If you want something done, the saying goes, then do it yourself.
Whoever coined that clever turn of phrase must have had a very easy job. Anyone who’s worked as part of a team knows that the whole “do it yourself” thing is overblown.
A more accurate framing might be: If you want something big done, do it as a team.
Get It Done – Here’s How
As the leader of your team, it’s down to you to make sure big projects get done when you say they will. Use these eight simple project management tips to live up to that responsibility and get amazing things out of your people.
- Stop Waiting for It to “Happen”
Before you do anything else, get in the right headspace.
That means dispelling once and for all with the fiction that your project will get done simply because you want it to. That’s no different than passively waiting for something over which you have no control to happen.
In matters of faith or chance, this approach might be defensible. But you’re in charge — the clocks don’t run unless you say they do. Waiting and hoping isn’t good enough. The sooner you admit that, the better for your project, your team, and your career.
- Hash Out & Formalize the Project’s Scope
Next, define the project’s scope.
This is as much a matter of managing expectations and deliverables as it is assigning discrete tasks to specific stakeholders. At the outset, it’s more important to clearly define the project’s goals, lay out clear boundaries for its activities, and delineate in general terms the role of each person involved.
- Break the Project Into Discrete Tasks
Once you’ve laid out the project’s scope and wrapped your team’s collective head around its high-level goals, break the affair into bite-sized tasks.
Use your preferred organization method, such as Gantt charts or virtual cards, to assign each task to the appropriate team member. You don’t have to assign every task all at once, and it’s wise to leave some bandwidth to deal with unforeseen issues that require immediate attention. But you do want to start everyone off with coherent portfolios.
- Set Project Milestones & Deadlines
Next, set project milestones and deadlines.
Less experienced leaders frequently struggle to find the appropriate balance. Setting ambitious yet realistic goals is easier said than done. When in doubt, look to past projects of similar scope or subject to better set your timeframes. You want your team to feel controlled urgency, nothing more or less.
- Put the Right People in the Right Seats
Think of your project as a commercial jet. Your team is the flight crew. You’re the pilot; your second-in-command is the co-pilot. You’ve got a cabin crew lead, the team members at varying levels of seniority.
Every single one of these people has an ideal role on the project, based on your keen understanding of their personal strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t get the right people in the right seats, you know who the passengers will complain to when their meals arrive cold.
- Deploy the Right Incentives at the Right Time
Your team won’t perform up to its potential — and your project won’t get done — if its members don’t feel valued. Read up on proven strategies to motivate teams in your niche or industry, or go with what’s worked for other teams you’ve led in the past.
If you’re not authorized to promise the incentives you believe your team needs to perform past your expectations, don’t hesitate to speak with your HR contact. Bosses who truly care about quality can stomach temporary hits to their bottom lines.
Don’t Forget to Debrief
Since the debrief happens after the project has been completed, hopefully to the satisfaction of all involved, it’s not really a proper project management step.
But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important.
Once your project is delivered, do (or have a subordinate take the lead on) a “lessons learned” dive into the affair. Were all of the project’s objectives met on schedule and under budget? Were stakeholders happy with the finished product? What went right during planning and execution? What went wrong?
Fold these lessons into a detailed report. Share it with your team. Discuss, explore, redirect — that’s the debrief part. And then close the books on the whole thing. Until the next big project comes your way.