While just throwing yourself (or your team) head first into a project is an option, taking a more planned out approach can make the process a lot easier. That’s the premise of the methodologies behind project management. Rather than just trying to hold all of the different parts of a project in your head, most project management strategies take a fixed and measured approach to new work, so that it’s easier to accomplish.
You may have seen certain techniques, like ‘The Art of Less Doing‘, that are geared toward the personal level, but project management can encompass a much larger set of strategies.
The Core Project Management Steps
Depending on the specific approach you take to project management, you may need to handle a variety of steps. But there are some core steps that just about every approach to project management incorporates:
- Define the scope: Your project needs to be clearly defined, down to the goals you want to accomplish. Otherwise, how will you know when the project is over or if it was successful?
- Determine what resources you have: From human resources to the budget, you need to know what you have to work with, if only so you can balance your resources and the time in which you have to complete the project.
- Decide the time line: There are often external due dates that dictate how long you have to work on a project. But if you don’t have the necessary resources, you may need to negotiate those expectations.
- List the key dependencies: Any big project will have multiple moving parts that you need to complete. You need to know what order you need to complete the big pieces of the project so that you can keep moving along the path efficiently.
- Break down the work into steps: While you probably don’t need extremely specific steps (like ‘open your laptop’), you do want to break work down into concrete tasks you can assign. Tasks like ‘design a website’ are probably too broad.
- Create an initial plan: Often within project management software, you want to create a specific plan, down to when different tasks need to be completed. If you’re working with a team, you’ll also want to make sure that each member knows his or her assignments.
- Get feedback: Depending on just who you’re completing a project for, you’ll likely need to get the okay to move ahead from stakeholders (like your boss or your client).
- Do the work: It seems like doing the actual work that makes up your project should be a bigger step, but once you have a plan in place, you should be able to just follow it and get everything done.
- Adjust your plan as necessary: Of course, problems may pop up as you’re working. But with a good plan in place, resolving them should be a matter of making adjustments, rather than starting all over.
Most project management courses and certifications will focus on this core approach. You need to have a handle on these project management steps if you’re going to lead a team successfully.
Try Different Approaches to Project Management
Different industries and even individual companies have their own project management strategies, tweaked to deal with their special concerns. It’s worth exploring options that have been created with certain types of projects in mind, like the Agile method of software development. You may just find an approach to managing projects that fits perfectly with the work you need to accomplish.
Similarly, there are many options when it comes to choosing project management tools. Some tools, usually including those meant for enterprise-level organizations, often handle so much different information and offer so many different options that users need a class in just using the project management software. The benefit of investing time in learning both project management techniques and tools, though, is that you’ll be able to speed up your future projects with more efficient plans and management.