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And now, Part Three in our series on project management basics…
What can be done once project work has begun?
Just because the project has started doesn’t mean the role of the Project Manager is complete. While it’s true you have other personnel and equipment completing required tasks, it’s still the Project Manager’s job to track the project through to completion and beyond by making sure deadlines are met and lessons are learned for the next project.
The project plan you create for each project serves as a reference for future projects and can give you an accurate snapshot of not only the time frame of a particular project but also the associated costs. This is actually the final step in the five phases of project management.
Regardless of where you're flexing your project management muscles, most people follow a similar five phase process.
The first phase of project management is typically Initiation. During the Initiation phase, the project goal is established. If you don't start a project with the correct goal or goals, it is not likely you will accomplish the goal. Establishing a project goal is a team activity because it’s important that your team members understand what everyone is working towards.
This is also the time when the Project Manager will work with the project stakeholders to make sure everyone understands and agrees to the scope of the project. At the end of the Initiation phase, you should have a document, called the Project Charter, with a list of goals and a short statement, like a mission statement, providing a detailed overall goal. Within this statement, you should include a definition of success.
To begin this process, start with a good old-fashioned brainstorming session. This is not a list of the things that need to happen to accomplish your goal, but rather a list of end-results. For example, “Digitizing two hours of video" is a task, but “offer streaming videos of lectures to my class" is a goal.
Once you've defined your project deliverables, you're ready to enter the Planning phase. Once in this phase, you’re ready to create the specific list of things that need to happen in order for your goal or goals to be met.
Unlike goals, tasks are identifiable steps that can be sequenced on a timeline or calendar and assigned to specific people. Tasks should be clear and simply stated. If a task cannot be described in a sentence or two, you might want to break it up into two or more smaller tasks.
Tasks should always be confined to a known time frame, typically between 2 hours and 2 weeks and should include only work-related aspects. A project's tasks are associated with a specific person or group and should have a single point of sign-off.
Once you have your list of tasks, you can begin to assemble then in a workable order working to create milestones within the tasks, or measurable points of completion. In terms of project management basics, this order is defined as your WBS, or Work Breakdown Structure.
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