More than a Feeling
As a business owner, you are laser-focused on outcomes based on your company's vision and goals. Your teams are likely undertaking a host of projects to meet them. You want to cut through all the noise to get answers to bottom-line questions: What business value are projects providing and at what cost? Are projects on time and in line with business objectives?
After all, stakeholders have a need to know, and critical business meetings often demand it.
As a leader, you know the key to answering these questions relies on more than a gut feeling. The best project management techniques support the ability to plan and assess work, address issues, manage risks, and answer critical questions to make well-informed decisions.
But project management itself can seem like a black box.
How much do you know about effective project management techniques? Effective project management practices can help you discover the difference between a well-calibrated project and one that isn’t - and being uniformed can derail a good plan.
Which Project Management Principles and Practices Should Leaders Know?
Project management approaches vary, from traditional methodologies that implement a highly-defined set of requirements to agile frameworks that take an iterative approach in responding to ongoing customer feedback.
Regardless of which project management approach your organization uses, effective project management makes use of key elements that are critical to accomplishing your goals.
To help, we’ve distilled project management principles and practices down to a set of 10 that can directly impact your bottom line and equip you with the right level of insight to successfully lead your organization.
1. Cast a vision: Align projects with business goals
Effective project management always - yes always - aligns and measures project efforts and outcomes against the organization's goals and objectives. Alignment with goals ensures the project is delivering value and contributing to the organization's overall success. If a project is not obviously supporting an organization’s goals in a measurable way, it’s probably time to consider whether it’s the right project.
Companies that create alignment are able to articulate their vision, and can map out all the project workstreams that connect to their goals. This kind of mapping creates a way for you to identify, communicate, and adjust the value delivery being produced by the organization.
2. Set parameters: Define the project scope and objectives
As part of supporting the company's goals, each project needs a definition for success. When is done - done? Defining the objectives, deliverables, and constraints of your project is important for keeping things on track and making sure that all of your stakeholders are happy.
One way to do this is by creating a project charter. This is a document that outlines the purpose and objectives of your project, the requirements of your stakeholders, and the resources you'll need to get things done. This way, you can make sure that everyone is on the same page.
The project charter also provides an overview of the scope of the project - in other words, what’s included as key deliverables or features. Detailing this information reduces scope creep and creates a common definition of success.
3. Plan the work and work the plan: Manage the milestones and tasks
Project management provides a clear path for the project team to follow. Effective project management increases collaboration and cohesion, reduces risks, avoids misunderstandings, and minimizes the chances of errors or delays.
A project plan guides your project. It helps manage all the tasks, resources, dependencies, and timelines needed to get things done. Project plans must be anchored to a high-level project release schedule.
In projects that involve software product delivery, for example, a product roadmap serves as this high-level schedule and identifies what the product team intends to produce for each phase or iterative release. Prioritization protects the schedule. So ensuring teams are equipped with the knowledge of roadmap priorities and the ability to track against them is critical.
An important part of a project plan is the Gantt chart, which is a visual representation of your project schedule. It helps you see at a glance what needs to be done and when.
4. Estimate and project for value delivery: Identify project costs and create a budget
Determining what resources you need for your project and creating a budget that outlines all of the expected costs is a really important part of project management. This includes identifying and securing funding sources, as well as keeping track of costs throughout the project to make sure you stay within budget.
Linking each project to the value it is providing (value tracking) helps both project managers and leadership make the most of the project work they undertake, driving value delivery.
5. Engage stakeholders: Onboard for feedback and buy-in
Identifying all the groups or people who have a vested interest in your project is key to making sure your projects are successful. These are your stakeholders, and they can include project sponsors, organizational leaders, team members, customers, and external partners.
It's important to develop strategies for communicating with and managing the expectations of these stakeholders throughout the project. Developing two-way relationships with stakeholders builds confidence and creates trust.
It’s therefore critical to track and convey key information that is important to stakeholders. Reporting and analytics help provide status and performance indicators to keep stakeholders informed.
6. Manage resources: Assign roles and responsibilities
Additionally, good project management practices can help set clear roles and responsibilities for team members. Because an understanding of roles improves communication, teamwork, and focus, your team will be more productive.
Make sure that your team members have the skills and resources they need to complete their tasks and provide support and guidance as needed. This way, everyone knows exactly what's expected of them and can work together smoothly to get things done.
Resource tracking, including assigning those who are responsible for the work, those who need to review it, and those who need to approve it helps remove confusion and overlap.
7. Create clarity: Monitor and control project progress
It's very important to regularly track and measure progress to make sure things are staying on schedule and in focus. This includes keeping an eye on risks and implementing strategies to mitigate any potential issues.
If things start to go off track, taking corrective action as early as possible to get things back in line and on schedule helps avoid a major impact later and ensures that projects meet objectives.
Changes to your project scope, schedule, or resources are pretty much a given. That's why it's important to have a process in place for evaluating and approving changes. This way, you can stay aligned with your project goals and keep your stakeholders in the loop.
8. Champion productive project communication and collaboration: Transparency is golden
One of the key aims of project management is to be able to communicate project status.
Keep a communication plan in place and use a variety of channels to keep your stakeholders informed about project progress, decisions, issues, and changes.
Removing silos creates cohesion. Effective project management practices provide centralized online workspaces, including discussion threads, tool integration, and documentation management, that achieve communication and collaboration in one place.
Rewarding teams for good and proactive communication promotes the flow of information and helps prevent projects from becoming at risk. If transparency is encouraged, teams will be more likely to elevate ideas, success stories, potential issues, and ways to achieve ongoing improvement.
9. Make informed Decisions: Inspect and adapt for quality outcomes
Measuring and analyzing the work on projects improves performance at an individual, team, and portfolio level. Tracking project status is important. In fact, it’s the first step. But the question is, what are you going to do with that information? The ability to respond to information - to adapt - is critical to overall quality.
Reports such as burndown, burnup and throughput help management understand the work in progress and what is left to address. Reports should be meaningful enough to deliver insights that equip you to make the right decisions for your organization. The analytics they provide should also be powerful enough to help you adjust when the data demands it.
Inspection also means making sure that all of your deliverables meet high-quality standards. It’s best to establish quality standards and then perform quality checks along the way to make sure the final product or service meets the needs of your stakeholders.
10. Deliver and close the project: Review for improvement
Properly wrapping up the project includes not only delivering the final product or service but also obtaining acceptance and feedback from team members and other stakeholders.
A good practice is to conduct retrospectives, post-project reviews to identify lessons learned and areas for improvement. This technique can help inform future project teams and improve the overall success of the project management process.
Optimize project management principles and practices with tools
As a complex discipline, project management can be difficult to implement without the right tools. Modern project management software solutions equip project managers, teams, and leadership, providing visibility into the entire portfolio of projects and insights into the true state of the work.
Here are just a few ways that the best project management tools provide critical capabilities:
- Align project workstreams with organizational strategy
- Provide interactive assignment management to easily track the work, through roadmaps, gantt charts, and individual and team planning boards
- Track the priorities and status of each task and project
- Use criteria-based triggers and workflow automation, streamlining the work management process
- Enable communication and collaboration in unified and integrated workspaces
- Equip teams and leadership with analytic-rich insights, providing decision support, ease of adaptation, and ongoing improvement
When we open up the black box, we can see that effective project management is all about aligning projects and then carefully planning and executing them in a way that promotes visibility, cohesion, and quality delivery. It's about following a roadmap that helps ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of stakeholders.
Executed well - and equipped with the help of a modern project management tool - these practices optimize overall project performance and drive out issues relating to resource management, budget, delivery timelines, and stakeholder relationships that could cause project roadblocks and other key risks.
While implementing project management principles and practices isn’t a quick fix, committing to these focused techniques can make lasting improvements, answering critical questions, and, ultimately, helping you meet the needs of your stakeholders and drive business growth.
A Final Must-Know Principle: DevStride Can Help
If you need to optimize your ability to plan and control projects, and are seeking a modern tool, schedule an introductory call with us today.
DevStride easily supports both agile and traditional project management frameworks. A refreshingly easy-to-use tool, DevStride provides the robustness, visibility, and deep insight project leaders need.
We’ll show you exactly how DevStride can help your teams accomplish exceptional management and deliver stellar outcomes. For projects big and small, DevStride is here for you!