10 Effective Tips on How to Manage A Project from Start to Finish
Whether you are a freelancer, a manager, or a small business owner, learning the basics of project management will help you manage your project better. However, managing a project from start to finish is a huge challenge.
You need to be equipped with project management certifications and essential project management skills such as organization, risk management, effective collaboration, project tracking, and monitoring, time management, and adaptability.
In some cases, especially for large projects, getting a project management certification is not enough. You need to get some project management experience to be able to effectively manage these types of projects from project initiation down to project closure.
Learning how to manage a project throughout the project management life cycle is further compounded by how unnecessarily complicated project management has become over the years.
As a project manager, you are expected to know about agile, waterfall, scrum, PMBOK, Gantt charts, kanban, critical path method, cumulative flow diagrams, to mention just a few. All these project management jargon and frameworks can be overwhelming to learn.
Project management at its core is all about effectively managing a project, which involves turning complex problems into simple, clear, and actionable steps that the project team can follow to achieve a successful project.
In this article, you will learn how to effectively manage a project from start to finish,
Let's get started.
What is the Project Management Process?
Project management is a carefully laid out process that details the effective planning, tracking, controlling, and adequate reporting schedule of the project.
Every project you want to embark on should have predefined commencement and completion dates. The project management process must ensure the project reaches its completion date while also delivering the set project deliverables along the way.
Finding the right balance between the project sponsor’s expectations and the available resources at your disposal is pivotal to the success of the project management process.
The major processes involved in project management include proper planning and scheduling, efficient management of resources and risks, detailed control and management of assigned tasks, and the periodic report of project activities.
Project managers are solely responsible for ensuring these processes are adequately followed to the exact detail. This responsibility can be effectively carried out by ensuring all project stakeholders are carried along in meeting the project goals and expectations.
Essentially, project management is about the proper management of a project team and their efforts towards the actualization of the project objectives.
Circumstances may arise during the implementation of the project process where there will be a need for conflict resolution among project stakeholders. The project manager should carefully sort out these issues to the satisfaction of all parties to ensure it does not negatively impact the project process.
1. Project Concept and Initiation
The first key step in drawing up an efficient project management process is to highlight all the ideas and concepts at the initial stages of your project process.
This idea is subjected to approval from the project management team and should be designed in such a way that it covers all the needs of the project process.
After successfully conceiving your project ideas and key concepts, the next step is to set up your project charter. The project charter contains all the key project information such as project scope, objectives, and key stakeholder management all aimed at ensuring a smooth and efficient project management process.
2. Project Definition and Planning
You need to adequately define and constitute an efficient project plan. The key to every successful project completion bothers down to efficient planning.
Efficient planning includes proper resources allocation and use, a good draw-up of a budget, and proper scheduling of project processes. All these key factors constitute an efficient project management process and are contained in the project planning process.
3. Project Execution and Delivery
This stage is the official project activity commencement stage. Project execution is core to the project management process and involves the distribution of allocated resources to various stakeholders based on their task assignment schedule.
The project execution and delivery stage are crucial to the project process. This stage puts certain conditions in place to begin effective tracking of project deliverables.
4. Project Monitoring and Control
The project monitoring and control process is an effective project scope creep prevention mechanism. This process of monitoring and efficiently controlling the project implementation stage is essential. Project monitoring and control provide project managers with the necessary oversight to ensure the project process is running seamlessly.
This key project management process is carried out throughout the project process. Ensuring your project plans meet the required project objectives and goals is one of the ways of ensuring timely project delivery. This cannot be done without proper monitoring and control measures.
5. Project Closing and Evaluation
At this stage, your project is expected to have fully completed all the necessary processes in delivering its set requirements. This project management process stage serves as a test of the efficiency of the project against its set goals and objectives.
A proper and thorough evaluation of your project goals and objectives is conducted at this stage with the aid of adequate KPIs to determine if you achieved the set target or not. This helps you learn about your project team's competency and also serves as an efficient guide for future projects.
Effective Tips on How to Manage a Project
Efficient and proper management of the project process is essential in ensuring the project meets its set target and delivers on its deliverables.
Using already constrained resources and the expertise of various project stakeholders tends to be the defining point in a proper project management process plan.
1. Define Your Project Scope
Defining your project scope is the first initiator of your project process and it occurs during the project initiation stage. Your project scope document should detail what the project wants to achieve.
After determining your project objectives, some details may surface which were not highlighted in your project scope document. Jot down these details and incorporate them into the project process. This is important for the successful management of your project.
At the start of your project phase, your drawn-up project scope plan should be detailed but easy to break down and understand to aid efficient implementation.
To avoid issues of confusion that may arise from implementation, all project stakeholders should be directly involved in the process of devising and constructing the project scope document and plans for its implementation.
This should include the project sponsor to ensure the requirements are covered in the scope document and to remove the occurrence of a conflict of interest.
2. Determine Your Project Timeline
Knowing your project timeline is equally as important as completing your project. The project timeline ensures you meet the expected project delivery date.
Delivery of your project beyond the expected due date is equally the same as not delivering at all. Properly defining your project time to the shortest but possible deliverable time frame is a key factor in the project management process.
While creating your project plan, it is paramount you list out all the tasks to be accomplished and allocate adequate time frames for their completion. These time frames, although being strictly based on the project schedule, must also be attainable. A vague time frame puts unnecessary pressure on the project process.
Your project timeline must be determined with the idea that your project deadline is fixed and not subjectable to change. Working the balance between the project deadline and efficient project schedules is critical to the timely delivery of the project process.
3. Assess Your Available Resources
Resources are the fuel that keeps the project process moving towards completion. Performing a stock count of the resources required against the resources available and allocated is one of the crucial steps in preparing for your project commencement.
This step is important in ensuring the project gets to its completion stage. Failure to factor in all the necessary resources requirements often leads to the stalling of the project and in extreme cases, project failure.
All needed project resources requirements, be it material or human, must be adequately accounted for before project commencement.
The project manager must ensure the allocated resources are properly utilized. Wastage or wrong use of resources can also lead to shortfalls in the project process.
Project managers must perform periodic and regular risk assessments as regards the available resources for the project process to ensure the project has enough fuel to keep it going. The use of risk registers assists in keeping an effective eye out for these potential risk factors.
4. Create a Project Plan
After the necessary checks are completed and approval is received from executive management regarding the project scope, timeline, and resources allocation, the next step is to create a well-detailed project plan.
The project plan is an efficient day-to-day analysis and guide of the project process. It lists out all the necessary steps and key stages to be accomplished during the project process.
Your project plan needs to be simple but detailed and easy to understand by all project stakeholders involved with the project. The project plan needs to be as explicit as possible as it is the first go-to document in the case of misunderstanding or conflict during the project process.
This document has to make considerable considerations for the likely bottlenecks to be encountered and the manner of approach of dealing with these bottlenecks. The project plan is a key project management tool and should be well defined.
5. Effective Communication among Project Stakeholders
Getting approval for your project plan is just the beginning, you also have to discuss how to effectively implement these plans. This is where effective communication comes in.
The project manager must convey the project plan to all project stakeholders in the simplest and easily understandable terms as it is vital to project completion. This effective feedback mechanism helps to ensure the much-needed cohesion during the project plan implementation stage.
Regular meetings should also be scheduled to track the project process along with the completion phase. The project manager needs to be in regular communication with the project management team on the key events and occurrences witnessed during the project plan implementation.
Instances might arise where decisions need to be made that are not accounted for in the project plan. These decisions need to be cross-checked with the project management team before implementation. The way and manner of communication developed over time would affect the speed of delivery of decisions by the project management team.
6. Delegate Tasks according to Available Resources
The delegation of project tasks to various project stakeholders is one of the numerous roles of the project manager. Finding the right and efficient task-sharing formula is pivotal to a successful project process. The purpose of task delegation is to ensure accountability among project stakeholders, as someone is to be held accountable for every task assigned.
While delegating various tasks, the project manager needs to keep in mind that all these need to be achieved within the constraint of the allocated resources to avoid a bloated project process.
Assign tasks to project stakeholders based on their developed skills and capabilities. This ensures the most experienced and efficient individuals are in the realm of project affairs at all times.
Delegation of tasks helps take work off the project manager to be utilized in other key areas such as monitoring and project control.
7. Proper Documentation of all Project Processes
You need to document everything that goes on during the project process appropriately. This helps in the future should the need arise for you to refer to a previous decision or plan made.
Proper documentation also helps in the case of tracking key decisions and milestones made. As the project manager, you need to inculcate the habit of regular documentation of the project process as it helps you in reflecting on the project process even after successful completion.
In the cases where considerable adjustments need to be made to the project plan or included, a detailed record of such changes as well as their impact on the project process needs to be adequately documented. This is important for future review of the project milestones at their scheduled dates.
8. Monitor Your Project Progress
Upon the commencement of your project process, structures for periodic monitoring of the project’s progress need to be put in place. You need to do this to get a sense of the direction of where the project is headed as regards the allocated resources and the project timeline and schedule.
Measure your project progress side-by-side with the project's initial goals and objectives. Note and act on discrepancies to get the project back on track in delivering the project's initial set goals and objectives.
9. Use Project Management Software
Project management software tools are efficient tools for managing your project process. They utilize many easy-to-use features such as applications to create tasks, prioritize your to-do list, effectively utilize Gantt charts as well as manage risks and issues as they arise within the constraint of an allocated budget.
These tools cover all your project needs and can be implemented from the onset of your project process through to the completion stage. Project managers need to avail themselves of the appropriate project management software tools to make managing the project process a seamless experience.
10. Regular Follow-up and Appreciation of Project Team
To be an excellent project manager, you need to develop people skills with your project team. Regularly keeping tabs on the happenings as regards the project process is important as it is often during this tracking that you notice irregularities.
Periodic meetings should be conducted with project individuals to ascertain the level of progress made on the project. These scheduled meetings should be as open and personal as possible so you have a sense of what goes on during the project process and step in if necessary.
During these meetings, significant progress made by the project team should be appreciated and celebrated to spur the project team to accomplish more.
What Project Management Methodology Should I Choose?
There are so many project efficient project management methods used by project management professionals to ease the project management process. The manner of approach of a project process depends solely on the project management method to be implemented.
1. Waterfall Management Method
This project management methodology makes use of a linear approach to project management and works efficiently when the project requirements are clearly defined.
Each project stage is well sequenced and completed before the onward commencement of the next stage. This method is best utilized by project teams with the need for rigid structuring and documentation. It is often compared with the agile methodology.
2. Agile Management Method
Agile project management makes use of an iterative approach to completing the project process. It is efficient for a project that requires immediate results. Some of the key benefits of using the agile methodology include superior product quality, higher customer satisfaction, better quality control, improved project predictability, increased flexibility, continuous improvement, and more,
You need to build an agile team to effectively take advantage of the agile management methodology. This project management methodology is not suitable for project teams with tight budgetary restrictions.
3. Lean Management Method
The lean project management method utilizes an iterative approach primarily focused on cutting losses such as unneeded activities, overworked team members, and uneven task distribution.
These losses are the main causes of project stall and this method aims at weeding them out of the project process.
4. V-shaped Project Management Method
This method is an advanced waterfall management method that includes testing which is lacking in the waterfall management method.
Each stage is adequately followed by testing the required project requirements before implementation. This project management method is best suited for project teams embarking on small projects with a tight scope.