How many times have you asked yourself a series of questions about what to prepare for a hike, a trip, or dinner party? You probably thought about what time to leave, what clothes to bring, what food to serve or how much money to carry on you. These are the basics of project management. A “project” does not need to be a million-dollar project employing 50 people and resulting in something big and long lasting. It could be something as simple as brushing your teeth or cleaning your garage.
There are many positive aspects of successful project management. The advantages to manage projects professionally are numerous, but the most obvious ones are: to have better outcomes, to use resources efficiently, to establish good governance and to better manage expectations.
All projects should address five elements. Without planning these elements, a project cannot reach its full potential. Each project manager should spend a great deal of time planning the project’s timeline, defining clear objectives, securing sufficient financial resources, assessing risks that can affect the project and hiring the right personnel.
Planning a project is the key to success. A start and finish date should be communicated to all parties involved. This timeline has to be split into smaller timelines for each team involved in the project. Dependencies between teams or tasks should be clear to everyone. Other events that could happen during that timeline should be studied to see if they have an impact on your project. So the timing should be well chosen. Benjamin Franklin summarized it all when he said: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.
5 steps for project lifecycle management (source: lab.getapp.com)
The objectives of a project should be understood and clear to all stakeholders. Every team member should stay focused on the project’s main objective. This is the best way to make sure that all tasks will lead to the desired outcome.
Financial resources should also be carefully calculated. Without sufficient funds we should not expect any success. Getting loans, raising funds or applying for grants are not easy tasks. Before starting any fundraising efforts, you should have enough experience and a good reputation to convince donors to support your project. This will be demonstrated in your forecasted budget. The latter speaks volumes about how you plan, execute and evaluate your project.
Any project has its fair share of risks. Washing your car could be seen as an easy project to do. However, the weather forecast might oblige you to change your plans. Similarly, the timeline for developing a new customized software could be extended because the customer may communicate some changes at the very last minute. So thinking ahead, picturing different scenarios, and planning for each of them may be a good preventive behavior.
Last but not least, human resources are crucial to any project’s success. Oftentimes, people think that if you have enough funds, then the project is safe. Experience has shown that both financial and human resources are necessary to achieve good results. You can provide someone with funds, but if s/he does not have the capability to manage the funds, the project will be a total failure. Hiring the right profiles and making sure that everyone embodies team spirit is key to leading the staff to complete their tasks successfully.
The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) staff have been practicing project management techniques for years. The Farmer-to-Farmer team, that I am part of, has been taking into consideration project management’s good practices. This is why HAF has had 20 successful years of managing development projects across Morocco.
For a first step towards learning project management, visit this site that offers some free resources.