Whether you’re in charge of developing a website, designing a car, moving a department to a new facility, updating an information system, or just about any other project (large or small), you’ll go through the same four phases of project management: i.e. planning, build-up, implementation, and closeout. Even though the phases have distinct qualities, they overlap.
For example, you’ll typically begin planning with a ballpark budget figure and an estimated completion date. Once you’re in the build-up and implementation phases, you’ll define and begin to execute the details of the project plan. That will give you new information, so you’ll revise your budget and end date—in other words, do more planning—according to your clearer understanding of the big picture.
Here’s an overview of each phase and the activities involved.
1) Planning: How to Map Out a Project
When people think of project planning, their minds tend to jump immediately to schedule—but you won’t even get to that part until the build-up phase. Planning is really about defining fundamentals: what problem needs solving, who will be involved, and what will be done.
Before you begin, take time to pinpoint what issue the project is actually supposed to fix. It’s not always obvious.
2) Build-Up: How to Get the Project Going
In the build-up phase, you bring your team together. Time estimates become schedules. Cost estimates become budgets. You gather your resources. You get commitments, and you make them.
Your first task in this phase is to assess the skills needed for the project so you can get the right people on board. This assessment flows directly from the Work Breakdown Structure you did during the planning phase, in which you developed your best estimate of the necessary tasks and activities.
3) Implementation: How to Execute the Project
It’s time to put the plan into action. The implementation phase is often the most gratifying because work actually gets done, but it can also be the most frustrating. The details can be tedious and, at times, overwhelming.
Whether you have a formal project control system in place or you do your own regular check-ups, try to maintain a big-picture perspective so that you don’t become engulfed by details and petty problems. Project-monitoring software systems can help you measure your progress.
4) Closeout: How to Handle End Matters
Though some projects feel endless, they all, eventually, come to a close. How do you, as a project manager, know when to make that happen? And how do you go about it?
Before closing out your project, your team needs to meet its goals (or determine, along with key stakeholders, that those goals no longer apply). Compare your progress with the scope everyone agreed on at the beginning. That will tell you how well the project has performed—and if there’s still work to do.
When you discuss your findings with your stakeholders, make sure you reach a consensus with them on how “finished” the project is. Keep your scope front and center so everyone uses the same yardstick to measure success.
Looking forward to carrying out a project but you have no idea?
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