All of us have to manage projects at some point, even if we are not project managers, even if we don’t have to do it for work. Here are some simple tips to get you started and to keep you on track.
Project Management is actually a specialised skill with some obtaining advanced degrees dedicated to the area. Yet for many of us, we learn project management techniques from experience, or on the job. So how do you stay organised if you know nothing about project management?
1. MAKE SURE TO HAVE A WIP (WORK IN PROGRESS)
Whether you’re managing a project on your own, managing a team or working as part of a team, be sure to keep a running list of Work In Progress. A good method for a team is to create some form of a table. I recommend the following table headings:
- Start Date – it can be very useful to know how long a task has been on the drawing board. Post evaluation is an important part of the learning process, it’s worth tracking and reviewing how long it actually takes to complete tasks. If longer than anticipated, you can examine why this was the case.
- Task Description – What is expected
- Who owns it
- Status – where is the task up to, how much has been complete etc
- Next Action – What is the next step in the task. This is particularly important if the project is waiting on someone else or something else. You may also wish to add an anticipated date for next action.
- Due Date – When does the task need to be completed. You may want to include a due date and an anticipated completion date to flag any tasks that may fall behind or put you ahead of schedule, creating breathing space in other areas.
2. ALWAYS HAVE MEETING
Meetings are an integral part of the project management process. It’s important to have meetings for status updates. If you are working on a project on your own, then the meeting needs to be a scheduled review time for yourself that you put in your diary. Recommended meetings:
- Planning & Development
- WIP meetings – help weekly, monthly or quarterly, this is a good way for a team to establish where bottlenecks or delays are occurring. It may require problem-solving or job sharing of tasks.
- Daily Stand Up meetings – stand-up meetings are a great way for individual team members to quickly debrief the rest of the team. The value of stand-up meetings is that, by standing up, people are less inclined to become detailed or verbose. The natural response in standing is to become quick and brief. It does require discipline of a basic rule or principle whereby it is agreed amongst the team that smaller discussions need to be held outside of the meeting without the rest of the group. By debriefing the team of your day’s agenda, people can be mindful of the needs of others or assist in problem-solving the day’s challenges.
3. KEEP MEETINGS TIGHT
As mentioned above, you need to have a good meeting structure to ensure that meetings don’t go astray. A basic agenda and time frame assists to keep meetings on track. Be clear about the expected outcomes for each specific meeting.
Make sure you are using the right tools for your meeting. For example:does it need to be a skype, webinar, stand-up or sit-down meeting? Or can shared documents and resources online/cloud serve the purpose.
4. MAKE FEEDBACK EASY
Feedback will become integral to your project. Ensure that you present as open and ready to receive it. If people feel that you will react negatively to bad news, they are less likely to share it. Don’t wait for the feedback either, check in with people or send reminders for status updates.
5. USE THE RIGHT TOOLS
Aside from Excel and Outlook, there are many other project management tools to track workflow. Trello is one of the more popular ones but my favourite is Evernote. Evernote has advanced search capacity and is designed to make use of tags (categories). Evernote has flexible data collection options allowing for PDF, documents, notes, pictures as well as incorporating wonderful scanning features such as business card scanning.