Timothy Meixner
Three Post its in different colors with the words "done", "doing" and "to do" on them

Using basic project management examples as a guide is a great way to learn how to manage your own projects. In life and business, you’ll inevitably come across different projects. It could be something you need to plan and build in your home, or your boss may have just positioned you into the latest project team set to tackle a dreadful task that seems impossible. Some projects naturally succeed, but others require a more practical approach. If you’ve never managed a project before, this course is wonderful for beginners as it gives not only the theory, but practical applications where the techniques of project management are applied.

Your ultimate goal in any project is to stick to the budget, get the most value from the team as possible, and eliminate any waste and last-minute scrambling. It sounds like there is much to learn, but it can be very simple to apply a set of process steps to a project and follow them through. If you’re interested in this field for a career, check out this post to learn what a project manager does, day-in and day-out.

Agile Project Management Fundamentals: Scrum, OKR and Kanban

Last Updated October 2021

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The steps to follow in successful project management are simple, and if you stick to them, you can apply them to any situation or task that needs to be organized. Despite this, many different schools of thought exist on the topic, plus many different versions of the process. In its simplest form, a project’s life cycle contains the following steps:

  1. Identify the project, including the scope of the problem.
  2. Determine the outcome you would like to see.
  3. Delineate all of the tasks in detail of what’s required to start your project management plan.
  4. Identify the players (or the team members) and assign responsibility, identifying any risks or external parties that can influence the outcome.
  5. Decide on a timeline for completing each part of the project so that you can create a project schedule.
  6. Review the outcomes, revise tasks as required, and give any future direction once you complete the project.

Perhaps the best way to understand this scope is with some examples to understand the steps and the logic behind how each phase in the process works.

Six project management examples

Example 1: building a shed

Identify the project

This includes the design of the shed, sourcing all the materials required for construction, and putting all of the various pieces together to get the finished shed.

Outcome

We will have a finished garden shed.

Delineate the tasks

There are going to be certain tasks that depend on others. You’re going to need to:

In this example, it’s obvious that you won’t be able to start fitting the walls until the floor is in place or start work on the roof until your walls have been raised.

Identify the players

These are the people on your team who will help. In this instance, it could be your neighbors, family, or your friends. You’ll need to lead them and give them direction on the tasks you want them to do. One project risk is bad weather, and another is the hardware store not having certain items or being closed altogether.

Timeline

For a project like this that is relatively simple, the timeline depends on how large your team is. With 10 people working on a garden shed, it could be finished in a matter of hours, but doing it alone may take 2-3 weekends.

Review

Look back and decide on what worked and what didn’t, perhaps a particular type of paint wasn’t the best choice, or a nail gun would have been more effective than a hammer. Make a note of it for next time, and ensure you have the right supplies for the job. 

Example 2: making cereal for breakfast

Identify the project

This project is simply making cereal for breakfast, including sourcing the cereal and milk, a bowl, and a spoon.

Outcome

You’re no longer hungry, and you’re ready to start the day.

Delineate the tasks

If you were starting this project from scratch, you would have a much better picture of the actual timeline of events that need to occur for you to have breakfast. The tasks would be as follows:

The tasks in a project often have strong dependencies. For something simple like making cereal, it is easy to spot them. You can’t pour milk into the bowl if you have not purchased it from the store. For larger projects, these can often be harder to spot, which is why you have to spend the time mapping out each part of the process and building a timeline. It doesn’t matter what you are planning; using these fundamentals, you’ll find that every project has a similar process to follow.

Identify the players

For eating breakfast, it is probably just yourself, unless you have a son or a daughter who helps out in the morning. Risks include not having one of the supplies, or realizing that the milk has expired.

Timeline

For breakfast, the timeline is immediate.

Review

You may decide to use less honey tomorrow or add something new like fruit to your cereal for added vitamins (and taste).

Example 3: planning a meeting

Identify the project

You’ll need to talk to the stakeholders and find out what they want the meeting to cover. If it’s a recurring meeting, is there anything that was done wrong that you can improve, or best practices they would like to see in your meeting? Find out what the person who assigned you the meeting wants out of it and if there is a budget for the event. Also learn when and where the meeting is being held, how long it will be, and what needs to be prepared by the attendees. The more information you can put together, the better.

People sitting around a large desk in a conference room

Outcome

A successfully run meeting that meets all of the stakeholder’s objectives within the budget and time constraints.

Delineate the tasks

Depending on what is required by the key stakeholders, this could be as follows:

This is a very basic outline of the tasks that come from planning a large meeting. If you are actually implementing this example, your project team will need to expand on each point. There are many dependencies as you progress down the list. Organizing the room setup is impossible if you haven’t booked a room! Don’t forget to consider the time taken for certain steps. It may take a number of days to confirm all of the speakers, and they will also need time to prepare themselves and their presentations, so remember to build this into your timeline.

Identify the players

You may need to reach out to staff in other departments to make the project a success. Consider what help you need from them, and reach out for assistance. It may be as simple as an IT employee coming to connect the projector, or you may need specific help from administrative staff that requires sign-off from their direct manager. Think about how much time you’re asking of each team member, and contingencies if something goes wrong or they are not available.

Timeline

Put thought into how the flow of the meeting will go, and ensure that all your preparation in the room is done beforehand. You don’t want to be running around finding a working microphone 2 minutes before you are due to start!

Review

Look back over the project and see if you can spot any areas for improvement next time. Perhaps the speakers would have liked more notice to adequately prepare, or the lunch breaks were too short and didn’t give ample time for the staff to network and build relationships within the office. Learn what went wrong, and ensure you improve on the next project.

Example 4: create a Black Friday ad campaign

Identify the project

Creating your first Black Friday ad campaign. This includes deciding if you want to hire an agency, what products you’re going to sell and what channels you’re going to use.

Outcome

Generating more revenue through higher sales and gathering data for future ad campaigns

Delineate the tasks

Regardless of if the campaign is done in-house or by using an external agency, many tasks need to be delineated.

Identify the players 

Whether or not you’re doing the campaign yourself, there will be different people involved, such as the person in charge of the campaign (in this example, it would be the project manager). This person is either responsible for managing your own team or talking to the agency that you hired. Additionally, you will have people creating the ads (depending on the chosen channel, the format could be anything from a sponsored Instagram post to a TV commercial). Whenever there are people involved, communication is key. You need to make sure that everybody involved feels comfortable sharing their opinion.

Among other risks, the biggest one is that a lot of companies are running black Friday campaigns each year, and your campaign might get lost among those, so you need to make sure that the market and audience you are trying to reach is listening. Since Black Friday is a highly competitive time of the year, you must have the budget for running a campaign at that time, especially if you are using more traditional marketing channels such as TV or banner ads. The competition is going to be fierce. 

Another risk for this type of project is always the possibility of it being too successful, meaning that the demand outweighs the possible supply. You need to make sure that your ad campaigns always match your stock. Ad campaigns are complex projects that require a lot of management and attention. If you don’t think that you or any of your team members are capable of handling the responsibility, I suggest you hire an agency to make sure.  

Timeline

Planning an ad campaign takes a long time. If you do it yourself, it will take a lot more time and work than it will if you hire someone to do it for you. If you must run the entire black Friday campaign yourself, then I suggest you start planning as early as August or even July. Especially if it is your first campaign because it will require a lot more research than an annual one.

If you choose to hire an agency, it will be necessary to reach out to them as early as possible since it is likely that most agencies are already booked for the time around Black Friday. Either way, the campaign needs to be planned, the budget, as well as the ads, need to be approved before anything goes live, and these things take time, so make sure to incorporate a buffer for when things don’t go as planned.

Review

The great thing about digital advertising is that you get data in return that you can use to improve future campaigns. If you hire an agency, they will provide you with a detailed report and tell you what worked and what didn’t. When it comes to projects that are based on ad campaigns, it’s crucial to know that most advertising networks offer realtime data that shows you how well your ads convert.

Identify the project 

Example 5: upgrading to a new phone

Different types of cell phones

Project management doesn’t need to be complex, and almost all of us have done project management without noticing. For instance, every time we change phones or buy a new computer, we act like a project manager that is trying to get the project “New Device” done successfully. So, in this example, we’ll have a look at how exactly buying a new phone would work from a manager’s perspective.

Outcome

I’d like to have a new phone, but I want to be able to use all my data, contacts, and media on my new device just as it was on the old one.

Delineate the tasks

Identify the players 

The people responsible for successfully completing this project are you and the person selling you the new phone. If you order it online, it would be the company that sells the phone and the delivery driver.

Timeline

The timeline depends on your current situation. If your old phone still works, it might not be necessary to switch today. Whereas if your phone constantly dies, you should upgrade immediately before you lose any of your data.

Review 

The great thing about these simple types of projects is that you notice quickly if they are a success or not. Because if you can’t access your data or the new phone doesn’t work, then the project failed. If all these things work, then you can congratulate yourself because you managed this project successfully. 

Example 6: create and publish an online course

Identify the project

In this project, you will create an online course, from writing the script to recording video and putting all the content in a curriculum that makes sense. Creating a course is something that benefits from good project management.

Determine the outcome

A successful online course that sells very well.

Delineate the tasks 

If you were to create an online course, chances are that you already have a computer at hand and are somewhat capable of using it. So, I’ll skip these tasks and only delineate the necessary tasks for creating an online course. 

Identify the players

If you are going to produce the course entirely by yourself, you don’t necessarily need external help, but I can tell you from experience that it’s much easier if you have somebody to help you — especially if you decide to use the talking head format a lot. It is a lot less work if somebody else works the camera and teleprompter. However, it would still be necessary that you decide on one person to lead this project.

Timeline

The timeline depends strongly on the course topic and the amount of material the finished course will cover. It also depends on how much time you have each week to work on your course. If you are going to do it as a hobby, it will take you a lot longer than if you would do it full time.

Review

Once the course is published, you will need to promote it and listen to the feedback people taking your course give you. You need to read the reviews and messages you get, take them seriously, and try to improve your course based on them.

Conclusion

Project management is present in nearly every aspect of your life because it’s simply a set of processes you follow to complete a task. Hopefully, these project management examples helped you realize that. To run through it all in more detail, this course is fantastic, and gives a helicopter view of the three most popular agile project management frameworks so you can be sure to choose the one that fits your needs. 

Almost everything you do that has both a beginning and an end is a project, but you don’t need to sit down with a yellow legal pad and draw it all out. With simple projects, you can easily run through all of these steps in your head, and for the big jobs, perhaps it pays to make a few notes — just so you don’t forget anything. And for really complex projects, you can use project management software to plan the process.

Page Last Updated: October 2021

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