How to Manage a Project

Published: 03rd August 2006
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How to Manage a Project

By Samuel Lartey, Project Manager.

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements. Project management is a specialized management technique to plan and control projects. A project is generally deemed successful if it meets pre-determined targets set by the client, performs the job it was intended to do, or solves an identified problem within the pre-determined time, costs and quality constraints.

To successfully manage a project there are various tasks that must be performed. A few of such tasks includes:

1.Appointing a Project Manager:

The project manager must be someone who has a proven track record in managing; can command respect from a mix of seniorities and can get action from teams. They should be able to:

* plan and communicate all aspects of the project

* motivate with integrity, sensitivity and imagination

* gain productivity and trust from shared decision-making

* lead both by example and by taking a back seat when appropriate

* monitor costs, efficiency and quality without excessive bureaucracy

* get things done right first time without being a slave-driver

* get the right people for the right task at the right time

* use both technical and general management skills to control the project

* see clear-sightedly through tangled issues.

2.Define the objectives:

Fundamental to the management of any successful project are both understanding and agreement of:

* what is required to be achieved

* what is to be the outcome and/or delivered as a result

* dates and budgets for project completion by both project sponsor and project manager.

Lack of clear objectives will doom the project from the beginning.

3. Establish the Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference specify the objectives, scope, time-frames and initial scale of resource required. They should also clarify any risks, constraints or assumptions already identified. It is important to make any early allowances for cost escalation, plans veering off course, and build in a level of contingency, or safety margin.

4. Planning/ Construct the Work Breakdown Structure Document (WBSD)/

Having established what the project should achieve, next consider how to achieve it.

The WBSD forms the basis of much subsequent work in planning, setting budgets, exercising control and assigning responsibilities. The key is to break the project down into identifiable phases, then into controllable units for action. Dividing a piece of work into more approachable, discrete units facilitates the functions of estimating, planning and controlling. As soon as possible allocate time- scales to each unit of work, taking care to allow for both sequential units - those that need to be accomplished before the next can be tackled, and overlapping units - those that can run in tandem.

4. Plan costs

A key area in which the most frequent error is to under-estimate costs. Typical cost elements include:

* staff time and wages - usually the most substantial cost item of all

* overheads - employer on-costs

* materials and supplies - the raw materials

* equipment

* administration

5. Plan for quality

Planning for quality requires both attention to detail and ensuring that the project output or outcome does what it is supposed to, or is "fit for its purpose". Quality measures (systematic inspections against established standards) should be built into the process from the beginning, not later when things have started to go awry.

6. Plan time-scales

In order to calculate the shortest time necessary to complete the project you need to know:

* the earliest time a stage or unit can start

* the duration of each stage

* the latest time by which a stage must be completed.

* Gantt charts, PERT diagrams and Critical Path Analysis may be used for effective planning of time-scales.

7. Plan Scope, Integration, Human Resources, Communication, Procurement and Risk

8. Monitor & Report Progress

The monitoring of in-progress costs, time-scales and quality is a major factor for consideration throughout the duration of the project. In addition to progress reports, feedback sessions and Management By Walking About, there are various control tools which help check that implementation is going according to plan.

9. Execution, Execution

Deliver the output. Obtain the client's acceptance of the project result". The penultimate stage before project completion is ensuring that the outcome of the project is accepted by the customer or sponsor.

10. Evaluate the project and Lessons learnt

By building in a final stage of evaluation it is possible to gain a measure of the project's success and see what lessons can be learned. Once again, the three key areas for review are quality, time and costs. Others include:

* staff skills gained or identified

* mistakes not to be repeated and what would be tackled differently.

* tools and techniques that were valuable

* processes that were flawed

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