Project Management Basics

Project Management is one of those life skills that will serve you in SO many situations that you’ve just GOT to have it! Remember that a project is a one time occurrence, not an ongoing program. Here are the seven absolute essentials for running a successful project.

• Sponsor. Who is paying the bills for the project? Make sure you know exactly who that is, and stay in touch throughout the project. Also, be clear on who the user of the finished project will be, because it’s normally not the same as the sponsor, but it’s critically important to keep that user always in mind.

• Team. Who is on the project team? How many hours per week can they devote to the project? Do they know they’re on the team? Make sure they do!

• Requirements. What exactly is this thing supposed to do? Write it down and get the sponsor to give it a thumbs up.

• System design. If it’s a technical project, a block diagram. If it’s a home project, a sketch with some dimensions. If it’s a dinner party, a sketch of the tables and who sits where, the menu, etc. Notice that you can’t really enter the project management phase until you have this creative part of the work behind you. You’ve got to know what you’re going to be building.

• Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The WBS is the heart of Project Management. You take the total project, and you and the team break it down into smaller pieces. You then break down those pieces, and keep going until the pieces would take about a week to complete. Those pieces are called tasks. Each task needs to have exactly one owner who’s responsible for its completion. Moreover, the owner needs to figure out what other tasks have to be done before this task can get started; those tasks are called predecessors.

• Gantt Chart. A computer-generated graphic showing all the tasks, how long they’ll take to complete, and which ones are predecessors to which. The Gantt Chart enables you to see to total duration of the project (when it will be done), and which tasks can’t slip without slipping the whole project (the critical path).

• Progress Meetings. Decide as a team how often you’ll meet to make sure everything stays on track. Many project teams meet weekly for maybe half an hour, and then take other business offline outside the meeting.

And that, in a nutshell, is the list of things that you as the Project Manager need to do to hit a home run with your project!