Project management is a discipline of implementing a change effectively and efficiently through continuous planning process, development, implementation and monitoring. This is done in order to bring significant benefits to an organization, be it a startup or established companies.
Proper project management follows a set of methodologies to ensure desired outcomes are met. When an organization uses project management, it stands to benefit from different advantages.
Finite resources such as human, funds, time, knowledge and technology are utilized on the right projects. There is also the benefit or managing related changes in an organized way. Project teams can also assess and mitigate risks surrounding success of the change.
In the last guide, we focused on how to streamline business operations in a startup company. We have prepared this guide to help startups better manage projects. We shall be looking at a couple of issues. We shall walk you through understanding what a project is, key characteristics, ways to manage projects as well as different methodologies used.
What is a project
A project is a temporary and progressive attempt that is made to produce some kind of tangible or intangible results – be it a product, service of benefit.
The whole process usually involves a series of interrelated tasks that fall within a certain requirement and limitations, be it cost, performance, quality, among others.
There are key characteristics that define a project. Typically, they are three. These are temporary, unique deliverable and lastly, progressive elaboration. Every project has a finite start and finite end. The start is the time when the project is initiated and its concept developed. The end is reached when all the objectives have been met.
Every project has a unique deliverable. Every project must aim to produce some deliverables, which can be a product, service or some other results. Deliverables are focused on addressing a specific problem or need.
A progressive elaboration defines the progress of a project. There should be continuous effort to improve on a project. Such improvement allows project teams to produce more accurate results.
Project management methodologies
For startups to be able to implement projects ahead of them, they must follow a specific methodology to ensure that work is done in the right manner.
In simple terms, a project management methodology can be defined as must-haves, to avoid failure of projects and reduce risks. It is normally a straightforward way to guide teams through the development and execution phases and processes in a project management life cycle.
What is project management methodology?
Project management methodology can be defined as a combination of logically related practices, methods and process, that determine how best to plan, control and develop tasks. It is a continuous implementation process that carries a project form implementation to finalization.
In project management, methodology provides a framework of planning, doing and delivering projects of all kind, nature and size. A project management framework is focused on the realization that desired changes need to be effected in a chosen methodological approach.
Managing projects means describing and performing all activities that are required to meet a specific objective. A project management framework is a structured collection of relevant knowledge on how to make change methodologically.
In project management, there are different approaches and methods that can be used in managing different kinds of projects. However, all types of project methodology can be categorized into two; either traditions or modern approach.
A traditional approach involves a series of consecutive stages in a project management process. It entails a step by step sequence to design, develop and deliver a product or service. In a traditional project management methodology, there are different stages involved.
These range from; initiation, planning and design, execution, control and integration, validation and lastly closure.
Modern methodologies are not focused on linear processes, but rather provide an alternative loot project management. Some of modern methodologies are most suited for IT and software development. Others can be implemented in production, process improvement and product engineering.
Common modern methodologies include PRINCE2, Critical Path Method, Lean PM Methodology, Six Sigma, Critical Chain Project Management, Scrum and Kanban.
Principles of project management
There are about 7 basic principles of project management that project leaders and teams must be ready to follow. Let’s have a look at them briefly;
Focus on products
The client or customer for whom the project has been developed should have a very clear idea of what they require. They should have a key understanding of how they want the deliverables to be. In terms of expectations, they should be very realistic.
When the client is clear about what they want, or what they expect from a project, the whole process of managing tasks becomes a lot easier for the managers in charge.
Continued business justification
There has to be some business justification behind every project being implemented. All projects should be able to return the owner a decent investment. This is what makes it worth the effort to invest in a project.
There may be certain circumstances that may make a project suffer being feasible. When economic and environmental situations become unfavourable, a decision has to be made if to continue with a project or not.
Define roles and responsibilities
One of the most important principles in project management is that every person that is involved in a project has to have well-defined roles. They should have a clear understanding of what their responsibilities are and what aspects they are accountable for.
Everyone should have a clear understanding of what they are expected to do, otherwise it will create room for chaos. When there are disagreements among team members, there should be a high level of tolerance to solve problems amicably.
Manage by exception
The sponsors of a project or the owner of the company should not be too much concerned with tiny details, that would otherwise lead to micro-managing teams. They should let managers take charge and take care of all details involved in project management. Only when an issue becomes too critical should it be escalated to the sponsors.
Manage by stages
A project should be broken down into smaller sub projects or stages. At the end of each stage, the sponsor of the project should make the critical decision on what needs to be advanced further. The most important thing in project management is to commit just one stage at a time.
Learn from experience
One of the most important principles in product management is for the managers involved in tasks not to repeat the same mistakes again. They should keenly analyze what went wrong with previous projects and work towards enhancing the next projects.
Tailored to the environment
Any project management methodology should be well-tailored on the specific requirements of a project. They should be customized accordingly. Managers should shun away from following a methodology without considering the environment they are operating in, and the amount of work required.
Steps to ensure project control
Project control refers to a series of processes and steps that a project manager, in collaboration with other team members carry out, with the aim of controlling project progress, changes, quality and other factors.
The ultimate purpose of project control is to manage work during each stage of the implementation life cycle and to prepare a project for the next stage. There are 5 critical steps involved.
During the course of project management, the objective of holding meetings is to be able to accomplish defined goals and objectives. During those meetings, a project manager should provide an overview and describe current goals and issues for effective communication.
Every meeting should have a specific agenda. The project manager needs to write the specific agenda and share the document with all participants in the meeting. Importance of such meetings is to review assigned roles and responsibilities of the team, provide an executive direction and provide guidance to teams.
Performance quality control
By controlling project quality, it is possible to confirm that a project has been developed and completed according to plan and expectations. Quality control involves a lot of things.
It starts when a project is initiated and lasts through the entire life cycle of a project until the final thing is handed over to the customer. The aim of project control is to ensure at any given stage in the lifecycle of a project, nothing lags or becomes substandard.
Track work progress
Tracking work progress involves monitoring, measuring and controlling progress of a project. The purpose of this step is to ensure that work is done according to schedule. The project manager should be able to track work progress at any given stage of a project.
Key tasks involved are capturing task performance data, updating schedules, estimating remaining costs, adjusting resources according to availability among others. If there are additional resources needed, the same should be well planned for.
Respond to Changes
The goal of controlling change is to define and implement the addition of work at any given stage. When you effectively respond to changes, you are able to ensure that the scope, schedule and cost remain relevant to current situations.
There is a general list project managers need to complete in case they are requesting for changes. They need to receive and review change requests and assign change requests to a competent team who can investigate alternative solutions.
They can then approve or cancel alternative solutions accordingly. They then create an action plan for implementing the changes.
As the process continues, there are a lot of issues that will come your way. Managing issues deals with ensuring areas of conflict are well resolved so as to ensure a smooth ride and success in project management. Proper issue management takes a series of steps.
It includes identifying issues, assessing their impacts, developing resolution action and taking action and steps to track the progress of issues. You need to identify and record issues
How to set up project teams
Building successful teams is not a one-time event. Merely assigning people tasks doesn’t create a project team. Any good project manager knows that a great team is one that is committed to common goals and does its work diligently to help other members of the team.
If you are looking forward to assembling great teams, here are some guiding tips;
Establish the team
This is the first step in project management. The best project teams involve stakeholders from all departments; be it executives and also individuals in the front line. These individuals have inside knowledge on all critical success factors that you will dearly need.
Facilitate effective communication
Communication should be accurate, useful and timely. It is very important to have a cohesive team environment as this is key to achieving project success. Project information should be communicated consistently throughout each state of the communication process. Open sharing of information should be encouraged as well.
Groups that plan together are typically more successful as compared to those that don’t collaborate. There should be a collaborative goal-setting that allows team members to achieve individual success. Collaboration helps in generating the most creative solutions. It also helps to produce the greatest amount of personal growth
Accept and Manage Problems
It should be noted that bringing a group of people together doesn’t necessarily constitute a team, especially an effective working team. One of the greatest mistakes made by project managers is not recognizing this fact, and then having expectations that project teams will hit the ground running.
Project leaders are highly challenged to facilitate relationships among people of different backgrounds. However, they all share the common goal of the project. Conflict among team members can be manifested in different ways. A good project leader will always intercept to take action whenever conflict arises.
Recognition and Reward
A recognition and reward system will help in ensuring teams are motivated and perform to their level best. Completion of a project, as well as the steps that come along the way, can be very rewarding for team members. Outwardly celebrating all success milestones can be very motivating for team members
When project key milestones are reached, they should be well communicated to project teams and stakeholders. Rewards can come in many forms. There should also be an established mechanism for rewarding team members.
In anything that project teams do, the most important thing is to accept and appreciate the need to work as a team and help each other to achieve success together.
Tips for planning project meetings
If you take a role as project manager, you must be ready to plan and conduct product meetings on a regular basis. This will be part of your product management duties. Product meetings will ensure that projects are progressing the right manner without any restrictions.
Here are some important tips for you to follow when it comes to project meeting planning.
With this tip, it ensures that you have a clear meeting objective. Your meeting will be doomed if you don’t have clearly defined objectives. Before you can decide to schedule a meeting, ensure you have a set of smart objectives.
Write meeting agenda
When you set a meeting, you need to ensure you have a clearly defined agenda as well. Agendas will help you in making meetings shorter and produce expected results faster. You need to produce agenda 2-3 days before the actual meeting, to ensure your team can well prepare for the discussions ahead.
Keep documents organized
This point means you need to make the meeting documents as shorter as possible. Do not use piles of paper to hold meetings. Using multiple documents can demotivate and mislead your teams. Try to use 1-2 sheets of paper throughout the meeting.
Invite the right people
Members of your team will mostly be the major attendees of your project management meetings. However, from time to time, meetings will need to have someone from senior departments. You should know in advance when to ask for the input and participation of senior management.
To successfully manage projects in a startup, you will need to set up proper team management. This involves a sequence of activities for planning, acquiring, developing and managing teams. It is done to ensure teams become more valuable to the projects they are working on.
With a team management plan, startups stand a better chance of success in managing their projects. A team management plan outlines roles, responsibilities, relationships and skills that are required for teams to take a given project to completion.
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