Starting a project and successfully completing it takes a whole heap of time, effort, and of course, planning. Project management is the key to reaching your goals faster.
In a recent episode of The Anomalous Educator, Ben Aston, Founder of Black + White Zebra and The Digital Project Manager, gave some insights into how anyone can implement project management into their business.
What Is Project Management?
The term “project management” is made up of so many components that it’s often quite hard to define. I bet if you lined up and asked 100 project managers, their answers would all differ.
Ben agrees, but offers his own explanation. He sees it as “effectively controlling a process to deliver something.” All projects have a start and an end, and the main aim is to deliver the goods and benefits.
“We’re trying to deliver value within a constrained amount of time, a constrained budget and really some specific scope,” he says.
Project management is what enables all these things to come together and make a project work.
Create a Well-Defined Brief
Starting a project can be daunting. This is why you should ‘be prepared.’ While you may think that this phrase should only be reserved for the Boy Scouts, it actually holds a lot of relevance for project management too.
The ‘be prepared’ stage usually comes in the form of a detailed brief.
“When we don’t have a very well defined brief at the beginning of the project, then things fall apart later down the road.”
One of the biggest reasons a project fails is because people don’t ask the critical questions that surround a project.
Ben explains that these questions need to go deep, but “can be as simple as working out why we’re doing this in the first place”.
“Keep asking yourself, ‘why, why, why, why?’ five times until you get to your real ‘why,’” he says.
Also, you may have to dive into your imagination to get to the ‘what?’ Look at what you are going to be doing, and what will your outcome actually look like upon your project’s completion.
Say you want to design and send out an online course. How is that going to be constructed? “Okay, so it’s going to be a five-week course or a three-hour course,” says Ben, “but then how does that break down?”
Ben suggests becoming as granular as possible in your brief. Define as much as you can early on in the process. “You’ll make some really key decisions early on, that will then shape the rest of the course and save you a lot of pain.”
The Project Lifecycle
When you’re about to incorporate project management into your business, you should start thinking about your timeline, or more specifically, The Project Lifecycle.
“Normally where things become undone is right at the start. If you don’t start it well it’s very unlikely to finish well,” says Ben.
“It’s about thinking through what’s going to happen in the life of a project,” explains Ben.
Here are the four stages.
1. Project Initiation: Starting of the Project
The first step is to get on top of your project initiation. It’s what many would consider the most crucial phase in the Project Lifecycle. At this point, it’s all about identifying your project’s purpose, vision, mission, measurable objectives and success criteria.
2. Project Planning: Organizing and Preparing
If you love highlighters and Post-It notes, the project planning stage can help you live the dream. “We’re really trying to chart the course of the voyage we’re trying to take. We try and plan it the best we can but with the knowledge that things never go to plan.” You want to start laying down a detailed strategy of how the project should be performed and how you can make it a success.
3. Execution Phase: Carrying Out The Project
Also known as the ‘monitoring and controlling phase,’ this stage is where you keep one eye open on your project. “The ship has set sail, and we are now trying to keep the ship on course. We’re trying to keep the crew happy; we’re trying to get there as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
So, supervise the project and step in where necessary to prevent any catastrophes from taking place.
4. The Termination Phase: Closing the project
Lastly, there’s the project closure. It’s the point where you can jump for joy, as it marks the official closure of the project. That final moment where you come up to the project’s horizon and enter into that tantalizing final step, “At some point, we hit our destination, we unload our value, our cargo. The project is done.”
This mind-set of initiating, planning, managing, controlling and closing your project to the best possible standard, is incredibly important. Make sure you’re taking the time to get your brief rendered to near perfection, as it will be your guiding light in any project. When you have that mapped out, you can avoid many of the key mistakes that newbies seem to contend with when they embark on a new project.