Project management is a lot more complicated than relying on the luck of the Irish to ensure people are working on the right priorities at the right time. As we all know – relying heavily on luck can have serious ramifications to our project plan. Luck comes along suddenly and unexpectedly in managing priorities without a project management tool. But it’s nothing you can try to repeat without the right resources. A good project manager needs to lead the team to ensure everyone is working on the right projects at the right time.
Seneca the Younger, a famous Roman Philosopher once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” If we aren’t relying on luck to achieve consistent and positive project outcomes, then what project management best practices should we be focusing on? Here’s our short list:
1. Reuse project plans
Never reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to. Identify a project plan that worked before and is similar to the project you are about to undertake – and then leverage it as a template for the new project. Besides simply saving time by repurposing an effective project plan, you also will be less likely to overlook important tasks or input inaccurate task estimations. Events beyond our control can cause chaos to our project plan. Reusing project plans helps to reduce the uncertainty so we can ensure our own luck.
2. Disseminate information properly
Meetings are critical to ensure proper communication and alignment on project engagements. Many project teams meet to disseminate information, gain alignment, or to review status and issues on a project. Productive meetings happen with planning, not by luck. Plan out an agenda in advance so teammates know what needs to be accomplished prior to the meeting. The goal is to have the right people attend and enable them to participate meaningfully so meeting time is productively spent and momentum towards stated goals is achieved.
I’ll go even further and state a difficult truth. Many meetings can be canceled altogether if the right tools and framework are in place. How many times have you been part of project teams who meet weekly just to update task status in the project software together? Was that really the best use of everyone’s time? No. What if the project software updated itself in real time, highlighting risks, adapting to changes, and even prompting project team members to share status when they fail to? This project nirvana isn’t as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow… it actually exists. Check out LiquidPlanner to see what I mean.
3. Standardize status reporting
Finding a one-size-fits-all status reporting process and structure helps project leaders disseminate important information to every stakeholder in a shorter period of time with less effort. Using a dashboard from the beginning allows teammates to quickly self-serve to see status reports and project health. This ensures that key players will always have the right, accurate information with less proactive communication.
4. Ensure teammates know the next steps
Always follow-up after meetings with notes. Updating the agenda with notes and next steps ensures participants understand what they need to do next and that everyone is on the same page post-meeting. Follow-up communications ensure your teammates are working on the right priorities. Failing to document next steps can leave some participants confused, possibly even duplicating work and that can lead to missed deadlines and budget overspend – not to mention missed requirements and potential re-work. Proactive planning helps teams create their own luck.
Creating meeting minutes and properly documenting next steps can be cumbersome and time consuming. With project management software like LiquidPlanner, you can use your valuable time and resources more wisely. Instead of recapping the entire meeting, set tasks and assignments for your teammates to complete next. You can put these projects in priority order to ensure there is no miscommunication on next steps.
5. Touch base when needed
Weekly full team meetings are often beneficial, especially in advance of any formal customer project status meeting. This ensures alignment on the team’s status and revised project schedule to streamlined communications. A daily touch base is another good way to give a quick status update to the team and ask if they have any feedback or status updates. Project management software, like LiquidPlanner, is an even better way to achieve the same goal. It can displace daily meetings so individuals can check project tasks as they are updated in the system and see a live view of priorities at all times. Project management software is a great way to work smarter, not harder. This is how project managers ensure luck is on their side.
6. Communicate progress with the customer often
Finally, it is a good idea to communicate high-level status updates with the customer often. This helps to keep the customer feeling confident in your team’s progress on the project. Teams can accomplish this with weekly meetings or with project planning software. Some customers don’t need regular updates, but others may get nervous if they haven’t heard from you in a while. Be mindful not to over communicate, as these updates may get lost in their inbox. Project planning software like LiquidPlanner helps to reduce the amount of communication and streamlines status update reporting. Customers can easily login to LiquidPlanner to see if projects are on schedule and what tasks are blockers to launching on time.
Instead of relying on luck, it’s best to follow these repeatable best practices. This list is not exhaustive, we all have our own variations – but luck is never going to ensure project managers deliver products on budget, and on time. Set yourself and your team up for success by investing in practices and tools that are proven to deliver better results.
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. He has been named the #1 blog to follow in 2022 and the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, ebooks, white papers and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.