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Project Management: Five Keys to Project Success

5 Keys to Project Success

Project management is a challenge that requires multiple hats.  You typically bring together a team with diverse skills sets and work styles, and asking them to collaborate successfully on a project that likely has little room for error.  The successful project manager must provide team leadership while at the same time be incredibly detail oriented.

Most companies follow project management methodologies to handle the details, but successful project leadership is harder to define and implement.

The following steps, when included with a proven project methodology, have been proven to increase project success;


1. Set Clear Expectations.

Have a clear scope and defined objectives; not just what you’re doing, but why you are doing it.  Don’t define your project as a series of task, understand the business impact.  Define it by its intended outcomes.  Too often, projects take on lives of their own, the initial intention is lost, and the focus turns to project completion as the primary goal.

All members of a project team need to clearly understand the desired outcome, and it should be a topic of discussion at each status and steering committee meeting.  If for budgetary, or other reason, the project’s target outcome needs to change then the new goal needs to be communicated.

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”  Zig Ziglar- *love this*


2. Visibility – Keep it Simple.

Give high visibility to small problems before they become big ones.  Small team conflicts that may see relatively simple at the time, left unresolved can grow into major conflicts at a time when teamwork is particularly critical.  A small task ignored early on, may have disastrous impact further into the project.  On top of that, allowing small project items to slip also creates negative momentum. 

It is unlikely that the project team are direct reports of the project manager, therefore, making issues visible is their primary tool for getting small problems addressed.

Visibility doesn’t require every minute detail to be provided.  In fact, just the opposite.  If you want something to be visible, it must stand out against a simple background. 

Status reports, typically generated weekly or bi-weekly and one of two pages long at most, are one of the best tools for creating visibility.  In addition to identifying tasks completed, tasks to be completed, and budget status (money and time), all project issues need to be clearly highlighted.


3. Follow repeatable processes.

All too often it is a simple tasks that sends a project off the rails. All professionals are busy and can miss simple but mission critical steps if procedures are not developed and followed. 

Someone that works for 24 hours straight because they realized, the day before a project was due, that a major step was missed, is not a hero in my mind.  The real hero is the person who tends to go unnoticed, because they followed a checklist to ensure project control. 

Failing to communicate with a customer, schedule a key appointment, hand off to another member of your project team, or test a solution before it is delivered are all examples of how good work can be undermined by simple procedural breakdowns.  Pilots and doctors use repeatable tasks backed up by checklists.  Successful professional services companies do as well.


4. Don’t let your customer be the point of failure. 

Whether your customer has an internal project manager or not, it is critical that you support them from pre-sales through to final delivery.  Too many project managers fall into a trap and willing to say “at least it wasn’t our fault” if the customer drops the ball.  Your reputation is on the line.  You are the experts.  Do what it takes to be sure your customer is successful.


5. Teamwork.

At some point in every project, a crisis occurs (hopefully a small one).  The last thing you want at that point is finger pointing.  You want the team to work together on a solution.   Leadership needs to be clear on this and not create any division on the team through their comments or actions.  Teamwork is more that collaboration.  It is working as one.  If someone on the project succeeds or fails, everyone succeeds or fails.


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About the Author

John Matterson (Guest Blogger)

John Matterson (Guest Blogger)

Leader, Coach, Trainer, Speaker

Career Experience:
- Building powerful cross functional teams.
- Training and coaching for sales and operational excellence.
- Revenue growth in challenging times.
- Go-to-market strategies: industry solutions, and new ventures.>
- Organizational restructuring for optimal performance.
- Corporate cultures fostered for teamwork, excellence and brand pride.

Leadership roles from back office to sales, in large and small companies, in IT and in industry, in Europe, North America and Asia.

Working with companies on go to market strategies, sales training, team building and coaching.

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