At one point your projects used to work out great, but suddenly things don’t seem to be going too well. Maybe the types of projects your team handles have changed or the team itself have changed, or maybe it’s just a sign of the times. Whatever the case, here are five signals from the universe that indicate your project management process is due for a refresh.
Process vs Methodology
Let’s first clarify what is meant by the word ‘process’ and how it is not to be confused with the term ‘methodology’.
A process is simply a set of well-defined steps one would take to complete a task. A process is very straightforward because there are no governing rules or variables that would change how a process works. An example of a process would be the steps you take to process payments from your clients.
A methodology is an approach to solving a particular problem. It is governed by a set of rules, for how you do something that you can test, measure and deliver results with. In project management that would be any methodology that one would use to deliver a project. (Kanban, Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, etc.)
Now that we’ve differentiated those. Let’s take a look at what we mean by the project management process. A project management process represents the steps that you take, outside of your project, to manage your team and their work.
Here are the five signs that your project management process needs an update:
Deadlines are always missed.
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”- Douglas Adams
That whooshing noise is terrible because it means that your perfect plan now has a dent in it. Missed deadlines are a bane to the existence of all project managers because once a deadline is missed it throws off the entire project. If deadlines are being missed often, it means that you need to re-evaluate your process.
In the case of frequently missed deadlines, you want to focus on capacity planning and flexibility.
You need to ask yourself:
- What are we doing wrong during the planning phase of the project?
- Are we getting input from the team on estimates times to complete certain tasks?
- Where can we be more flexible, or how can we provide some cushion as the project progresses?
Our team at Easy Projects uses several strategies to help mitigate the risk of missed deadlines. One of the tactics we use is a little exercise called planning poker where team members contribute their own estimates for how long it will take them to finish their assigned tasks. As a project manager, you don’t always know the ins and out of a task and that’s OK. Your team members are experts in their fields and can give you the best estimates.
How you plan your resources before a project begins can also have a big impact on the delivery. After you’ve collected the estimates, it’s a good idea to plug and play with a resource simulation tool, like the one we have at Easy Projects. Our Resource Loading Simulation will help you choose the right team (based on availability and skills), check that resources are available and make sure that there are conflicts with other projects. This kind of insight will allow you to plan better with your team so that deadlines are not missed as often as they used to be.
As your project progresses you can also use the Resource Planning Software as a way to keep an eye on things and course correct if required.
…And nobody knows why….
It’s one thing for deadlines to be missed and it’s another to have no idea why. If no one seems to know why the deadlines are being missed, there might be an issue with team collaboration or the communication aspect of your team. The good news is that this is an easy fix. The other news is that it will require a top-down approach that you will have to remain consistent with.
At Easy Projects, we use a number of tools to help increase transparency:
- Messaging Boards
Within Easy Projects team members can leave updates at both the task and project levels so if there is a delay they can let the team know what’s causing the holdup. Team members are notified via email and within EP itself.
- Gantt Charts
Gantt Charts are great for visually communicating where the issues are in a project. You can clearly see the dependencies and any bottle-necks that are preventing work from moving forward.
Tasks get lost in the shuffle
How do you assign work to your team? Do you have a meeting and give them lists? Or do you have a more meticulous approach? The reason why we ask this is that refining this particular process will help move a project along much faster; the process of how you assign work.
If tasks are simply discussed and not tracked, they will get forgotten or delayed because they have not been prioritized and they are not visible to other team members. In this situation, it’s important to have tools that help track tasks. In Easy Projects, task management is a core feature that runs the show. Every great project starts with a task and all of the details surrounding it.
You can add an unlimited number of tasks and add any information related to it including deadlines, progress, budget, estimated hours, messages, attach files, and status.
Your Team is Taking Shortcuts to Get the Job Done
So this one is tricky to tackle because project managers are also guilty of this. At the end of the day, you want the job done and don’t normally care how it gets done. However, your job also requires keeping track of things and that’s why there are processes in place. The first thing you want to do is lead by example. The second thing you want to do is simplify the process as much as possible.
At Easy Projects, our entire marketing team works across a single Kanban board. This board is the hub of our operations. Our team can quickly go in, and…
- Know what they need to be working on
- See what needs approvals
- Respond to messages
- Update the status of their tasks by dragging and dropping into the appropriate category
This board is so easy to use and update. Actually it’s fun because everyone can see how much they’ve accomplished and started work on items in the pipeline without overthinking it. It’s also a great way to keep everyone motivated because workloads are visible to everyone.
The other tool we like to use to communicate is Slack. We use this to share information outside of our projects like marketing ideas, new information we’ve learned, or upcoming events we want to attend.
These are the only tools we use – Easy Projects Kanban Board and Slack. With such a simple process in place, there is no way that anyone could cut corners again.
People Are Overworked and Stressed
If productivity is down, it could be a sign that your team is overworked and stressed out. And the fact that your team is stressed is a sign that maybe you need to look at how you’re assigning work. Work should never be something that is perpetually stressful. There may be stressful moments before a deadline, but overall it should be a calm process of problem-solving and task completion through clear prioritization and a shared vision for the project.
At Easy Projects, we use Resource Loading Analytics to uncover why team members might be stressed out and unable to perform. One of the most important variables to look at is the most simple: workload. When a single individual is overburdened it causes backups with dependent tasks and burnout. By running resource analytics you’ll be able to see where the problems are so you can solve them, leading to a happier and more productive team.
When you manage your team with better processes, the will function better and most importantly be happier and more satisfied in their work-life. Keep in mind the five signs that we’ve shared:
- Deadlines are being missed
- …and no one knows why!
- Tasks are getting lost in the shuffle
- Your team is taking shortcuts to complete work (not following your current process)
- Your team is overworked and overstressed.
Thanks for reading! If you have some more ideas on how to improve the project management process, please leave a comment for us below.