Project Management 101: 4 Tips to Keep a Project On Track
“It’s either easy or impossible.”—Salvador Dali
At Easy Projects we prefer the former. So here’s a little Project Management 101 guide to help you get the basics of project management and avoid common project management mistakes.
Check out these four easy-to-implement project management tips to keep your projects on track:
1. Monitor the Critical Path
Projects inevitably go off course. Rather than let delays make you nervous and disrupt your focus, keep your eye on the big picture by determining a project’s critical path.
A project’s critical path is the shortest possible time in which a project can be completed. Ever hear of the Pareto Principle? 20% of every project will impact 80% of its success.
Determine the all-important 20%, a project’s critical path, by establishing tasks that other tasks of the project depend on. The more dependencies that branch off one task, the more critical that task is to the project. Knowing a project’s critical path allows you to brush off insignificant setbacks and focus on the main contributors to a project’s success.
Monitor the critical path using Gantt Charts to focus on the project’s priorities and ensure they are running smoothly.
2. Keep Track of Hours
Often times this is a habit that quickly falls to the waste side, but there are many benefits in regularly monitoring your team’s work hours. Think of some typical reasons you get stressed on a project: you feel like your rushing against the clock, you missed a deadline and the client is upset, you’re worried about how your project team is progressing on a task. Those types of stress can be attributed to time and team management problems.
Tracking time on projects provides you with great historical data for your next project. When providing timeline estimates to a client you can compare how long a similar task took in the past and make a more accurate prediction of a reasonable deadline to expect. Team time tracking can be paired with status updates to provide you a clearer picture on how everything is going with yout ream.
Encourage a daily submission rule for time logs to improve submission accuracy and keep time tracking up to date. Compare daily time logs against the your original timeline to discover initial warning signs of a project going off course and be able to remedy the problem before it creates larger issues.
3. Get Frequent Status Updates
One of the most common mistakes in successful project management is poor team communication. In order to fix issues before they become problems, a good project manager should know his or her team’s status at all times. Create a team culture that rewards daily status updates and doesn’t punish problems that are reported early. A team that is forthcoming with information increases problem-solving efficiency and clarity regarding a project’s status.
Check in with your team regularly (via email, a phone call, even a good old fashion conversation) and record important project updates in writing so you don’t forget. Store all project related documents in one place for easy access and reference. Hunting through your inbox for random files not only wastes time but also increases the likelihood of losing or forgetting important information.
4. Correspond Regularly with Clients
Corresponding regularly with your client is as important as corresponding regularly with your team. A client in-the-know is a happy client. Provide them project updates before they ask.
Keep them in the loop and let them see the process so they feel confident the project is progressing the way they envisioned. Remember, it’s okay to tell a customer that there is a problem, as long as it’s not at the last moment.
Borrow from Agile methodology— even for non-software projects— and share intermediate results to seek feedback. That way, if a problem comes up somewhere down the line—like a deadline looking like it will be missed—the customer won’t be shocked because they will have already known that the timeline might be too short. Write updates, and attach project files and links in the message board to stay on the same page.