Highest Common Denominator: 5 Universal Project Management Best Practices
Project management is a tough job, and can get overwhelming even if you’ve already been at it for several years. While every industry is different and every project manager has a different management style, there are certain best practices that are critical to any project’s success.
Fortune favors the prepared. That’s why a good project manager will front-load the project and try to create as complete a project plan as possible. This is the perfect time to assess risk, gather resources, and introduce changes to the project plan in a safe environment. The larger the project, the more important front-end loading becomes.
Protect your Project Plan
“Scope creep” has reached the status of a four letter word, and with good reason. It wastes time, money, and manpower and winds up being more costly for the stakeholder than if they’d included it from the beginning. Don’t let yourself get pushed into making changes “just because”. Stick to your guns, and make sure the client knows the penalties associated with scope creep before they sign off on anything.
Coach, Don’t Command
Yeah, you’re in charge. But not just of the project. As a leader and role model, you’re also in charge of your team’s growth and development. Be a resource for your team, not just an order-giver. If you can hone their technical skills and nurture them into become effective leaders in their own right, it will be a major plus for both your team and your organization.
Project managers have many tools at their disposal to measure project progress, but Earned Value Analysis is one of the better ones. Instead of just comparing planned to actual results, EVA incorporates cost, schedule, and scope and can be used to predict future performance and project completion dates. It’s more accurate and gives a better idea of impending project risk.
This is a critical best practice that I still see project managers ignore—especially if the project goes well. They go, “it went smoothly, no need to correct anything, let’s move on.” But no! In fact, the end a smooth project is the perfect time to conduct a post mortem, so that you can figure out what you did right and try to duplicate it.
Admittedly, even with the best team, tools, and methodologies, things can still go wrong. Try as we might, project managers can’t control everything. But with the right best practices, we can increase the likelihood of getting the perfect project, no matter what industry we’re in. Lightning does strike twice. We just have to raise our standards high enough.
Image Credit: Flickr, Sharon Flowers