Are you a Project management freelancer or consultant? Are you confronted frequently with the challenge of learning about a new company, a new organizational culture, or a new team? Getting your next project most certainly depends on your performance. Here are some tips on how to successfully deliver your projects based on project management best practices.
Your ultimate objective in Project Management is to deliver on time, within the budget, and with the quality and functionality requested. But you must also be sure to meet the objectives of the business and have the satisfaction of all stakeholders. This is easier said than done.
So how can you ensure to accomplish these objective no matter the situation you are faced with, the industry or the people involved. Here are some practical tips for project management best practices:
1- Have a plan and use it
In order to continuously deliver on time, without exception, you must have a strong plan. THE PLAN becomes your compass, guiding you to completion. It has beginning and end dates, end products and clear responsibility for each. Budgets need to be double checked and confronted with best practices.
2- Define deliverables / end products
Unlike traditional project plans that are based on a list of activities, build your plan with well defined End Products. Be clear on what needs to be delivered at its stage so that every participant know what must be accomplished. Focusing on End products changes the culture of the organization to DELIVERING and not WORKING.
3- Get the commitment/ support of each participant from the beginning
Another project management best practices is about committing each participant before the adoption of the plan. Everyone has to have a clear understanding that they are all on the same boat. They all have to buy in and feel that if something goes wrong everyone sinks.
4- Implement a culture of accountability
“I’m on it!” Constantly asking and reviewing progress makes people accountable for their work. Go over the plan periodically and ask repeatedly “who and when is this delivered?” it will become part of the organization culture.
5– Make the team review the plan periodically or as often as needed
Most of the time plans are drawn at the beginning of a project and then are put into a drawer. But one of the project management best practices is to force yourself and the team to go over, review and adjust, always respecting the deadline and budget.. Reviewing it often enables us to anticipate problems instead of react to them.
6- Work from the deadline backwards
Something I have learned from working as a project manager for many years at McKinsey & Company is to work from the end result. Deadlines and end product are defined at the beginning of the project. From there you envision the end result (establish your main hypothesis) and work the steps that have to be performed in order to arrive to the end product, proof (or disproof) your hypothesis and comply with the deadline. Most of the time the end product that you envision at the beginning is far from the final result but by having an hypothesis you have cut the work in half. It is just a question to prove or disprove your hypothesis. Very efficient!
7- Analyze other options for critical paths
Have them ready. Risk management is required to be a good project manager. Ask yourself what can go wrong? Who will deliver that sub-product if the supplier does not respond? Having backup plans for each step will ensure you will get to term.
8- Continuously question the value of the Project
As part of one the project management best practices, continuously question the objective of the project to ensure it is in line with business objectives. Don’t get attached to it, sometimes it is better to kill it. It is important to understand the context of the project. What is it that you really want to accomplish? What is the benefit for the organization? Projects can’t be seen as isolated islands. Questioning top management is necessary to understand the ultimate objective allowing you to make the right decision when encountering difficulties or options during the execution of the project.
9- Don’t forget the post-mortem evaluation
Finally, a project is not completed until you have systematically gone over the results and the process. What went wrong? What was done right? What can be improved for your next experience? Getting feedback from the management, the client and the team is crucial for your learning curve.
Project management is an art that requires discipline, knowledge of social and behavioral sciences, great communication and people skills. But above all, the most important tool that you must always focus on and never forget is THE PLAN. Think of it as your compass as it assists and directs you on each new project journey leading you down the road to success.