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Measure Twice, Cut Once! Intro to Project Management
Few business owners realize that some of their orders are really projects and that they act as project managers for their clients.
If you are tasked with delivering a defined scope by a specific date within a set cost budget, you manage a project.
Projects can come in many flavors, like events, weddings, photoshoots, house remodels, interior redesigns, and website launches. Yet, they all share three critical characteristics: scope, time, and cost.
Whether you call yourself client liaison, lead, coordinator, event planner, or something creatively different, as long as you have to deliver a defined scope by a specific date within a set budget, you act as a project manager.
Managing a project requires orchestrating all resources and working with all stakeholders to avoid misunderstandings and wrong assumptions. I am sure your client won't be happy if the wedding photographer doesn't show up because you thought somebody else would organize it.
A common misconception is that project managers do all the work themselves. That's usually not the case. Many projects are too big or too complex or require specific knowledge for one person to cover all aspects. Instead, project managers ensure that others deliver their portion of the scope on time at the agreed price and in the specified quality.
For that, project managers usually follow eight best practices.
1: Ensure the Scope Is Clear
A broad or loosely defined scope of work will likely cause problems later in the project.
When a project doesn't meet the timeline, runs over budget, or doesn't achieve its objectives, there will be endless debates about the causes, quickly leading to a discussion about the project scope. The reason often boils down to financial budgets, who controls them, and who has to pay for cost overruns.
To avoid this blame game, ensure the scope is clear and doesn't leave room for interpretations.
2: Control the Scope
Even if the scope of your project is precise, you will face situations in which your client wants to change it. That's normal and happens all the time.
However, changing the scope of a customer project means changing the contract, which should always be done in writing and for a fee.
What you should definitely avoid is scope creep when a client wants to expand the scope of your project without additional compensation.
3: Share a Project Organization Chart
Although projects are only temporary with a fixed end date, they are similar to an organization with roles and reporting lines.
For larger projects with many participants, sharing a project organization chart with everyone involved can be very helpful in avoiding confusion about each contributor’s responsibilities.
4: Define a Project Timeline
As a project manager, you coordinate and schedule all work packages along a timeline leading to the completion date. Without a written project timeline or project plan, getting all participants on the same page is nearly impossible. There would be too much confusion about who must do which work package, when, and in which order.
5: Centralize Communications
One of the worst things for a project manager is when a client talks directly with subcontractors, changing the schedule or scope without involving you.
Often, neither the subcontractor nor the client is aware of the far-reaching impact of these changes on the timeline, the deliverables of other project participants, and the cost budget.
To avoid being blindsided, all communication with the client and members of your project must go through you.
6: Write Meeting Minutes
Even with the best intentions, information is lost, agreements are forgotten, and tasks are not completed. There is just too much on everyone's plate to remember everything. One way to keep your project team synchronized is to capture the results and decisions of every meeting in concise minutes and share them with all members, not only with those who attended the meeting.
7: Keep All Stakeholders Informed
Keeping your project team informed is one thing. But, the interest in your project usually extends far beyond your team. For example, your client, decision-makers, advisors, approvers, sponsors, and donors want to know your project’s status.
As a project manager, you must regularly inform all stakeholders about the progress to date and challenges you have encountered or anticipate. These updates can also be an opportunity to ask them for help removing obstacles beyond your control that may hinder your project.
8: Track Your Project’s Finances
If you don't have visibility into your project's finances at all times, you have no way of knowing whether your project is still within the set budget or has already exceeded it. You also wouldn't be able to identify potential cost overruns early by forecasting the amount of money needed to finish the project.
Communicate and Verify
Successful project management has a lot to do with communication. In my experience, it is better to communicate too much than too little.
Just as important will be to verify whether the information you share has been received and understood. In other words, go on-site and confirm that everyone works with the same plans, knows what to do, and does what they are supposed to do. As experienced project managers will attest, you must measure twice to cut only once.
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