Five Overlooked Keys to Successful Project Management

Kevin Eikenberry

By: Kevin Eikenberry - Chief Potential Officer, The Kevin Eikenberry Group

Category: Leadership

For most, project management isn't a full-time job - it's just one piece of the full-time job. Use these five tips from leadership expert Kevin Eikenberry to make project management much more successful.

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Project management as a profession is well researched and has been written about extensively. In fact, the Project Management Institute`s highly regarded Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) identifies 5 project stages and 9 knowledge areas.

With all that is written and understood about project management, why do so many projects run too long, over budget or never meet their initial goals?

When you think about it, in that vast array of skills and tools it isn`t hard to believe that things will get overlooked. Plus, most people reading this aren`t project managers by profession, but manage projects as just one part of their job. So what can you do - today - to be a more efficient and effective project manager?

What follows are five key steps that are often forgotten or moved past too quickly in the zeal to get the project completed. Taking action on these five ideas will help you make any project large or small more successful and less stressful.

Scope setting. What is part of the project and what isn`t? At some point most any project will bump up against tasks and ideas that seem like a part of the project, but in reality expand it. Perhaps the expansion seems small and obvious, but all of those small additions inevitably add up to a significantly larger project. One way to drastically improve the success of your project is to determine upfront what defines success for that project. Get the appropriate people involved in setting the scope, and make sure everyone involved knows the scope from the beginning.

Context understanding. Too often people move from one project to the next, and the steps from one seem to run together with the next. Ultimate success can`t come from people who see this as "just another project." Provide and create a context for this project. Help people see the big picture and purpose for the work. When people understand why the project matters and how it will change the future, they will work with greater dedication and energy.

Time assigning. All projects need to include estimations on how long a task will take. As a project manager you must recognize the balance that is put into these estimates. Sometimes estimates are full of excess, so people can feel assured they can reach the timelines. Other times overly ambitious people will set time estimates that may not be realistic in the real word. You must create communication that discusses this balance and help to create timelines that are challenging and realistic.

People engaging. Many projects are large and long. They can sap energy and determination. As the manager of the project it is your role to keep people inspired and on task. You must do the things to keep people`s energy up and focus clear. Sometimes these things fall to the wayside when we are busy. Just remember that no project can be done without people, and as a manager and leader it is your responsibility to take care of your people. When you do, they will take even better care of the work.

Progress updating. You get busy and tell yourself that everyone knows what is going on. You tell yourself that doing the work is more important than reporting on it. Both of these thoughts are tempting. Both are fallacies. Communication within the project team creates new synergy, reduces rework and time loss, and is one way to keep engagement higher. Communication within your organization but outside the team maintains support and understanding for the project, creates new ideas and improves the likelihood of additional resources being available as needed. It also reduces the impact of surprises, especially less than pleasant ones.

Within all five of these keys you will find one overriding activity - communication.

When you are managing any project, remember that your prime responsibility is to communicate and create conversation on the purpose, plans and progress of your project. Creating time, space and opportunity for communication will help you address the five keys above and overcome most other major challenges you will face along the way.

Potential Pointer: Successful project management is a complex series of skills and tasks that have been studied and codified. Without downplaying the importance of all the tools and processes available, the single most important tool for successful project management is clear, consistent and cooperative communication.

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