There are all kinds of projects: simple, complex, big or small, and many of them follow the same logic. Take a look at these 9 steps and learn how to manage (almost) any project.
How to manage a project?
- Define goals
- Define completion date
- Define all project activities
- Allocate resources
- Estimate time and cost per activity
- Implement plan
- Monitor and control
- Deliver project
Let’s take a closer look into each one of these steps:
1. DEFINE THE GOALS FOR YOUR PROJECT
Every project needs a goal, or a set of goals, that have to be accomplished in order to finish the project. This goal needs to be settled in objectives that can be measured so we can know where we are heading to and what we need to get there.
Defining the goal is the first step on every project management process. Start by developing SMART objectives (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely), that you can keep track on to see if the project has been completed successfully or not.
After you’ve defined the project objectives and goals, you can then determine the projects scope. The scope will allow you to clearly define all activities and resources that are needed to achieve the specified objectives and goals.
So, remember, if you don’t have clear goals and objectives, your project is most likely to fail.
2. DEFINE COMPLETION DATE
Every project needs to have a finish date. In fact, this is one of the main characteristics of a project, and what differentiates it from an ongoing task.
Once you know what your goal is you need to put a finish date so that everyone can be clear on what is expected and by when. This completion date is crucial for determining what resources (people, software, money, etc.) the team needs in order to accomplish the goal on a timely manner.
So, start by defining the finish date so you can identify the tasks that need to be done and assign a specific date for each one of them.
3. DEFINE ALL PROJECT ACTIVITIES
Once you know what your goal is, and when you need to accomplish it, you need to set up a list of activities that need to be executed. These activities, usually shown as tasks, need to have an order, dependencies (what do I need to finish before I can start a new task, for instance), due date and a responsible of the task.
Don’t ignore any activity, as small as it seems, because the monitoring and control of the project depends on the fulfillment of these activities. You will track the whole projects progress based on the progress of these tasks.
4. ALLOCATE RESOURCES
Now that you know what needs to be done, and by when, it’s time to define what resources are needed to complete your listed activities. Think of resources as all the things that you physically and virtually need to make a task happen (team members, software, equipment, facilities, documents, templates, etc.).
Define the resources for each activity with it’s quantity and description, and place it in a visible place so that everyone in the team is aware of what they have available for accomplishing each task. Keeping control of the available resources is the best way to ensure the project stays within scope and budget.
5. ESTIMATE TIME AND COST PER ACTIVITY
Now that you know what every task implies in terms of resources, is time to estimate a duration and cost for each activity. You already have a due date for each task, so try to identify how much time it will take to complete each of these tasks. Ask questions like “How much time of the team members is this task going to take?”. With the duration of all tasks, and the additional resources needed in mind, estimate a cost for each activity.
You need to have clarity on how much the total project is going to cost, so you can measure, at the end, if it was successful or not. Having a cost per activity, allows you to easily control the performance of the whole project, and take decisions based on what’s working and what is not.
6. IMPLEMENT PLAN
So you are done with the planning. Well done! Planning a project can be the most difficult part of the project management process. If you did a good job, you shouldn’t have problems with the implementation. But be aware that projects don't always go according to plan, so the better you plan it the more you’re prepared to take well informed decisions during the process so you can still have a cost-effective project, even if changes are made in the road.
When implementing a project plan, we suggest you use a tool or platform where everyone in the project can have access to all the information available. Simple tools like “Notes” or “Google Drive” can help, but a Project Management software would be ideal.
Check our new and Complete guide to Project Management!
7. MONITOR AND CONTROL
As you implement the plan, it is important that you monitor the progress of the activities of the project and the resources used. Monitoring will give you the information you need to see if the project is being executed as planned or if there are important variations that can have an impact on the final outcome.
What isn’t measured can’t be managed. So if you want to properly manage your project and ensure a successful outcome, you need to measure as much as you can. Having a tool or software would be helpful since it will automatically measure items like time progress or money investments.
8. DELIVER PROJECT
Once the project is finished, it needs to be properly delivered. Make sure you save all the information related to the project in one sole place that you can share with the project owner. Remember to share usernames, passwords, documents, software available, etc., just everything that the owner needs in order to take control of the final outcome and be able to go back if he needs to.
Finally, once you deliver the project you need to finalize all the tasks that were completed during the process so you can formally end the project. Analyse what was planned vs what was actually achieved. Is it the same? Is it better? is there something missing? Explain the reasons of the final outcome and come up with a list of what worked and what didn’t. Conduct a Lessons Learnt meeting to identify the important lessons that were learnt during the whole project process, in order to effectively learn from them and avoid repeating the same mistakes twice on any future projects.
The purpose of this final stage is to assess the project, give it a closure and get feedback to see what worked, which lessons you learned and the best practices that can be applied in future projects.