Have you made your 90-day plan?
No? – We invite you to check out our 90-Day Planning Guide!
Yes? – Fantastic, Keep Reading! Now, it’s time to put your plan into action and tackle those projects. But where do you begin? Welcome to your Project Management Basics!
Also, you will need the right tools to manage your projects and your team of experts. We will get to this a little later, first; let’s look at identifying project management best practices.
Project Milestone Planning:
Every project has a life cycle. By establishing clearly defined steps, you can ensure that the end-goal stays on track. Look at these as markers along the journey – like identifiable points on a roadmap. Milestones can also serve as checkpoints for success. Use each one as an opportunity to subjectively evaluate the process. Similar to map identification, it is much easier to course-correct now rather than when you have gone too far in the wrong direction.
Think of a runner, during a race, mile markers provide them with a way to know how far they have come and how far they have left to go. By understanding this, they can properly prepare mentally, determine the correct energy output level, and even effectively ration their physical resources. The same is true in setting and achieving milestones in business and project management.
An article from Villlanova University states that milestone planning is critical to project success. “These milestones will not only help you to eliminate project risk and monitor project change, but will also alert you to any continuing problems and ensure that each piece is correctly completed.”
Quick Project Management Milestone Tips:
- Milestones should clearly be identified throughout each project; beginning, middle, and end
- Each milestone should have several tasks associated
- Each milestone should be clearly assigned to an individual for accountability
- Milestone dependencies should be clearly defined
- Milestone importance level or risk factors should be identified, if appropriate
The Importance of Time Buffers in Project Planning:
Also like a journey, give yourself adequate time buffers. Think about how you plan a road trip. When you look at MapQuest and see the drive-time, surely you add in the possibility of traffic, a few rest-stops, the need to refill gas, etc. And hey, if you end up not needing to stop as many times as you thought, great! No one ever complains about being ahead of schedule.
It’s the same idea with projects. Things will come up, new, better ideas will develop, technology may fail, progress can take longer than you expected, you will need to/want to redo this or that. You can install buffers anywhere – after each milestone; divide the plan into quarters and add them in there; have a larger buffer at the very end; or a combination of all of the above. There are no set rules on this one, so go with what feels right.
Fahad Usmani from the PM Study Circle describes how to use a project buffer at the end. “This buffer is placed between the last task and the project completion date as a non-activity buffer, and this buffer acts as a contingency for the critical chain activities. Any delay on the critical chain will eat this buffer, but the project completion date will remain unchanged. Also, if there is any gain from the early finish of any activity, this gain will be added to this buffer as well.”
And don’t forget to always add in a few extra days to each phase or milestone for communication and review. Planning for the unexpected seems impossible, but if you add 1-2 days to each deadline, you’ll be headed in the right direction.
Quick Time Management Tips:
- Identify the best case and worst case scenarios for deadlines
- Incorporate ‘backward planning’ methods to ensure the project will succeed based on final delivery needs
- Always add in at least 1 extra day (2 days if possible) for communication and review to each task and each milestone
- Be sure that all tasks and milestones are clearly assigned so that no time is lost due to confusion
- Check in on progress regularly to ensure that everyone is still on target to meet goals and deadlines
An Efficient Way To Implement Project Management
Hopefully, this post helps to instill the need for project management as a necessary skill set.
“Everyone enjoys doing the kind of work for which he is best suited.” — Napoleon Hill
In our next blog, we will cover the role of an effective project manager.
Until then, let us recommend an online task and project management software program that can effortlessly map out even the most daunting of projects, streamline communications, automate reminders, and provide a clear process to keep everyone on point. We love Teamwork!