Steps to successful project management

Posted on 5th June 2019

Once again, the lovely folk here have asked me to do a blog on a subject, where I feel I’m not an expert.  The opinion was that I, despite not being qualified in any way, am a pretty organised individual, who when tasked with a project seems to get it done.

Now if you have a role like mine that seems to incorporate a random list of jobs that do not fit anywhere else, you too understand what I’m about to say.  Technically my job is Business Manager.  This equates to finance and accounts, supervision of staff, daily running of office, insurance and other expected tasks.  It also has a tendency to include, office maintenance, decorator, plumber, electrician, handy man, builder, purchaser of blindfolds and Play-doh (don’t ask!) and when needed, counsellor.  As you can imagine, it usually means I’m also overseeing any major projects, which is how I ended up here writing to you lovely folk.

Some people just seem more able to organise their thoughts and processes, others cannot.  This is not a negative comment, it’s just we are all different and wouldn’t the world be boring if we all had the same skills and thoughts?  So maybe your first question should be, who is the right person to head up this project?

Once that is sorted, this is what I think you need to manage any project.  None of the opinions below will be found in any text book or official course, but it might help you organise your thoughts for your next project.

My first tip is this – what is your end goal?  Ask yourself this, it’s like any plan in life, know what it is you are heading for.  Be as clear and detailed about this as you can be as this will help you plan.  It also means when communicating everybody else involved knows precisely what ‘success’ looks like.

Next, make a plan.  You can be fancy and make a GANTT chart, a flow chart, use various software options or go old school and embrace your inner stationery geek, with some highlighters and post-it notes.  Think about everything that you will need to do to achieve the end goal.  Consider everything, however silly it may seem.  Talk to people who may be affected and get a really good picture of the situation.  You need to look at the whole thing and scrutinise what may be affected.  Go old-school and get a flip chart out, make a cuppa and go crazy with those post it notes and marker pens.

After that you can start to form some kind of structure.  Take all of your tasks and put them in an order.  I like to work backwards, take the end date and goal, then work back.  For example, if you are relocating a business, start with your moving date.  From here you can think how long before do I need to notify suppliers?  When should I book removals companies or your IT company?

Put your plan on paper… or on a spreadsheet.  Make it clear and concise.  Ensure it is understandable, for example put it in date order, with a clear task next to each date.  Make sure you make the deadlines very clear.

Now I work in an HR and training company, so if I don’t use this word the team would be very disappointed in me; communicate.  Make people aware.  Not everybody involved will be involved from the start, too many cooks and all.  However, you may now need others to get involved to bring the plan to life.  So now is the time to talk to the team.  Make it very clear who is responsible for what, and when it needs to happen.  Keep it on track and find a way that everybody can communicate their progress, without it hugely impacting your other work, because around all of this you do still need to keep the business running!

Here’s a big one… don’t get too personally involved in the nitty gritty.  If you are overseeing the project you can’t be doing all the work as well.  I’ll go back to the office move, you can’t be packing boxes, lifting desks and overseeing the move.  You need to be on hand to review what people are doing, to keep the project on schedule to deal with any issues, so as hard as it is, try to delegate.

Keep Calm.  Things will go wrong.  We recently did re-locate our office.  With all the best planning in the world I was not expecting the delivery men not to turn up, but that’s what happened!  This is where you need to keep your cool and think around the problem.  Going into panic isn’t going to get things done, so take a deep breath and think.  Also listen to your team, as people may have good ideas.  Luckily for me, we have the most amazing team at Gateway, who also between them have a large number of big cars.  So yes, in true Gateway style everybody mucked in, threw open their car doors and started loading up.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was done on time and helped keep us fit.

I think finally, don’t be afraid to ask.  Support is usually available, sometimes just to talk a plan through, sometimes it’s man power you need.  Don’t try to take on the world by yourself and remember a great team can and will deliver a great outcome to any project.

So, in summary, plan – prepare – communicate – work as a team and try to breath, it should help you get through most eventualities.

If you decide you do need some slightly more textbook project management training, we do run project management for non-project managers and solo project manager courses.  Just call us on 01536 215240 or email to find out more.

Maria Parsons Character
Written by:
Maria Parsons
Business Manager