Managing Projects

Let’s start off by defining what a “project” is. A project is something that you want to do, to build, implement or change. It could be a software package to calculate sales commissions, a marketing strategy to sell more steaks or an email campaign to generate new business. All projects require management from project definition, through planning on to completion, and as the Middle you must lead your Teamers in doing better project management. But always remember you don’t manage projects, you really manage the people doing those projects, and managers who don’t “project manage” aren’t really good managers.

This post presents these ideas, tips, techniques and processes to help you transform an idea into a tangible finished project; that is creating “something from nothing” – perhaps the ultimate in creativity!

“Visualize” What You Want to Build or Do - The first thing that you have to do is define the project. You need to imagine what the “world would be like” if the project existed. This requires some creativity and is hard work, but again, well worth the effort if you want the project to be successful.

In order to make certain your projects are on target with the objectives, you need to develop and use a Project Work Plan for each project your Teamers do. Your Project Work Plan should include at least these topics:

  • Target user or audience for the project
  • Current situation
  • Project objectives
  • Main benefits of the project
  • Alternative(s) to the project
  • Budget for the project
  • Call to action or next step(s)
  • Plan for the project

Once you develop this document, review it with your Teamers and Senior to get their suggestions, changes and approval and then start the project.

 “If you want to reach a goal, you must ‘see the reaching’ in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal.”

 - Zig Ziglar

The Life Cycle - All projects have phases and steps and even sub-steps associated with them. It is critical that you identify all of these for the project that you want to do. Identifying the phases and steps for your project will help you in doing the actual planning for the project. The simplest example of a Life Cycle may be a cooking recipe. The recipe defines the parts (ingredients), each phase and stage of preparation and the overall time requirements for the food offering.

The Life Cycle is different for each project, but it represents all of the “things” that need to be done (and by whom and by when) to complete the project on time and within budget.

 “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

 - Mark Twain

Monitor Planned Versus Actual - Once you have planned the project and started it you need to keep track of the “actual” time spent on each step in the plan. Did a step take more time or less time than planned? Was there a problem with a certain step? Understanding what really happens along the plan during each step for the project will help you know where you really are on the project and develop better project plans in the future.

 “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

 - Aldous Huxley

Timekeeping - Lots of Teamers may complain about having to record their time against each project planning step, but that’s the only way to monitor the actual time spent on a step in a plan. Find a time recording system and keep the effort needed to record their time to a bare minimum and make it easy as possible to enter and make changes. Make sure that your Teamers know that this isn’t a “gotcha tool” and that the only purpose of the tool is to keep tabs on what time was spent doing what and when on each project.

 “Don’t say that you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.”

 - H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Move, Monitor and Modify - I got this one from the founder and owner of my last Organization. He preached and lived that you should always “move, monitor and modify” in all that you do. First, you have to move on the project, monitor your progress constantly and modify what needs to change to make things better.

Lastly, don’t wait for your Senior to tell you what to do. Take the initiative and be willing to take risks to achieve quality and results and encourage your Teamers to do the same.

 “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

 - Will Rogers

Adding Staff Won’t Give You the Results You Want - This is generally a myth. Throwing more dollars and staff at a project once it is started usually slows it down. Don’t be tempted to try this! For a project that is really “in the tank” use a Scope Change Process. Get all of your appropriate Teamers together and work to define the current problems with the project, then redefine and replan the remainder of the project’s Life Cycle phases, steps and estimates and be on your way.

 “The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.”

 - Paul Fix

Getting More Done With Less – It Can Be Done! - You can get more done with fewer resources, but you have to be responsive to the needs of your Teamers. I suggest that you instill some core values for your team for “good” working relationships with all of the members of your team.

  •  Communicate
  • Have empathy
  • Volunteer and take risks
  • Keep target dates
  • Don't be selfish
  • Admit a problem
  • Take time off when possible         ·           

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

 Nelson Mandela