Important Steps to Ensure Project Success

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A project manager walking up stairs.When you start out on a brand new project the end can seem an impossibly long way away. However, the very first days are no less important than any other stage along the way.

In fact, the entire project lifecycle is filled with essential steps which you simply can’t afford to miss out. The list below isn’t exhaustive but it does cover some very important areas.

Step 1 – Find Out What It Is All About

I realize that you are unlikely to go into a new project without finding out anything about it. The point I want to make it that it is too easy to not give this step the respect it deserves. The most important part for me is that at the outset of the piece of work you are perfectly entitled to ask basic questions such as, “What does this button do?”, “What does this acronym mean?” and “Who are you?” However, if you let this stage pass you by and then start asking things like this after a few months of the project then the stakeholders are going to lose faith in you pretty quickly, while you start to feel bad about asking such silly things which you should really know the answer to by now.

Step 2 – Get a Team Going

The team you have around you is a vital aspect of the project. You will need a good blend of skills and a lot of enthusiasm in there if you are to make a success of it. You can obviously train team members and get them motivated as it goes on but you need to be sure that you have at least a reasonable starting point to work from. Hopefully you will have the chance to get involved in the recruitment process, as this is when you can make sure that you obtain the team members you really need. The next phase is to get them up to speed and contributing as soon as possible.

Step 3- Get Organized

This is quite a broad heading as it covers an awful lot of things. Getting organized on a new project means pulling many strands together in a short period of time. This can seem daunting at the start but once you get into it is – in my opinion – the most rewarding part of the whole process. This is when you get the chance to create things such as project plans and business cases. It is also when the full purpose of the project should become clear in your head and when you get to clear up any lingering doubts or issues. That’s not to say that after this stage it will be plain sailing but you will feel a lot more in control of the work once you get past it.

Step 4- Stay Focused

For me the biggest challenge can be to keep my focus, especially on a long and tiring piece of work. There are some tricks for doing this and you might want to ask some of the more experienced project managers around you for some advice. Personally, I like to switch tasks on a regular basis and organize some away days to keep my attention on the job at hand. The focus of your team also needs to be a concern of yours and hopefully you can keep them on the right track as well.

Step 5 – Test and Sign Off

Once you get your solution sorted out (I know I skipped a stage or two there but I wanted to spend more time on the ones which are really important and which often cause a problem) you will need to test it. The approach you take will vary depending upon what you are actually testing but it needs to be pretty exhaustive. I enjoy this phase too as I started out as a tester but I understand that some other people get bored to tears by it. Remember to keep all of your results nicely cataloged and easy to access. Finally, the project sign off should be a moment of triumph for you, although a lot of the time it comes simply as a relief. It may be only a few weeks after the successful conclusion of the project that you start to fully appreciate how great a job you just did. Enjoy the feeling of having got through all of the stages and you can then begin to look forward to doing it all over again on something completely different.

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5 Team Leader Mistakes to Avoid

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A team leader frustrated with his mistakes.Leading a project team is one of the most demanding aspects of the project manager role but that doesn’t mean that it is impossible. There are certain mistakes you need to avoid, though, and here are 5 of the top ones.

Not Being Around Enough

If you have ever worked with a manager who never seems to be around then you know how frustrating this can be. This is especially true in the project world, where your team members will often look to you for guidance. It is the kind of job in which there can often be lulls in which the workers feel a bit nervous about not having anything to do. Even if you have a lot of meetings and other things to do you should still make sure that you are around enough to lead the team properly. In extreme cases where you are incredibly busy this might mean making an extra special effort to be in the office when you know that everyone else is likely to be there.

Being Too Hands On

It is quite difficult to work out whether to take a step back and let others go on with certain tasks. However, there comes a point when you simply need to trust your team members to do the job well. This should happen once you have trained them on the subject and given them the information they need to go ahead and make a success of it. You will still want to keep your controls in place and check their progress on a regular basis but that doesn’t mean that you need to hover over your team members while they work. Give them some freedom to get on with it without leaving them on their own without any help and you will have found the right balance.

Not Showing Confidence in Your Team

This point no doubt ties in with the previous one in a lot of cases. If you have a project team working for you then you need to show confidence in them. If it is obvious that you don’t trust them then this is going to seriously damage their confidence. If there is something which someone consistently does wrong then it is up to you to make sure that they learn from these mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes early in their careers and if you look back on yours then you presumably did the same too. The difference is that sometimes we are lucky enough to come across a manager who helps and guides us through the tough times. Hopefully you will be able to fulfil this role for your younger team members.

Keeping Secrets

It is a good feeling to know a few secrets, isn’t it? As the project leader you are likely to see the overall project in a way which few other people can. In fact, there is no need for most of the people in your team to share the high level view you have. However, there is also usually very little reason to keep secrets from the rest of your team. In most cases all this does is lead to a division between you and the team. It can be fun to give them updates on what is happening outside what they can see and they can also give you a lot of advice and ideas when you need them. You should look on the project as a team collaboration which you are leading rather than your project which others are helping you out with.

Trying to Keep All the Glory

At some point in our lives I think we all come across a glory hunting manager who wants to be seen as the only person who has made the work a success. The good thing about projects is that most of them are big enough and complicated enough to let you share out the glory with a few of your team members. Make no mistake about it, your team will be very aware of it if you try and steal all of the glory on the project, and it won’t help the atmosphere on the project at all. The best thing you can do I see yourself as a leader who shares out the praise and the rewards fairly and evenly. If you do this then you will feel good about yourself and you will also foster a strong team bond which will serve you well in the future as well as the present.

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