Top 5 project management lessons I have learnt over time

No enterprise application implementation is complete without a team. The traditional models of implementation always assign ownership and responsibilities of projects on the Project Manager. With the Agile project methodology, the role of the project manager has whittled into a more angled, sharper role that allows for transparency, visibility and result orientation.

Even if you are working on smaller scale projects and not implementations of larger projects like ERP, these five things if you do as a project manager, can make you wildly successful. These are my top lessons I have learnt as an independent project manager for large-scale implementation projects, but they work just as well for smaller projects like for graphic design and web development:

Have A Baseline Plan Ready

This is the biggest failure I see across all projects across the board, no matter how big or small. When project timelines are not available, nobody has an idea how to proceed forward. A lot of activities fall through the cracks, all work is done as a reaction to a preceding activity or task.

Establish baselines by brainstorming a list of all the activities that are needed for the project.Click To Tweet Determine their start and end dates, and allocate resources, teams or individuals, against these tasks. Then mark these dates as the baselines. Any action against the tasks would have to be marked separately to ensure they can be measured against the baseline.

Track Activity Against Time

In the heat of the moment when the project is progressing, time tracking is usually forgotten. This creates issues when things are not going so well against the overall deadline for the project. It is key to track all activities against the dates and times they have taken. Once you do, you will see the utility of it. You can reach multiple conclusions when activities are being tracked. Whether your work is getting done on time. Whether your team is being productive, and how far are you from reaching your goal, against your set baseline. It serves as a good motivation tool later on as well on tasks done within time. It can also serve as evidence against claims by people on either side of the project.

Keep A Running Task Checklist

This is something I have learnt over several years of keeping a running checklist of tasks. I use a modified version of Kanban for my team when I work on projects. I am simultaneously running four projects right now and planning on adding another one. Along with that, I am running a consultancy company on the side with my co-founder. I cant do this if I do not keep track of tasks and to whom they are assigned. As a project manager, I have to ensure all my tasks are being done. To do that, I keep a checklist of tasks on a page in my diary that I carry to each and every meeting. This page gets crossed out regularly and new tasks keep getting added. If they are assigned to someone, their initials go next to the name, and if they are priority items, they get a star.

Every day, starred items need to be crossed out, and more tasks added. Every meeting or discussion has action items which go in the same notebook. This running tasklist can save lives and projects if you know how to continue to monitor it regularly.

Define Subject Matter Experts Early

Subject matter experts, power users, or members of the team who are the core sponsors of the project with the knowledge of how the end product should function, need to be involved at the onset. I have noticed that during project executions if you do not involve the SME or power user, their lack of ownership, responsibility or simply lack of knowledge that only they could give, can result in delays and rework. While we are at it, project sponsors should be involved early too. Project sponsors are key because they can be an excellent driving force throughout the project, and this can be a great contributor towards success.

Document and Document More

This is perhaps the most oft-forgotten area in any project. Documentation is not just to target and find faults in the end results or milestones.

Documentation is an excellent tool for project management to track all the work that is required, discussions made, points established and more.Click To Tweet User manuals, scripts, test results, meeting notes, requirement documentation, and project plans, all can contribute to steering the project towards a successful closure. A lot of people hate documentation, but when you’re stuck in a tough phase, you’ll realize the importance of documentation yourself.

There are tons of lessons I have learnt as a project manager over time. But these are my top lessons that have literally made some of my projects successful. What are your specific lessons that you have learnt over time? Care to share?

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