The amount of planning and work required to manage and complete a project can be overwhelming at first. Instead of throwing yourself out of the nearest office window, the best approach is to break it all down into ‘manageable’ portions and structure the required efforts into clear steps. Here’s how.
Most projects have 5 phases: initiation, definition and planning, execution, implementation, control and close. Each contains specific tasks that will help you reach your project goals.
In this phase, your team will be evaluating the project idea: Is it part of our company’s core business? Can we do this? Will it benefit the organisation? If the answer is three times yes, then you can start defining the scope or desired outcomes of the project and identifying potential partners. Consequently, if your project requires a feasibility study, this is the time to do it.
The end result of this phase is a project plan, which needs to be approved by all parties involved. Doing this right prevents misunderstandings and false expectations later on.
In this crucial phase, the roadmap for the rest of the project is laid out. This includes (but isn’t limited to):
- setting concrete goals and objectives
- estimating costs
- defining scope and key deliverables
The project plan will contain information about the procurement of resources as well as how to produce quality output, handle risks and unforeseen circumstances, communicate within your team and with external stakeholders, and more. Ideally, it also contains a clear timeline of what needs to happen when. A great way to do this is by creating milestones: high-level goals with clear end dates.
In most cases, this is where the project becomes visible to the outside world. It usually starts with a team kick-off meeting where everyone is informed of their tasks and any relevant project details. This phase is about creating quality deliverables. As a project manager, your task is to allocate the right resources and keep your team members focused on their assignments. This also means that the success of the project execution phase depends on how thorough you were in the project planning phase.
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4. Monitoring and control
This phase often overlaps with the execution phase. In the course of the project, you’ll keep a close eye on the status of the deliverables, and schedule regular team meetings to ensure that you remain on track. This is also the phase where you’ll be vigilant for ‘scope creep’.
Want to keep the number of status meetings to an absolute minimum? Cloud-based project management software allows team members to update task status in real time.
A project is closed when the finished deliverable has been formally handed over, and all stakeholders have been informed. But before that happens, it’s wise to sit down with the team and evaluate the project: what went well, and what could have gone better? This will help you avoid similar mistakes in the future and allow you to build stronger processes and create more efficient teams.