The 4 stages of Project Management
One goes through different stages of project management whether be it while being in charge of developing a website, designing a car or moving a department to a new facility. Most phases have different qualities yet they overlap. Here’s an overview of each phase and its typical activities
Planning: How to map out a project
One doesn’t get to the project-planning phase until the build-up phase. Planning is about defining principles: which difficulty needs to be solved, who should be included and what will be done.
Determining the real issue to be resolved
The first thing to do while resolving an issue is to spot it since it’s not always obvious. To increase the project’s chances of success, you must look beyond the symptoms that you have observed. One must try to find the hidden problems that the organization is trying to address. The type of data required determines the design of the database and what will be done with it, how will it be done and so on. If one chooses not to do this, they’ll risk wasting time and money by bringing a solution that is too easy, too complicated or delayed.
Identify the stakeholders
The real issue always becomes clearer once you find out who your stakeholders are and who might be affected by the project’s activities or outcomes, who contributes the most amount of resources and who will benefit the most from the project. One should always ensure that the stakeholders sign off on their expectations from the end of the project. In case the stakeholders back out midway, one should be properly prepared to communicate to new players and include all the existing team players in any important decisions that are being remade.
Define project objectives
One of the stages of project planning includes efficiently merging the stakeholder’s expectations and aspirations into a set of proper objectives. Proper execution of objectives and their rate of achievement determine the success of the project. Since the planning stage is an initial step, objectives and goals are often revised along the way.
Determining scope, resources and major tasks
One of the main reasons behind the failure of a lot of projects is that the managers overestimate their team member’s potential and underestimate their time and money. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is one critical tool that can help people avoid this crisis as it helps properly evaluate scope and tasks and developing estimates. The underlying idea is to divide complicated jobs into more manageable and simpler units. This will result in you having a rough idea about specific skill sets that you require on the team and help you choose members accordingly, apart from estimating the time it will take to completion.
Prepare for trade-offs
Time, cost and quality refactors that help successfully determine what you’re capable of achieving. Alterations in any of these variables change the final product greatly and often such changes take place mid-way. The key is to establish a level of quality that meets your stakeholder’s needs. One should have a clear idea about which variable is the most important right from the beginning as it helps take steps in the right direction. It’s also the stakeholder’s responsibility to keep each member properly informed about the consequences in terms of time, cost and quality.
Build-up: How to get the Project Going
In this phase, the team is brought together, schedules and budgets are created, resources are procured.
Assemble your team
An assessment of skills is done which flows directly from the Work Breakdown Structure done during the planning phase. One might need to bring additional people who have certain skills that the project could use. Budgeting time and money for training is a crucial step as it helps fill gaps in the project.
This step involves who will do what in the team. In case you don’t have a proper idea about the skill sets that various team members possess, you need to communicate with them and assign them jobs accordingly. This helps kick start communication and cohesion within the team.
Creating the schedule
While creating the schedule, resource management and time management needs to be done in order to fix a beginning and ending date. This helps all members get a fair idea about how quickly and efficiently they need to do their respective tasks. In order to create a realistic schedule, deadlines should be created and kept in mind at all times. One needs to ensure each member knows that there is no scope for procrastination and delays, and the deadlines are immovable.
Hold a kickoff meeting
One needs to bring together the entire team in a kickoff meeting to go over the project’s objectives in detail and review the time frame. Roles and responsibilities need to be assigned and clarified properly. One should also keep every suggestion given during that meeting in mind as it might help anticipate future obstacles and fix gaps in your estimates and activities accordingly.
The project should be broken down into various categories like personnel, travel, training, supplies, research, space, capital, expenditures etc. as it helps determine the costs and divide the resources accordingly. Even the most carefully planned budgets can have flaws and therefore it is at best, just a guess. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the actual numbers will differ from the original estimates, and one should be well prepared for such a scenario.
Implementation: How to Execute the Project
This stage involves putting the plan into action and is often the most gratifying as well as frustrating and overwhelming.
Monitor and control process and budget
In order to avoid being engulfed by details and petty problems, try maintaining a big-picture perspective in case you have a formal project control system in place or you do your own regular check-ups. Each project is different and requires different approaches. One should respond quickly to alterations in data or information as soon as they come in, and always be on a lookout for problems as it helps take early decisions. Team members should be briefed properly and encouraged to solve their small issues on their own.
It is justified and obvious that the stakeholders would want to keep a check on the project and want regular updates. The extent of information they’d want differs, hence its best to communicate with them in order to meet their requirements properly. Problems should never be downplayed or ignored as this usually leads to them getting converted into crisis. Stakeholders along with their suggestions can be good advisors in such scenarios, hence they should be consulted.
Hold weekly team meetings
Weekly meetings help all team members stay focused and motivated as well as serve as a good way to resolve issues and problems. Clear agendas should be set for each meeting, and they should be focused around production numbers, revenue goals and performance monitors. Each success should be celebrated as it rekindles the enthusiasm within the team and helps members remember the real objective of the project.
Problems should never be ignored as they have the capability to jeopardize the success of the entire project. Most popular problems are time, scope, quality issues and people problems. Attention is key to foreseeing problems and if one witnesses signs that are hinting towards obstacles, they should get to the heart of the problem as soon as possible and deal with it efficiently.
Closeout: Handling ending matters
Evaluate project performance
Goals need to met before closing out the project. The scope that was outlined right in the beginning needs to be compared with the overall progress and if any gaps exist, they need to be filled; else the project can’t be marked as a total success. The stakeholders are extremely important members of the project and that’s why they need to be informed about how close you are to the end.
Close the project
The steps one takes to wrap things up depends on whether your team owns the deliverables, hands them to others in the organization, or must terminate the project altogether. If all the initial goals and scopes are met, then your work there is done and you can celebrate your team’s effort.
Debrief with the team
Post evaluation debrief is essential irrespective of the outcome so as to share the lessons learnt along the way. It’s a good way to introspect together why certain errors occurred so that those mistakes aren’t repeated in the future.