ONE of the critical challenges in any industry is executing projects efficiently and effectively. This includes meeting tight deadlines and producing flawless results.
A project can range from a new product development in a small or medium industry to something as big as organising an event or a construction project. Or it could be done on the internal level within an organisation such as implementing a new system or programme.
Irrespective of the nature of a project, certain commonalities and "best practices" can be observed for successful project management and execution. And adhering to deadlines is critical in any project or programme implementation.
The trust and satisfaction gained from a happy client upon the robust execution of a project can translate into more business opportunities for an organisation.
Regardless of its scale, a project leader occupies one of the hottest seats in an organisation. Here are 10 tips for effective managing and executing of a project from conceptualisation to completion:
1. Define the objective
The key to starting a project is to identify the precise "deliverables", especially the tangible ones, from the word go.
Point out as many points as possible and get the agreement of the client or stakeholders, such as the top management, for internal projects to avoid conflict and misunderstanding later.
2. Establish a road map
The next step in the project execution is to establish a project management plan. List down various activities or processes sequentially.
If you are tasked to meet a pre-defined target date, work backwards from the target date and remember to align the plan with the goals.
Make room for unexpected delays by having some buffer in the timeline. As far as possible, provide specific target dates for clarity instead of the week number. Prioritise activities depending on how each activity fits into the overall project plan.
3. Assign roles
Once the activities are listed, assign a process manager for each task. A distinction should be made between the main process manager and co-process manager who will support the execution of the individual tasks to avoid confusion on accountability.
Encourage process managers to develop their own "micro-plan" for the individual activities that correspond with the overall plan.
4. Engage everyone
Involve all critical team members like suppliers and contractors during the early stages, where applicable, to obtain the necessary support and commitment to the project activities and timeline. Get feedback from the team and incorporate valid suggestions into the project plan.
5. Assess and reassess
Review the requirements thoroughly. These include the intended objectives or application and legal or other licensing requirements. A detailed review and interpretation of the requirements would help to avoid any unpleasant surprises at mature stages of the project development.
Beware of any lapse or oversight at the initial stages that may result in delays and additional costs. Estimate the resources and expenses needed to obtain the necessary approval for the budget.
6. Identify challenges
The client or top management will appreciate any concerns of real or potential challenges raised before the project commences. Have counter-proposals ready while voicing these concerns as this expedites the decision-making process while reflecting your involvement and knowledge of the project at hand.
7. Anticipate obstacles
It is always a good practice to predict potential obstacles and have contingency plans ready for such eventualities, especially at the critical stages. This will prevent panic and uncertainty should your team bump into any obstacles.
8. Check the progress
Do a periodic review of the project's progress. This is vital in ensuring that the project is going according to plan. The reviews should include all process managers, and a reporting system needs to be established for feedback on the progress of each activity.
Should any unforeseen issues be encountered, create a plan on how to react to them and publish them to keep all stakeholders updated.
A simple colour code like a traffic light system provides an effective snapshot of the status of various activities. This would also serve as a quick overview to update the top management or client.
9. Pat on the back
Check that the end result meets the goals of the project upon completion. If the output falls short of expectations, find the gaps and act on them quickly.
Show your appreciation to the team once the project has been completed. Acknowledging efforts will go a long way in boosting your team members' morale and motivation.
10. Keep in mind
Once the project has been delivered, reflect on the execution process. Record the problems encountered and the lessons learnt. Doing so will help in future projects and identify opportunities for systemic improvements within the organisation.