Monday morning starts off with a positive attitude, a cup of Joe and my trusty to-do list. I return from the weekend refreshed and ready to conquer my next big project. How do I keep the project on time and on budget? Here are a project manager’s top ten tips for keeping a project on time and on budget:
Let’s think of it like the NFL Draft. I’m going to evaluate everyone’s skill sets. I’d love to have Tim’s graphic design skills on this print ad along with Megan’s witty, genius copywriting expertise. Every team will have its strengths and a good project manager will put these to full use. A great project manager will also know the team’s weaknesses and will help the team by shoring up that weakness with extra resources or whatever else is needed. If we need more players on the field, we’ll go recruit more.
Most successful projects come in on time and on budget because their scope is clearly defined ahead of project launch. This can be the most difficult for a project manager to deal with as they are often caught between the team doing the work and the management team increasing scope. Personally, I like to supply a project brief or creative brief to my team at our first meeting. This helps communicate the scope of the project to everyone involved.
What are the project's missions and goals? When do you want to achieve these? Strive for high goals, but set realistic timelines. Don’t overwhelm your team. Be realistic. Give them enough time to be excited about the project, generate great ideas and be proud of their work.
You can spend countless hours creating the perfect looking schedule and milestone plan, but doing so without the input and buy in of team members could prove disastrous. Involve team members early on in the planning and there will be no excuses when the final project schedule is set.
Sending out endless emails with attachments may seem productive, but a much better use of time will be to use a project management tool that team members can log on to and use. Sharing the latest documents, setting deadlines and assigning tasks is so easy to do with project management software.
When in doubt, communicate. This doesn’t always mean a string of endless emails (see use collaboration tools above). Meet with the team member if you have a question. Set aside time to answer questions. Always communicate in a professional and respectful manner. Acknowledge work that is done well and think of ways to do tasks better next time.
Make sure you know what they are and what to watch for before it’s too late to adjust. Document any obstacles along the way for next time. If you know a team member tends to turn in work at the last minute, make sure you check in to make sure he or she is still in the game.
It’s important to celebrate milestones as they happen and reward jobs well done. It’s equally important to hold team members accountable for their deadlines and portion of the project.
Use the project team to its fullest by allowing team members to do their jobs. Use the best project collaboration tools and hold people accountable, but trying to do everyone’s job while trying to manage the project is a recipe for failure. Don’t be a micromanager.
No project is perfect. The best managers have contingency plans for each phase and milestone of a project. These are not “plans for failure” but rather the ability to recognize that variables and conditions change. Be prepared.
posted by Shawna Moore