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I’ve written before on my frustrations with Gantt charts, and the need to simplify project management. And as I watch pharmaceutical companies try to pull a vaccine out of the hat in short order, I wonder what processes they are following. I fear our health and safety may depend on those basic project management processes. But let me be clear. Basic and insufficient are not synonymous. Solid project management does not requirement a 50-page Gantt chart. Here are just five basic project management tips that you can easily implement to keep your projects moving forward. And if this isn’t enough, I have more.

Basic project management does not require a 50-page Gantt chart. Here are five basic project management tips that you can easily implement to keep your projects moving forward. Click To Tweet

Basic project management means starting wisely.

I’ve written before about starting projects wisely. A well-drafted charter documents important information and puts your teams on the right path. Check out this blog on Starting Projects Wisely to boost your results.

And using meetings effectively.

I’ve heard all of the reasons for cutting back on meetings and some groups likely meet too often. I’ve also seen well-designed standing meetings build accountability and commitment to the project. These meetings surface problems while they are little and more easily resolved.

Standing meetings are very short meetings, where members of the team each answer three questions:

  • What have you accomplished since the last meeting?
  • What do you plan to accomplish next?
  • And, what problems have arisen?

I also recommend a longer Checkpoint meeting every two to three weeks. A project team meeting held every few weeks is an opportunity to review where you are on the project, understand how costs are going, identify new risks, and document any lessons that have been learned since the last meeting.

Through periodic retrospectives, the team does well to look backwards in order to move forward effectively. Including clients keeps them informed and may provide a sense of the client’s mindset. When planning these meetings, it may be helpful to think about what value the client has received from the project during the last few weeks of execution and review that with the client.

Paying attention to risks.

Every organization needs to understand where risk fits into its business model. Companies that are more innovative have embraced a higher level of risk and uncertainty; often, they have learned how to manage that risk. I would argue that every company needs to treat risk as a core value.

To say that risk management is a core value does not mean that the company is risk averse. It simply means that it has defined its risk approach. It knows how much risk it is willing to take on, and it has a strategy for ensuring that it stays within those boundaries. Companies which have a strong ability to innovate, experiment, and pivot can better whether storms, such as Covid-19.

From a project management perspective, a risk is any uncertainty about a project or an activity on a project. Not all risks are negative. Part of the reason for managing risks throughout the life of your project is to capitalize on any benefits from a positive risk materializing. Time spent managing risks should be commensurate with the level of risk, which depends on the size of the project and the number of stakeholders.

If you are unfamiliar with how to do simple risk management on your projects, check out this blog on the Secret Sauce Behind Project Risk Management.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

It gets harder and harder to communicate effectively. We operate in a world of soundbites where people read less and less. And yet, there is an increasing amount of information that we need to communicate.

It’s almost impossible to over-communicate your vision for your project. You may have that ‘why?’ stuck in your head and think it is so obvious to everyone else, but that may not be the case. To understand how that could be, try clapping a well-known song, such as Happy Birthday, and seeing how many of your friends recognize the rhythm without the melody. When we know something well, we can think others do too. That may be a big mistake. Make sure everyone stays focused on the vision.

Communicate big changes in person, in smaller groups, or one-on-one. This is particularly true with changes that are going to have negative implications. I listened to a woman recently talk about a large meeting she attended that was called to announce a major restructuring. With 20 years at the company, this manager watched slides unfolding and realized that her entire department was being eliminated. That shouldn’t happen.

When you write communications, think about what you expect the reader to do with those communications. I struggle with that one too. As one who thinks by writing, I can get lost in my own head trying to communicate. And when you think you are finished with that email, try putting a hint in the subject line about what you expect the reader to do.

And get to know the key stakeholders. They are real people with feelings.

Noted technology entrepreneur, author, and investor, Ben Horowitz cautions in his book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, (p. 43, Kindle version) that teams need to pay attention to stakeholder management. Know the identity of that one “person who can delay the entire project.” If only there was just one person who could potentially delay your project!

Get to know your stakeholders. This includes your team and any other person who can impact your project. Understand their hot button issues. They are real people with feelings. You need to know how they want you to communicate with them and meet them part way. It will be hard, but I would argue that those relationships will make or break your project.

If you want more tips on basic project management, check out our free ebook – Project Management Tips to Make Clients Happy.