How can I structure and manage my project effectively?

“Some people like to dress project management as rocket science. I like to think of it as just a set of tools that enable managers to efficiently and cost-effectively guide a project from point A to point B,” says Moses Kiliswa, co-founder of engineering services firm Geo Con Ltd.
According to Kiliswa, you need to think through and plan before starting your project. The aim is to clearly state the Why, What, How, Who and When of getting things done.
Below are some useful tips and links for further reading on project management.

Six steps to structure and manage a project
Small business owner Eleanor Mayrhofer developed a now popular project management methodology, called Steal This Process. Her method, which is focused on helping small business owners to use a project management approach to tasks, describes six key steps that are important to successful projects.

1) Set goals – Clearly establish what you want to achieve at the end of the project. Involve stakeholders, if any, in the process. Use the SMART criteria for setting goals.

2) Define the scope – The next step is to define the activities you need to do in order to achieve the set goals. For example, your goal is to increase online sales of kitenge dresses by 40% in nine months. The scope for this could be: a) Do SEO for your online store; B) Write three blog posts per month on tips for wearing kitenge or design trends; C) Open a store on Etsy.

3) Estimation – How long can the defined tasks take to be completed?

4) Planning – Design a project management plan (PMP) by detailing the project in terms of its goals, scope, human resources and costs. The PMP should essentially detail how your project will be executed, monitored, controlled and closed.

5) Executing – Apply the PMP by performing the work to produce deliverables as detailed. This also involves incorporating approved changes and corrections. Do not stray from the PMP.

6) Reviewing – Review the project periodically to ensure you are on track, and also at the close of the project to establish what worked or didn’t work.

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Popular project management methodologies

A methodology is a model that project managers use for the design, planning, implementation and achievement of their project objectives. There are different methodologies for different projects. Use the most suitable for the requirements of your project.

Some popular methodologies include: Agile, Lean, Waterfall, PRINCE2 and Scrum. In the Agile method, small portions of the final project are created in each cycle and continuously modified based on feedback given, while traditional methods like Waterfall follow detailed requirements for the end product as defined in the beginning, for example, in a construction project.

Further reading

Project management methodologies
Guiding processes for project managers

Project management tools
Project management tools assist with achieving tasks and executing responsibilities. These tools can be software or simple, proven techniques to manage project work. Some of the tools used by project managers across all sectors are:

  • Project plan – Details the aspects of the project to be executed
  • Milestone checklist – A live document that determines if the work is on track
  • Gantt chart – Illustrates the project schedule and shows the interdependencies of each activity
  • Project management software – These offer a solution that helps to keep tasks organised. Project management software include Asana, JIRA and Wrike.
  • Project reviews – Commonly used by large companies, a project review tool is a comprehensive review mechanism that mainly tracks progress and standards. Project reviews are often accompanied with project audits by a third party.
  • Delivery reviews – Ensures deliveries meet the specified requirements and quality
  • Score cards – Tracks performance of project team members

What to do when things go wrong?
“You will experience difficulties at some point and when this happens, avoid simply throwing more resources at the project because more cooks don’t necessarily equal a better dish. Rather seek mentorship for yourself or team members,” says Kiliswa.
Kiliswa suggests applying the following techniques to assist in hard times:

  • Show leadership. First, stop any blame game and ensure panic doesn’t occur or spread.
  • Do not play problems down. Be transparent with your team and stakeholders. Communicate clearly what you require to get things on track, whether it’s time or more resources.

Review problem projects when they are complete to avoid repeat of the mistakes in the next project. Use the project review to implement, for example, training and process changes for the business.