Tips to Improve Your Project Management Skills

By Allen Glines
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After consulting with Ryan Williams, a project management guru within our company, we generated a list of five items we felt were most important for any kind of project management. Her suggestions laid the foundation for this article because her expertise in this area is remarkable. Below are the ideas she sent us bolded and in quotation marks with our interpretations below.

1. “Project definition" – Define project scope in 1-3 sentences and include it in every project meeting to avoid scope creep.”

The scope statement helps stakeholders develop a common understanding of the project and specifies what should be the goals and objectives of the project and what needs to be accomplished for the project. Scope creep refers to uncontrolled changes in a project’s scope. This occurs when the scope of a project is not controlled, documented or defined properly.

Defining project scope and avoiding scope creep are important because doing so keeps the stakeholders in the know and the project on budget and schedule. “There will be people who try to change things or add things to the project without allow for time line changes. Watch out for these people,” Gerald Nichols, another project management guru within our company, said. Maintaining a balance of both aspects is a difficult task, but they are crucial to not losing control of the project. A clear plan leads to flawless execution. If everything is plotted out perfectly, and the members of the team keep referring to that plan, odds are the project is going to be a success.

Gerald Nichols weighed in on the topic, saying “Understand exactly what the project encompasses. That way there are no surprises later.”

2. “Key Resources" – Assign a resource from each department involved in the project. This resource is responsible for attending meetings and keeping their team posted on progress.”

Selecting a representative from each department allows for the remaining members to continue their work while the representative is doing the job of filling everyone else in. Uprooting all of the people that are working on the project can be a painstaking endeavor. Streamlined meetings with just the representatives are more conducive to a productive discourse.

3. “Milestones" - Define priorities and set dates for tasks to be accomplished to keep project on track.”

Everything in life has to be prioritized, especially when it comes to project management. You want everyone working on the project to work on the most important thing first and work down the list until it’s completed. Also, deadlines provide the workers with a goal for when the task should be finished. Deadlines must be honored for the project to stay on target.

4. “Time Management" – If tasks are not completed on their required dates, adjust the calendar or priorities appropriately, so other departments are not adversely affected.”

As much as we would like to meet every deadline, disasters can happen that take our eyes off the prize. A worker can try their hardest to get something done on time, but every so often it isn’t meant to be. “Don’t try and estimate a project until it has been broken down to tasks. You will/can forget about smaller tasks that when added together will push your time frame out,” Nichols said.

This isn’t their fault though, so everything can be adjusted accordingly. However, in the case of employees who don’t get their work done for reasons of their own design, the team needs to be adjusted more than the calendar.

“When it comes to projects it is the same as the old line “How do you eat an elephant?” – One bite at a time. Take the project and break it down to tasks, if a task can be broken down to more tasks, do it. You should end up with a list of tasks that you can put time to and milestones,” Nichols said.

5. “Manage Expectations" – Constant communication with the key resources and project stakeholders on progress. If priorities or end dates change, all stakeholders should know.”

Communication is important in any relationship, especially ones between the project manager and their team and the company and their stakeholders. Constant, productive communication needs to occur for the project to be completed on time and without too many disgruntled employees coming away from it. The stockholders need to stay informed because they want to be involved in the company’s operations. Alienating them could result in the financial collapse of the company as a whole.

“Keep everyone on the team in the loop, even if they are not directly involved with that piece. You might think that development is not involved in a sales decision, however they might be greatly impacted by the decision or have a better idea you have not thought of,” Nichols said.

Using the five recommendations above and online project management services could help you complete any project with stunning results. Keep in mind the other guidelines for your respective industries. Those rules and what we’ve provided will lead you on a surefire path towards success.

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