By Veronica Thraen
November 1, 2023
Do you have a new project but don’t know where to begin? Are you an organizing whiz but prioritizing tasks doesn’t come as easily? Have you been assigned to manage a large project with multiple teams, but you’ve never been a project manager?
Whether you’re already a project manager — or wearing the project manager hat by sheer necessity — you’ll want to deliver a successful project.
Here are 8 steps to ensure the greatest project success — even if you are not a trained project manager:
1. Understand the scope
Make sure that the project scope is crystal clear. What are the project goals and objectives? Are you the only resource on the project or will others have tasks, too? If so, what are their roles and responsibilities? What criteria need to be met for the project to be considered complete and successful? Understand the project scope by asking your manager and/or project sponsor (the “owner”) these types of questions.
2. Kick off the project
Even if you are the only resource on the project, there may be others who have a stake in the outcome (“stakeholders”) and a kickoff meeting is an excellent opportunity to involve them. It could be a quick 15-minute meeting or up to an hour, depending on the size of the team or project. You’re off to a great start when everyone is on the same page with scope, team roles and responsibilities, target timeline, etc.
3. Document and prioritize tasks
Documenting tasks can be as simple as creating a spreadsheet or as elaborate as a formal project plan using project management software. If you have never created a task list or project plan, search for free templates online that will work for your project. Meet with your manager and/or project sponsor to ensure that you have prioritized appropriately. If there are other
teams or individuals involved, meet with them to document their tasks and understand any dependencies.
4. Manage the agreed-upon scope
You will no doubt be asked to add new tasks, features or phases that were not included in the original scope of work. Should you add these requests and cross your fingers that you can still deliver the project on time? Not necessarily. Do some research first to find out how it will impact the project, and then review the results with your manager and/or project sponsor. They will determine whether or not to accommodate scope changes.
5. Keep everyone in the loop
It’s important that everyone involved understands status throughout the project lifecycle. How — and how often — you communicate project status is up to you. It can be as formal as weekly status meetings and status reports or as simple as an email that lists weekly accomplishments, future plans, and any issues or risks. Work with the team to select the best form of communication and frequency.
6. Escalate issues when appropriate
Always do your due diligence when issues arise during the project. Don’t cause panic by immediately escalating something that is not really an issue or, worse, not say anything in the hope that the issue will resolve itself. By digging deeper into the root cause, you may find a quick fix or even a better way to perform a function. If an issue truly will impact the project, give your manager and/or sponsor all the options so that they can make an informed decision.
7. Keep focus when there are distractions or priority shifts
How do you stay focused when you are pulled in many directions? Try having your daily list of tasks handy, even if it’s on a sticky note. If you find that you cannot mark any of them off the list, then have a conversation with your manager and ask to confirm your priorities. They may not be aware that you’re being pulled off priorities by miscellaneous tasks.
8. Wrap up the project
All tasks have been completed. Now what? Before moving on to your next project, verify that the project met all expectations and the success criteria identified in Step 1. Are the project sponsor and stakeholders satisfied with the outcome? What did you learn from successes and failures throughout the project? Discussing these questions with the team will only help improve future project performance.
There will always be roadblocks or unknowns that can cause a project to be delayed, but clear communication is key to effective project management. Even if you’re not a project manager, following these critical steps can put you — and keep you — on the path to success.
Veronica Thraen is the Owner and Principal Consultant at Maven Project Management, a technology project management consulting firm in Phoenix, Arizona that helps growing organizations put processes and tools in place to keep projects on track for long-term growth and success. Her leadership advice has been featured by Ellevate Network, The Huffington Post, and Forbes.
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Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.