CAREER DEVELOPMENT / DEC. 30, 2014
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Top 5 Ways to Manage Projects Smoothly

Managing projects in the workplace can either be a great experience or a horrible nightmare. The factor determining that difference is whether or not the project has been well-planned and properly managed. There are 5 ways that a project can be managed smoothly, and this article will address those steps.

Project Management Steps

1. Picking the Right Team  

Ensuring that the right team is put into place will make a project move more smoothly. Having the right strategy is important, but if you don’t have the most proficient and symbiotic team, your project has more potential for failure. The team members need to share the same enthusiastic commitment to the group and drive to succeed. There are various team dynamics that need to work together to help the team work in sync. Those factors are as follows: skillset, personalities, motivation, vision, and workplace environment.

When those factors are out of sync, the project manager runs the risk of the entire project coming up short or even completely failing. The project manager needs to utilize a strategy specific to the goals when assigning tasks to team members. These assignments should be made with careful consideration as individuals are aligned into specific roles and sub-teams. There are software tools available, such as Copper Project, which provide the following: to-do lists, project plans, as well as the availability to set resources and schedule tasks. Team members can utilize such tools to log their work time and allow the project manager to use the fully automated timesheets and invoicing capabilities.

2. Making Strategic Plans  

This second step involves making strategic, yet realistic plans, which will increase the project’s success rate. The project manager and whoever is involved in upper management must be on the same page when making these strategic plans. If there is confusion among the upper management ranks, then that vagueness will trickle down to the team members. Proper planning will enable the team members to remain organized and complete tasks within project deadlines.

When the project is well-planned and executed properly, that increases the chances of the progress being efficiently reported back to upper management. Additionally, when a project is pre-planned, there is more likelihood that a realistic time schedule will be implemented and then achieved. The pre-planning stages also provides security in knowing that cost projections based on facts are more accurate than simple estimates based on conjecture. Furthermore, as deadlines and estimates are put into place—and when they are not met—the project manager will have a clearer understanding of ascertaining what went wrong and how to get back on track with goals.

3. Keeping Communication Open

A project manager must have a keen eye for details and also an acute listening ear to be able to keep all factors flowing smoothly toward success. This third step involves finding ways for the project manager to keep the lines of communication open among the team members, upper management, and outside resources. If miscommunications and progress become stagnant then, the project will tumble.

Open communication will assist the project manager in keeping the team informed of tasks, specific deadlines, and changes in any factors, as well as discussions of areas in need of improvement. Unattended issues can become major problems and negatively impact the success of the entire project. The optimal way to prevent issues from stagnation in your project is for the project manager to continually keep the lines of communication open during all stages.

4. Estimating Risk Factors  

A seasoned project manager knows that as the saying goes, the "best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." That is precisely why a successful project manager will carefully estimate all risk factors involved when planning the project. A listing of all possible risks involved—as well as when they may occur—needs to be kept and periodically reviewed and edited throughout all project stages.
 
This risk factor log should be made readily available to the upper management. Sub-team leaders should also have access to this log so that any emergency contingency plans can be put into place as necessary should any of these risk factors happen. At the discretion of the team leader, specific details of this risk factor log can be shared with the rest of the team members. If no specific details are given, it can be a good idea to at least advise the team that such risk factors—and precautions and possible solutions—have been taken into consideration. This gesture will give your team members more peace of mind and enable the project to continue smoothly.

5. Closing the Project Strongly

This final step is as important as the rest. The project must have a strong closure so that there are no loose ends or continually consumed resources. All upper management, team members, and customers or clientele must be on the same page as the project manager when all tasks are finally completed. Whether the project was being completed for a client or customer or an in-house department, these individuals need to be satisfied that the job was performed successfully, and all tasks met with proficiency. One idea that is time-tested is for the client or customer to complete a survey detailing their satisfaction level with the completed project. These surveys are also important documents to be logged and kept for future reference.

For a project to run smoothly, a project manager needs to be accountable to upper management and follow a specific strategy. The five steps as outlined in this article will assist project managers in completing a successful project.

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