Demystifying Project Management: Making It Real
There is a lot of jargon around PM that might make it seem too daunting given your time constraints. Change control…scope management…earned value management…plan variance analysis. Forget all that (for now) and take heart. If you are planning an event, launching a new product or service or even launching an integrated marketing campaign, then you can benefit from learning basic PM skills. You’ll be able to break down your project into chunks of work that makes execution manageable and flawless.
First, you must be able to differentiate between a task and a project. The general rule of thumb is that any daily routine is a task. A project has a clear objective, a timeframe, a budget and a plan of action.
The 5 steps in the PM process
#1: Define your project. Look at your S.M.A.R.T. goals*, prioritize them and determine if they are each a distinct project or a project within a project. For example: If you have a goal to increase revenue from your current customer base by 20% and another goal to decrease the number of customer complaints (or returns) by 50%, you can create one project plan for both.
#2: List all the activities that need to be done to complete the project. At this point, don’t spend time trying to place the activities or (tasks) in a specific order or sequence.
#3: Create a diagram of all the activities. In formal project management, this would be referred to as the flow chart stage and would call for expertise in using software to create a Gantt chart. For you as a non-project manager, a simple excel spreadsheet will do. However, we love this easy hands-on method: Write each activity down on an index card (or sticky note), then place the cards all in one row. (If there is another person involved in the project, for example, a marketing consultant or a vendor, then you’ll have to add a second (or third) row of cards since the other person may be performing work simultaneously with work that you are doing. Finalize and number the sequence of activities and fill in details of the work.
At this point, you will want to input the information from your cards into the spreadsheet.
#4: Now you are ready to prepare the project work plan. Determine the start date of each activity and its target completion date. Be as realistic as possible even adding time to an activity. Consider who is the best person to perform the work. It won’t always be you if the work requires expertise that you don’t have.
#5: Budget the work. Research the costs of each part of the plan including any payments to vendors and consultants; and enter the costs as a new column in your project work plan.
*S.M.A.R.T is the acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused (or ‘realistic’) and timely goals.