3 Tips to Managing your Projects Better

Project management isn’t exactly something new to even one who has just entered the workforce. However, there is quite a difference between managing a school project and managing a work project. While that should seem obvious, the practical experience tends to differ from the theory behind how a project should run, simply because of imperfect information; there is simply too much uncertainty to prepare for, sometimes.

training

“Isn’t our project manager cute?”

One project that I was given the opportunity to work on was the video project ‘This is Titansoft’, which is a short video highlighting the culture of Titansoft that I briefly mentioned in an earlier post. Although I have completed video projects before and even worked on independent films, working on this particular project has taught me that project management, be it a video project or others, in the corporate world is not as simple as it seems…

1. Manage your Stakeholders

Unlike in school, the corporate world is populated with people who have vested interest in your project. These people are also known as stakeholders. Since the project will take up resources, can you blame them for wanting to figure out ROIs?

Now not all stakeholders are born equal and as such, they have different levels of interest and definitely different levels of care. So how do we manage them?

Let’s see some ID please

Before you start off with managing your stakeholders, conduct a Stakeholder Analysis first. The first step for this is to identify your stakeholders. Think about the following:

  • Who will be affected by your project
  • Who has influence or power over your project
  • Who has an interest in the project’s successful (or unsuccessful) conclusion

Try your best to consider stakeholders as individual people instead of groups of people. Say ‘Chief Executive Officer’ instead of simply ‘Senior Management’. This is important because within a group, the needs and interests of each individual will differ and there is no one management solution to all of them.

Understand them

Now that you have established who your stakeholders are, the next step would be to prioritize them. As stakeholders have an interest in your project and have the potential to influence your project, we can prioritize them using a commonly used tool known as the Power / Interest Matrix.

 

Power-Interest Matrix.jpg

Credit to MindTools.com

As you can tell from the matrix, each category requires different levels of management.So how does one go about classifying their stakeholders?

First, we have to understand how our project will impact the stakeholders and how they will react to it. Thus, we can consider a few things about them, such as:

  1. Interest
    • What is their Financial or Emotional interest in the outcome of the project (Positive or Negative)
    • What information would they need from you throughout the project?
    • How would you provide this information to them?
  2. Power
    • What influence do they have over the project?
    • What are their opinions of your project? (To establish advocates as well as potential blockers)

As you can see, we are not just addressing interest / power, there is also an additional element of communication involved, including which channels to communicate important information and how timely should information flow. It is important to consider these aspects in order to better manage your stakeholders’ expectations. Once you have mapped your stakeholders into this matrix, you are now able to understand the needs of each stakeholder as well as how to manage them.

2. It’s not a One Man Show

There is no doubt that with a clear vision, more than capable skills and the focus to get things done, that any single person can accomplish any project in the world (no matter its size), given the right amount of time.

Indeed, I believe mankind can achieve plenty of great things (including curing cancer, colonizing Mars and creating the Matrix) given enough time. The biggest problem here would be that time is not infinite. With that, given the scope of a video production, it is definitely not going to be possible to run it with just one guy.

The Division of Labour

As fancy as it sounds, it is really delegation of work. After all, there is a project team and each member has their own strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, not everyone is comfortable with delegation and a very common reason for disliking delegation would be ‘It’s easier to do it myself’. Indeed, this could be true, depending on the scope of the project. But as the Project Manager given a set of resources, wouldn’t it be optimal to maximize the usage? More importantly, we are overlooking the benefits of delegation as well as how it can impact the relationships in the workplace.

In the case of the video project, I found it difficult to actually delegate most of the legwork away simply due to the lack of skills that we all had (Nearly the whole team did not have any experience in video production at all). As such, I decided to take on the heavy burden of most aspects of the video production to make things simpler for everyone. Little did I realize that it made things harder for everyone instead and I have learned a thing or two about delegation thereafter.

Positive Aspects of Delegation

The first thing about delegation is that once you delegate, it frees up your time for other tasks. More often than not, trust is also built between both the project manager and the employee / colleague through delegation, especially if it is a challenging task. This is also a golden opportunity for employees / colleagues to discover a new set of skills that they were not aware of.

Upon successful accomplishment of the task, it provides the opportunity to share the credit with the team as well because everyone knows they contributed.

Negative Aspects of Delegation

Depending on your relationship with your employees / colleagues, delegation can also spark negativity. It might be seen as micromanaging, or seen as just dumping your work onto others. An even more dangerous situation would be when other work needs to be put aside when work is delegated onto them and they get confused over their work priorities.

Thus. it is important to communicate the reasons for delegation as well as understand the current workload of the individual team member to avoid work priority issues.

3. Failure to Plan is a Plan to Failure

No project should be given the green light without a concrete plan or direction. The plan should be detailed enough to figure out what is the next move in the right direction, but flexible enough to accommodate uncertainty. Sounds easy? It really isn’t.

In order to make this video successful, I needed to have a team that knows how to work a camera, lights and even audio equipment. Thus, training would be necessary. While I could easily plan the schedule of the shoot, I did not account for the training required. My reasoning was that since I did not have the equipment on hand, I was not able to conduct any training about the equipment. But hey, I could have conducted a training on shot angles first, which would make life much breezier during the shoot as I only needed to train the technical aspects of handling a camera then.

Simply put, I could have planned the shoot better. In hindsight, although I was limited by the lack of equipment, I could have worked out other forms of beneficial training to aid in the shoot.

While it is not exactly a failure to plan, it is important to be detailed in what needs to be done in order to achieve the objective. Be creative and think of alternatives to any problems faced.

Conclusion

Bear this in mind when working with your project. While there is a difference between a school project and a work project, there are similar elements that can be applied to. Think about it, who exactly are the stakeholders of your school project? You might be surprised by the answer to that question.

I hope that my little insights are at least somewhat helpful to any project manager or even team members out there.

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