Project Management … do you really have one?

Close Your ProjectIt is important to make sure that your task assignment is really a project. Project management is the discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria. Before you start trying to manage a project, it’s crucial to make sure you’re attempting to manage a project and not something else.

A project is a temporary endeavor designed to produce a unique product, service or result with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value.

The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies.

Simply stated, “If you have a set of tasks or a defined scope of work, and it has to be delivered by a particular end date to meet a particular requirement, then it’s a project.” If it’s just ongoing, then it’s not. So, let’s consider the early steps you should take if your task is a project.

Every project needs clear delineation. Almost always, someone other than you will have to decide to add or delete some elements of the project. This helps to define the scope of the project. This is usually accomplished during a “kickoff” meeting. In rare cases, in lieu of a “kickoff” meeting, the scope considerations can be resolved through a series of email exchanges with the client or person requesting the project.

“Kickoff” MeetingThe purpose of the kickoff meeting is to get all the players of the project on the same page as to the definition of the project and how it’s going to run. The project leader should use this forum to define the following elements for the team:

Project scope and requirements – The “kickoff” meeting should define the project’s control hierarchy, the project manager’s role, the sponsor, decision-making processes and the steering committee’s role.

Participants and their roles – All of this is necessary because some members of the team may not have served on a project team previously.

Deliverables – Deliverables are specific things that the person requesting the project gets along the way. They might be mock-ups of a design, drafts of documents, beta tests of software or a working prototype of a product.

Milestones – Milestones are key dates to hit, and they are often due dates for deliverables, although they can include other factors, too.

Establish DeadlinesBy definition every project has an end date, and it’s important to get that deadline onto everyone’s calendar. There should be no more work on any particular project past its final deadline. Anything beyond that is follow-up work for someone else, or even a new project. Establish your meeting dates and all other critical dates in the project calendar so that all relevant parties can easily track them.

Project TrackingWith these basic steps completed, you are now in the process of managing the project. Various issues will arise and you will be aware that various changes may impact the milestones and other due dates.


Related Articles:  Set Your Project Up … Right!  and  Project Estimating … time and costs!

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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