% effort is put in to realize the project milestones, variables outside the project manager’s control can result in unforeseen delays. Accounting for such a situation at the beginning of the project will help in dedicating an individual tolerance time for each of the project milestones. Identification or evaluation of alternative remedies can also be adopted, depending on the severity of the issue. To understand better, a tolerance time for an issue, in between the project, can be better defined as the lead and lag times. Rather than dwelling on the missed deadlines for meeting the milestones, you should coagulate the available resources and work on a possible solution to meet the deadline.
6. Resolve Promptly
The agile technique entails the usage of optimal resources for meeting the objectives and resolving issues promptly. According to the “Association for Project Management”, ‘it is an iterative and incremental approach to delivering requirements throughout the project life cycle. At the core, agile projects should exhibit central values and behaviors of trust, flexibility, empowerment, and collaboration.’ Employing agile methodology for handling projects and issues will result in higher team morale, better customer satisfaction, improved product/service quality, elevated leadership, and collaboration, enhance visibility of performance, better control of projects, increased predictability of the project, and lower risks. Agile techniques tries to minimize issues associated with a project by
- Proceeding in short-sprints/milestones, which ensures a brief spot between initial investment on the project and project failure
- It will always have a functional outcome/product, beginning with the initial sprint
- Forming requisites as per the defined scope in each milestone, so that the stakeholders have completed, usable features, irrespective of the future status of the project in hand
- Giving frequent feedback on the milestones, products, and services through periodic (daily, weekly/fortnightly/monthly) conference calls/meetings with the team, better communication, milestone reviews and appraisals, and updates to the investors/clients in which the final party can visually evaluate the features regularly.
- Producing money in the initial stages using own-funding projects thereby facilitating companies to fund the project with minimal up-front exposure.
7. Effective Communication With Team Members
Not exclusive to managing projects, the inability to effectively communicate ideas and goals with your colleagues and team members is regarded as one of the greatest issues to achieve success. Proper articulation ensures appropriate generation, collection, dissemination, storage, and spreading of information. Some of the common issues hindering good communication within and amongst teams are ambiguous expectations, form of communication, misunderstandings, listening skills, and unforeseen situations. To ensure good communication, an effective communication plan can be developed within a team. Status reports and progress charts can be presented frequently throughout the project period, to appraise the organization.
8. Personally, Overlook Individual Teams And The Status Of Their Delivery
Once the specific works are delegated to different team members, it is very important to guide and supervise the jobs being performed. More often than not, over supervising is done during projects, by the project manager, which significantly affects the morale of team members. Instead, team members can be encouraged to showcase their achievements and status of their tasks by conducting frequent presentations, thereby having healthy competition within the team. Individuals must be given the freedom to conduct themselves and perform their assigned jobs in decorum.
9. Constantly Update The Superiors/Clients
Different industries have varied and often complex organizational structures. To sift through the intricacies of bureaucratic structures and appraise the stakeholders and project heads on the status of an on-going project is conducted frequently these days, owing to the heavy competition in every sector. Nevertheless, your superiors/top managers of your company must be updated on a need-to-know basis. Doing this, the level of confidence and accountability on project manager increases.
- 10 Best Practices For Effective Project Monitoring And Control
- 10 Best Practices for Effective Project Quality Management
- 12 Best Practices for Effective Project Scope Management
- 15 Best Practices For Effective Project Schedule Management
- 15 Best Practices For Effective Project Risk Management
- 12 Best Practices for Effective and Successful Project Execution
- 10 Best Practices for Effective Communication in Projects
- 16 Best Practices for Running Project Status Meetings Effectively
10. Organize Well And Keep Track Of The Works Completed
It is important to stay organized and keep track of the status of each project milestone for tension-free project management. Some of the basic steps for ensuring an organized workspace are
- Determine time-limits
- Properly define the scope
- Early on, set the expectations
- In case of similar projects from before, follow a preset/template as this will save a lot of time
- Progress vs Project plan review
- Identify/prepare an efficient documentation system
- Anticipate unforeseen issues
11. Be A Strong Decision-Maker And Problem-Solver
Decision-making is, perhaps, one of the most important traits of an effective project manager. A big part of this process involves prioritizing works to ensure certain milestones are completed in the shortest possible time, thereby gaining more confidence that the entire project can be completed in the stipulated time. As a project manager, you can use several methods such as fact sheets, spreadsheets, budgets, checklists, status meetings, and conference calls to keep track of the project. All these are very effective methods that can be leveraged upon.
It is easier to analyze the data recorded in written or digitized format, to make informed decisions. For example, as an energy analyst, periodic analysis of SCADA based data from power plants is crucial for keeping up to date with the operation of the particular power plant and to detect any warnings or alarms from the various sensors installed. In the event of an alarm or a warning sign, such entries can be searched in the database and compared with the historic data to understand the trend. This will also help predict the future downtime of the power plant. Matters like this can, then, be communicated to the team members and possible solutions can be devised without incurring large costs and out of the line budget.
12. Be Accountable For The Mistakes Made Along The Way
One of the most sought-after traits of a good project manager is accepting the fault that has occurred from his/her end and take responsibility for it. Either the project manager can do these mistakes or one/more of his/her team members. The project manager must always make it a point not to bash his/her team members in front of other colleagues. An efficient project manager is akin to a teacher who would want his wards to excel. Better accountability of tasks is followed by an increase in confidence amongst the superiors.
13. Handling Large Quantity Of Information Using An Effective Tool
In the current era, data is considered the new oil, due to its innate nature of information and extensive use in shaping or breaking an enterprise. Data is one of the most valuable assets to have right now. However, without proper tools to structure, analyze, and visualize the data at-hand, decision making becomes difficult. An experienced project manager should be capable of handling a large database (big data) in various forms and be able to use them for meeting the scope of the project. There are several software tools such as different programming languages, standalone software, and platforms, which can be leveraged for meeting your project deadline and milestone timelines, and to understand the issues faced during the project timeline. Therefore, equipping oneself with one or several of these is the need of the hour for an effective project manager.
Often, top-level stakeholders need not be bothered with the finer details of the ground situation. Hence, an executive summary/conference call can be done periodically to appraise them of the project’s status. However, the project manager has to keep an account of all the events that had happened during the entire project timeline to justify the resources deployed, budget exhausted, and time elapsed. It is often said that the learning process must never stop in one’s lifetime. One has to see each project as an avenue to hone their skills and learn something new. Even if problems occur, thereby affecting the project schedule and budget, an efficient manager must convince his/her team members to strive forward and complete the project in the most optimal time, without dwelling on the past. Each of the issues/problems arising during the project timeline can be used as case studies to train the team members and better equip them to become efficient managers.