20 Tips for Project Management Success

by Sid Kemp, PMP

What will it take to make your project successful? Get the top 20 steps to success and learn the 5 things to avoid in this excerpt from The Ultimate Guide to Project Management for Small Business by Sid Kemp.

Focus on Success!

From Entrepreneur Magazine's Ultimate Guide to Project Management

Order the Ultimate Guide to Project Management from Amazon.com

Author's note: If you're as busy as I am, it's good to have quick reminders of the right way to do things. This excerpt from Chapter 11 gives you 20 steps to success you'll want to take and 5 routes to disaster you'll want to avoid!

I hope you enjoy The Ultimate Guide to Project Management! Every one of these steps is covered in detail, and the CD-ROM includes tools and templates to ensure you Get It done Right!

The Top Twenty List

Twenty items may seem like a lot, but I’ve actually made five short lists: one for project planning, one for applying the nine knowledge areas, one for doing, one for using stages and gates, and one for following through.

Four key planning points:

  1. Do the right project. Using benefit cost analysis or ROI, and looking at opportunity cost, look at the project that gives you the biggest value for your effort and is most aligned with your company’s strategy, moving you in the direction you want to go.
  2. Define scope clearly and precisely.
  3. Plan the whole project. Make a plan for each of the nine areas.
  4. Do good architecture. Work with words and pictures to bring people with different perspectives onto the same page, contributing to and committed to the project.

Prepare your team in just two steps:

  1. Get the right team. Using the WBS, define the skills needed, and get people with those skills. Be honest about gaps, and close them by taking time to learn to get it done right.
  2. Get the expertise you need. Know that being expert in one area means not being expert in other areas—sometimes closely related disciplines. Recognize that project, being unique work, require learning from and collaborating with experts. Remember, hiring experts you can work with is less expensive than not hiring experts you can work with.


Cover all the bases with the nine knowledge areas:

  1. Scope. After defining scope clearly, teach the cost of changes to reduce change requests, then manage all changes, adding to the project only when it is essential.
  2. Time and cost. Use unbiased, accurate estimation techniques. Set up systems to gather, track, and analyze time and cost information, so you can keep them under control
  3. Quality. Focus on quality at all three levels to ensure value. At the technical level, trace requirements and design checking and testing throughout the project to reduce errors. Then design a test bed, and implement the tests. At the project level, work to prevent error, then find and eliminate the errors that slipped through. Do as much testing as you can as early as you can. Allow time for rework and retesting to ensure you’ve eliminated errors without letting new ones creep in. At the business level, include customers in testing, and remember that the goals are customer delight and added value.
  4. Risk. Plan for uncertainty; prepare for the unexpected. Perform risk management with your team every week of the project.
  5. Human Resources. Help each team member step up in self-management and technical expertise. Teach everyone PDCA so that they can improve. Then teach them to work together, until you have a great team of great people.
  6. Procurement. Get the supplies and resources you need. If your project involves contracts, be sure to keep the contracts in alignment with project value and specifications, not just generally associated with goals and work.
  7. Communications. Have a communications plan, and follow it so that you are in touch with all stakeholders throughout the project. Make sure everyone knows what they need to know to make decisions and get work done. Analyze status information to create status reports. Be prompt and decisive.
  8. Integration. Constantly direct corrective action. Evaluate all events that could change the project schedule, and all scope change requests. Review the effects of any change on all nine areas before making a decision, and then implement a revised plan with rebaselining.

Keep the project on track with stages and gates:

  1. Use a life cycle. At a minimum, put a gate at the beginning to clearly launch the project, and then a gate after planning, a gate after doing, and a gate after following through.
  2. Every gate is a real evaluation. Bring every deliverable—parts of the product, product documentation, technical documents, the project plan and supporting documents—up to specification. If a project can’t deliver value, be willing to cancel it.

Use feedback with your team and focus on scope and quality in the doing stage:

  1. Use feedback at all four levels. Teach workers to stay in lane and on schedule; ensure delivery of milestones; manage project risk; and manage project change. Watch out for continuing problems that indicate a serious planning error, such as lack of attention to one of the nine areas or a poor architectural decision.
  2. Focus on scope and quality. Get it all done, and get each piece done right.

Follow through to success:

  1. Deliver customer delight. Seek to exceed customer expectations while leaving customers delighted with every encounter with your team. Use every success and every error as a chance to learn to do a better job.
  2. Remember ROI and lessons learned. Compare actual ROI to planned ROI, so you can be honest about the degree of your success. Compile project historical information and lessons learned to make future projects easier.

Five Ways to Project Disaster

Success is a matter of moving ahead and steering clear of failure. Here are five fast tracks to failure, so that you can avoid them.

Five ways to get it done wrong, or not at all!

  1. Scope-less is hopeless. Don’t decide what you are doing—just throw money at a problem.
  2. Focus on time and cost, not quality. Get it done yesterday. Never let anyone spend money. Don’t waste time checking anything—just get it done.
  3. Know the right thing to do. Don’t analyze problems. Don’t listen to experts. And—absolutely, above all, whatever you do—be sure to ignore the customer. You wouldn’t launch a project if you didn’t know everything, and what does anyone else know?
  4. Don’t thank the team, push them harder. Don’t waste time with planning, People ought to know what to do. Just tell the team to get it done now—or else.
  5. Avoid big problems. All of our projects fail. And we’ve got no time for them, either—we’re too busy putting out fires.

Excerpted from Entrepreneur Magazine's Ultimate Guide to Project Management: Get It Done Right! by Sid Kemp. Copyright 2005, Entrepreneur Press, all rights reserved.

 
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