As a leader of empowered teams, you want them to be motivated and inspired by the projects that they are responsible for. There are 5 fundamentals to Project Management success for self-leaders, and you’re going to get a good look at each of those elements through this 5-part blog series.
If you missed the first instalment, “Visioning / Goal setting”, you’ll want to skip back there to start from the beginning of this learning journey. All caught up? Great, in this instalment, you’ll discover the 6 things you need to know about getting organised for Project Management excellence. From agreement, to identifying tasks, managing resources and choosing the ideal Project Management method, it’s covered in this post.
All projects have three main constraints: time, cost and scope. Time and cost are, of course, self explanatory. Scope explains the requirements / features of the project. (In some Project Management models ‘scope’ is interchangeable with ‘quality’). Added together these three factors affect the quality of the project and they all rely upon one another. Very rarely can a project be cheap, fast and meet all of its scope goals. It is more common to pick two constraints to deliver against e.g. short and within scope or a longer turn around with a reduced spend.
It is essential that you understand from your stakeholders their order of priority for these constraints from the outset, as this will inform the decisions that you make when planning and implementing the project.
An agreement in writing at this stage is not final – as you will still need to plan the project and review whether all of the goals can realistically be met. But having a summary at this stage provides clarity and accountability for everyone involved.
For small projects this may be as a little as a short email: e.g. you have agreed to cater for 80 people on 2023 with these dietary needs, focusing on light foods so people can feel comfortable networking and then dancing. The budget is [£x].
For larger projects this may be a lengthy report detailing the background, previous action, proposed goals and needs of multiple stakeholders.
Remember, once you have explored the project needs in-depth through visioning and goal setting and clarifying the constraints, you should create an agreement of the goals in writing. This is sometimes referred to as a Project Initiation Document.
It’s time to break down the project into tasks. First, you’ll want to identify all of the tasks and then you’ll need to sort them. Let’s take a closer look at these two stages of task management:
Now that you know what you are aiming for, you can begin identifying all of the possible tasks needed to complete the project. There are normally three ways of generating this task list:
Top tip: The tasks are best recorded on individual post-it notes, as this will make it easier to work with them at later parts of the project management stage.
Sorting tasks into groups can be a great way of identifying items that are missing. It also begins the process of splitting the project into phases and allocating responsibility. How you sort tasks will depend on the complexity and formality of your project. For smaller projects you may group certain tasks by type, or responsible person. E.g.
Now that you understand the tasks your project depends on, you can start crunching resources.
This is, of course, an estimate, but you’re going to want to map out any and every resource that you judge, from your explorations up to this point, that your project will require. To put this another way, your resources will include:
Examples may include:
The way you record your resources will depend on the scale, length and complexity of your project. For smaller projects, you may be able to simply add annotations to your Gantt Chart or work breakdown structure so that you can see on the timeline when things will be required. For more complex projects, it’ll be helpful to make a separate tracking system such as a table, chart or report. Decide whether to present the resources for the whole project, or whether to break them down into time units (week one, month one) or project phases (development stage, delivery stage)
Once your tasks and resources are clearly defined, you’ll be able to choose the best Project Management method to achieve your goals.
There’s a perfect Project Management method for every project / team. Some Project Management methods to consider:
This is where the series of tasks is carried out sequentially. It means that one stage cannot really be started until the previous is completed (at least, not without project risks – something you’ll get a look at later in the series). This is a linear project flow that can be tracked on a Gantt Chart. Some team members may be left waiting around (or can be redeployed elsewhere in the interim) with this method and it can be time consuming for some types of projects which would benefit from parallel task completion.
Although the tasks are generally sequential, it is possible to start one task as another is finishing to save time. For example, you need the plans for a house before building it – but you could build the foundation and load-bearing walls before finalising the designs for the upstairs.
This covers a range of principles and values used by teams carrying out projects. It is a system that was developed in the Software Development industry and its use has now been expanded into other types of projects. The Agile Manifesto states that the values of this method are:
Agile is often broken down into two styles: Scrum and Kanban. These styles both promote efficiency and collaborative working when a team is working on lots of floating tasks (such as in software development). Scrum is a useful approach for newer teams who may not be as confident self-managing. Mature teams may find the pattern of planning involved in the Scrum style tiresome and repetitive, and so favour a Kanban approach.
After choosing your Project Management method, having defined the tasks and constraints, it’s time to go back to stakeholders and take them through the complete picture of the project; to get their buy-in as some aspects of the plan may have shifted from your initial discussions.
It is good practice to meet with the stakeholders and share the original project definition / goals alongside the plan you have created. For smaller projects, it may be enough to have an open discussion where you outline the plan and verbally make adjustments based on needs (e.g., can you give us an extra week? Can we cut one of the requirements?) Larger projects may need a formal written proposal – or even multiple proposals such as the low-cost option, the fast option and the narrower scope option for stakeholders to consider.
As this can be a sensitive part of the project other powerful self-leadership skills will come in to play, including:
When you have adapted the project plan following your discussion, you should confirm all of the final plans in writing; so that yourself and the stakeholders have a clear picture moving forwards.
The next fundamental to Project Management success, once you’re organised, is time management. The best thing that you can do to manage your time well is to prioritise your tasks in terms of importance and urgency. Pop back on the 8th June for the next instalment of this 5-part series, where you’ll get expert insights into managing your time effectively. Whilst you’re waiting, you might be interested in these blog posts looking at planning rest, time management and proactive self-leadership.
If you’re already itching to get started and unlock the Project Management potential and power of your team, The Self Leadership Initiative is here for you. Book in a FREE 30 minute chat with Founder Gemma Perkins to discuss your team’s needs today.