Handling projects can be stressful. It requires proper planning, resources,and a meticulous execution strategy for them to be successful. However, even with the most detailed plans, it is usually difficult to meet the set timelines of delivery. More often than not, project managers ask for additional time to complete the project.
Are you wondering how you will deliver your next project on time? Here is a step by step guide on how to plan and deliver your next project before it’s too late.
1. Break down the project into milestones
Start by having the end goal of the project in mind, and then break it down into individual milestones. These are going to be the indicators that will keep you on track when working on your project. For example, if you are creating a new product, your milestones will be planning, producing, testing, and the launch of the product.
Once you have identified your milestones, determine the individual tasks required to accomplish each milestone.
Finally, depending on how flexible your project is, you can work on the tasks as you go along with the project.
2. Allocate time for each task
Once you have all the tasks fully mapped under each milestone, start calculating how much time you will need to accomplish each one of them. One of the best tools you can use to do this is a Gantt chart.This is a project planning tool that enables you to assign tasks to team members and allocate resources for them.
It also helps you to add dependencies, which are relationships between the tasks. For example, one task cannot begin until the previous task is complete.
With the Gantt chart, you can also add project milestones which are significant steps in your project, and then you can track the actual progress of your project.
Once planned, the Gantt chart will help you visualize the project workflow and team member workload in a waterfall timeline. And when properly utilized, it will help you deliver your project on time.
3. Single out the key deliverables for each task
Steps 1 and 2 are about creating and visualizing the timeline of the project. From now on, the steps shift to bringing the project to life. Here you start by singling out the key deliverables for each task.
The more accurate the deliverables are, the more accountable your team members will be to the agreed deliverables.
4. Identify task dependencies
Dependencies are relationships between tasks that resolve the order in which activities are to be performed.
The most common dependency is a finish-to-start relationship where one task must be finished before another task can start. If you are using a project management tool, like the Gantt chart, you can add dependencies between tasks, which will make it easy for you to simulate and visualize a ripple effect of missed deadlines.
These visualizations can also help crystallize the tasks among team members on what each team member has to do to make the dependencies seamless.
5. Identify the number of hours and resources needed to complete each task
In steps 1 and 2, you were able to determine the milestones and tasks. Now it is time to analyze the number of hours and resources you will need to complete each task.
However, to make sure you allocate time and resources adequately, you will have to shed some illogicality. For example, a typical worker has 8 working hours, and if you factor things like research, coffee breaks, meetings, socializing, they would have at the very most 6 hours to work.
This means when you are allocating time for the tasks, you have to account for all of these "time-wasters", and you cannot work with the 8-hour workday in your project. To make it easy, use the Gantt chart to plot the number of hours and resources required to complete each task. This step may seem obvious, but it will influence how enjoyable the project is and its execution.
Giving too little time and resources to complete tasks, is bound to cause unnecessary stress and deflate morale in the project, whereas a long leash may not get things cracking. Therefore, strike a balance.
6. Who is responsible for executing each task?
Most projects lose out on achieving their most desirable outcome because of poor execution. When implementing your project, you have to pinpoint who is responsible for executing each task.
These tasks should be assigned in line with the skills, experience, and personality of the worker. If you have team leaders, it is at this point that you brief them on what is expected of their teams.
Bonus tip: Choose team leaders who are hands-on and follow through on every member of their teams' work.
7. Who is responsible for approving each task or group of tasks
Once everyone knows which tasks they are to do, it is time to determine who will approve the deliverables.
In most projects, approvals are done by stakeholders, who are usually removed from the day-to-day execution of the project, or multidisciplinary groups who review the output sequentially.
These people have to be briefed on project timelines, to make sure they approve on time and everything runs on its schedule.
In case there are diverging views on how things are running, they are to review as quickly as possible and give way forward to prevent the project from stalling.
Timelines are a sting in many projects since rarely do things go as planned. However, the key is to plan everything out step by step and capture how much time every milestone and task will take.
From there, sum up these times, and you will be able to have a more accurate timeline on when you are going to finish the project. With the above 7 steps, you will be able to execute your project and deliver on the stipulated deadlines.
Lastly, also be ready for any curveballs that may come your way.
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