Many people mix up the terms “task” and “project.” A task is an action item with a specific deliverable. A project is a bigger initiative with goals, conditions, budgets, and stakeholders. Tasks can have multiple steps but typically have a smaller, more defined scope of impact. They may be subsumed under projects or stand alone.
Projects, because of their scale, often necessitate the use of specific tools to track tasks, timelines, and resources. Additionally, projects often have teams accountable for their completion, so roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined.
Below are some tips for project management so that you will better understand how to organize your projects before, during, and after implementation.
Before starting a project:
- Appoint a project manager – this is the person who will organize all aspects of the project including meetings, deliverables, dates, and resources. This person may be you.
- Identify the stakeholders – the people who have a vested interest in the outcome of your project. What role do they need to play?
- Specify a project sponsor – someone (usually at management or executive level) who oversees the major deliverables, supports the project, and generally puts his/her clout behind the project if it faces obstacles.
- Gather a project team and schedule regular meetings for status updates.
Effective Project Management tools:
- Project Scope Document – a document (3 – 4 pages) that identifies what the project will address, the timeline, budget, people involved, and most importantly, will explain why the project is important to see through to completion.
- Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – this is typically in spreadsheet format and identifies specific tasks that need to be completed, by whom, and start/end dates for each.
- Status update template – a report (1 – 2 pages) that can be delivered to the project sponsor at regular intervals to keep him/her informed of major milestones and potential pitfalls that need to be addressed
- Electronic collaboration tool – most projects need a centralized place to collect electronic documents and provide platforms on which project team members can collaborate. Some examples are: Basecamp, 5pm, SharePoint, or even a shared network drive folder. I recommend 5pm and can train you and your project team how to use it.
After the project:
- Schedule a project debriefing meeting. Review what went well and what could be done better the next time. Deliver an executive summary to the project sponsor.
- Celebrate your success. Too often the reward for a successful project implementation is…more projects! So, take some time to get the team together and celebrate the end of the project.
Great strides are made in business from the effective management of a project. Without successful projects, there would be few business process improvements, new products, or technological implementations.
Project management requires organizational skills along with the ability to motivate others toward a common goal. Please let me know if you need my assistance with organizing your project management efforts.
I have templates, and I know how to use them!
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Melissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at email@example.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.
Thanks for the helpful information! I use a tool called Smartsheet which sounds fairly similar to 5pm in that you can email people to remind them of upcoming (or missed) deadlines, generate reports and so on. No matter what tool is used, the approach that you’ve outlined is key to a successful project.
Thanks for the tip about Smartsheet, Janet! I’ll be sure to check that out.