Effective project management involves achieving the desired end result within a specified time and budget while making efficient use of available resources. It's like a journey, where the aim is to reach the destination on time without unnecessary detours or overspending.
There are various project management techniques, such as Gantt charts, but they can be overwhelming. It's important to keep things simple and find a system that works for you.
When starting a project, it's crucial to define the desired outcome or success criteria. This ensures clarity and avoids inefficiency and disappointment. Ask as many questions as needed to understand the project's scope. For instance, when conducting feasibility studies for new business ideas, determine if the goal is to test the viability of a specific idea or explore potential alternatives.
Here's a case study: A charity called STRIDE in Leicester approached me for a feasibility study to determine if a social enterprise that reupholsters and sells donated furniture would work. Their priority was a successful business, preferably using donated furniture, but income generation and employment were more important.
A practical tip is to ask, "If we met at the end of the project, what would have to happen for you to consider it a success?"
Creating the plan
Before beginning a project, it's important to plan ahead to avoid wasting time and resources. By considering different potential approaches, you can identify the most effective way to proceed. Start by identifying the people involved in the project and their areas of expertise, as well as any additional resources needed. Determine if there are any prerequisites for certain tasks and create a timeline for completion. It's also important to assess any potential risks and develop a plan to manage them.
In a case study, we identified all necessary tasks for an upholstery project, including finding appropriate premises, complying with legal regulations, researching the market, and developing a budget. We collaborated with STRIDE for local expertise and budgeting and Charity Link for research and study writing. Our plan included a detailed breakdown of responsibilities and deadlines, with a focus on finding premises early due to the potential for a long search time. A helpful tip is to prioritize tasks that will take the longest to complete to ensure the project stays on track.
Working and Monitoring Progress
It is crucial to incorporate regular review points as the project progresses. This is because some individuals tend to only complete their work at the last minute, when they know they will be accountable for it. If any issues arise, it may be necessary to modify the plan, and the sooner this is addressed, the better.
To illustrate, STRIDE and Charity Link held frequent meetings to evaluate their progress and exchange information. During their research, they discovered that reupholstering the furniture donated to them would be a formidable task. However, since they prioritized having a successful business over utilizing the donated furniture, they revised their project plan to explore other ways of making furniture and consequently, searched for potential suppliers of wooden frames.
For practical purposes, utilizing an activity tracker that indicates who is responsible for what and the deadline for completion can be helpful. Additionally, scheduling telephone conference calls on a weekly basis can be an effective way to monitor progress and identify any potential issues.
It is important to assess what worked and what didn't during a project in order to improve future endeavors. Sometimes, insufficient time is allocated for certain tasks, but keeping a record can help in planning better for the next time. However, people often neglect to document what they have learned at the end of a project because they are simply relieved to be done.
In a recent case study, Charity Link produced a comprehensive report detailing their findings, highlighting successful project management strategies and areas that could be improved. Despite changes to the original concept, the project was completed on time and within budget.
A practical tip for future projects is to ask all involved parties to fill out a simple form at the end of the project, identifying what went well, what could have been improved, and any unexpected surprises. This will aid in future planning and ensure continued success.