Friday, June 19, 2009

Five essentials for effective project management

Just about any job at some point will involve managing a project. Below are five essentials that, in my experience, I’ve found critical for the success of any project, big or small.

1. Single point of contact (SPOC) – Whether this is the project manager (PM), or someone appointed by the PM, there must be one person at the hub of all project activity, keeping track of everything, managing review and approval cycles, and so forth. This person will be tasked with touching base with all team members on a regular basis and updating progress checklists. Every team member should be required to check in with the SPOC at least weekly. And no one, not even a CEO or other executive, should go around the PM. Everything – every decision and communication pertaining to the project and the team – must flow through the PM.

2. Clearly defined roles – Every person on the team needs to be clear on what they are tasked to do and what they are responsible for (as well as what they are NOT responsible for). Any ambiguity in roles and responsibilities will inevitably lead to duplication of effort, wasted time, dropped balls, breakdown of team morale, and a host of other problems. Be clear at the beginning and assign ever member specific tasks and roles.

3. Prolific communication – The PM is the lead on communication and must over-communicate to the team regarding all aspects of the project in a regular and timely manner. Everyone on the team has a need to know about all the key essentials of the project, including progress, problems, status, bumps, changes, etc. And every team member has a responsibility to keep the PM fully informed of their progress. When an issue arises, it must be communicated to the PM immediately.

4. Team stability – Once the project team is set, unless there is truly a compelling reason to do so, it should, for the most part, remain intact. Replacing half or more of the team at any point will result in chaos and costly problems. Bringing new people onto the team, or having key people drop out (both of which can happen) must be managed carefully and the reasons for the changes communicated clearly to the entire team. Every change to the ream structure creates drag on the momentum.

5. Holistic viewpoint – While an effective way to methodically work through projects is to chunk the tasks into smaller components, the team and the PM must always maintain a holistic view of the project; they must be able to see how each part impacts every other part. Losing site of the whole will lead to a fragmented and ultimately unsuccessful project.

Okay, there are lots of other good tips for successful projects that I could list. These are my fab five. It goes without saying that you’ll need to manage your milestones carefully, hold people accountable, and so on. But, generally, if these five areas are covered, most projects will have a great chance for success.

Thoughts? What tips can you offer?

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