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How To Manage A Project

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Congratulations. You've just been appointed to manage a project. How do you get started? What steps do you do next? How do you maximize your chances for success? The project management steps below guide you through the process of managing any project, step by step.

If you are new to Project Management you should also read Project Management 101

Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Define the Scope
    The first, and most important, step in any project is defining the scope of the project. What is it you are supposed to accomplish by managing this project? What is the project objective? Equally important is defining what is not included in the scope of your project. If you don't get enough definition from your boss, clarify the scope yourself and send it back upstairs for confirmation.
  2. Determine Available Resources
    What people, equipment, and money will you have available to you to achieve the project objectives? As a project manager, you usually will not have direct control of these resources, but will have to manage them through matrix management. Find out how easy or difficult that will be to do.
  3. Check the Timeline
    When does the project have to be completed? As you develop your project plan you may have some flexibility in how you use time during the project, but deadlines usually are fixed. If you decide to use overtime hours to meet the schedule, you must weigh that against the limitations of your budget.
  4. Assemble Your Project Team
    Get the people on your team together and start a dialog. They are the technical experts. That's why their functional supervisor assigned them to the project. Your job is to manage the team.
  5. List the Big Steps
    What are the major pieces of the project? If you don't know, start by asking your team. It is a good idea to list the steps in chronological order but don't obsess about it; you can always change the order later.
  6. List the Smaller Steps
    List the smaller steps in each of the larger steps. Again, it usually helps you remember all the steps if you list them in chronological order. How many levels deep you go of more and more detailed steps depends on the size and complexity of your project.
  7. Develop a Preliminary Plan
    Assemble all your steps into a plan. What happens first? What is the next step? Which steps can go on at the same time with different resources? Who is going to do each step? How long will it take? There are many excellent software packages available that can automate a lot of this detail for you. Ask others in similar positions what they use.
  8. Create Your Baseline Plan
    Get feedback on your preliminary plan from your team and from any other stakeholders. Adjust your timelines and work schedules to fit the project into the available time. Make any necessary adjustments to the preliminary plan to produce a baseline plan.
  9. Request Project Adjustments
    There is almost never enough time, money or talent assigned to a project. Your job is to do more with the limited resources than people expect. However, there are often limits placed on a project that are simply unrealistic. You need to make your case and present it to your boss and request these unrealistic limits be changed. Ask for the changes at the beginning of the project. Don't wait until it's in trouble to ask for the changes you need.
  10. Work Your Plan, But Don't Die For It
    Making the plan is important, but the plan can be changed. You have a plan for driving to work every morning. If one intersection is blocked by an accident, you change your plan and go a different way. Do the same with your project plans. Change them as needed, but always keep the scope and resources in mind.
  11. Monitor Your Team's Progress
    You will make little progress at the beginning of the project, but start then to monitor what everyone is doing anyway. That will make it easier to catch issues before they become problems.
  12. Document Everything
    Keep records. Every time you change from your baseline plan, write down what the change was and why it was necessary. Every time a new requirement is added to the project write down where the requirement came from and how the timeline or budget was adjusted because of it. You can't remember everything, so write them down so you'll be able to look them up at the end-of-project review and learn from them.
  13. Keep Everyone Informed
    Keep all the project stakeholders informed of progress all along. Let them know of your success as you complete each milestone, but also inform them of problems as soon as they come up. Also keep you team informed. If changes are being considered, tell the team about them as far ahead as you can. Make sure everyone on the team is aware of what everyone else is doing.
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