Managing a project can seem daunting, and even more so if is complex or technical. Whether you’re working on a new space station or trying to manage a courier service, these tips will help you to gain control over the unpredictable.
Use Meetings Effectively
When holding a meeting, try to minimise status reports. Meetings where you just go round the table asking people how things are going will waste time. Instead, use meetings to identify risks, issues and opportunities. Meetings are great opportunities for communication between all members of a team, which will reduce the number of mistaken assumptions and communication breakdowns that can set a project back, particularly a complex or technical project.
Use the Right Project Management Software
Project management software will prove invaluable in dealing with complex projects. The software can manage the minutiae of keeping track of dates, sending memos, scheduling and risk analysis. This will save on time and resources. Many project management software solutions will also have collaborative tools such as virtual whiteboards, so that you can brainstorm and update documents in real time.
Plan for Milestones
While it may be difficult to predict the milestones of complex projects, due to the unpredictability of complex systems, it can still be helpful to have a general idea of how much time you have to complete a particular task. Set automatic calendar updates for goals and tasks.
Identify Pain Points
Just because you might not be able to predict how a project will evolve, this doesn’t mean that you can’t plan for uncertainty. Try to determine the “pain points”, the points along the development cycle that are likely to be surprising or unpredictable. What can you do to minimise risk in these instances?
Don’t work, Manage
When you’re managing a project, it’s easy to get lost in the work. Many project managers want to raise morale in a team by lending a hand and showing willing. But project management is a full time job, and if you get caught up in micromanaging or doing the work that anyone else on can do, then will end up not getting managed, which means it will fail. So delegate and focus on problem solving and managing the work of others.
The Pareto Principle, or ‘80/20 rule’ states that just 20% of the work done on will produce 80% of the results. Try to identify and focus on that core 20%. For different projects you will need to focus on different activities; it could be communicating with customers, brainstorming, or risk assessment.
Adjust Expectations, Give Bad News
If anything affects your project’s deadline, let the stakeholders know immediately. A project might not go according to plan for any number of reasons, so bad news doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on you. Besides, hiding a problem will only make it worse in the long run. Pointing out areas for improvement as well as strengths of a project to be a team shows respect and demonstrates pragmatism and level thinking.