Isn’t it nice when projects run smoothly, teammates work seamlessly together, and deliverables knock all the targets out of the park? I’d say that’s a dream project for every PM I know.
Sadly, in reality, we’re more likely to find disagreement somewhere along the way. And sometimes, we may even get caught between two people with opposing views and a strong argument from their perspectives. One thing these cases tend to have in common is that usually, there are unclear expectations or requirements and unspoken assumptions on either (or both!) sides that contribute to the disagreement, and these can derail the project altogether.
Liaising between your team and the project customer (aka, the person for whom you’re making the project) is a large part of leading a successful project, as the ultimate goal is to reach the objectives that were initially set.
In this blog, I’m breaking down the simple strategies you can implement to align everyone’s expectations and hit the mark on every project.
3 Easy Steps To Achieve Project Success Every Time
The project initiation phase is where you determine client expectations and devise a strategy to fulfill them, taking into account the three measures of project success: scope, time, and budget. These three factors are also known as the three constraints in project management because these three elements are interconnected, and changes to one of them will affect one or both of the others.
For example, if your customer’s budget is limited, but they want an additional feature, you could find a middle ground by removing one of the original features you initially agreed on to keep the workload similar enough. On the contrary, when there’s a hard deadline, the cost tends to increase to account for rush fees or added team members to complete the work more quickly.
Your project scope is the approved work and deliverables that are to be completed throughout the project. Your scope is perhaps the most important element as it gives your team a roadmap for the duration of the project and sets expectations for the project customer and stakeholders.
One of the more common issues in PM is scope creep, which is when seemingly small changes start making their way into your project once it’s already started, without a discussion for additional compensation, resources, or a longer timeline. Scope creep risks the success of your project because it’s hard to hit a moving target.
As you embark on a new project, you’ll want to break down your main objective into deliverables, each of which needs to be tied to a deadline. This is especially important when you’re incorporating multiple rounds of feedback or input from a team (rather than an individual), as you’ll have to juggle multiple schedules so that everything comes together on time.
Another crucial consideration in project management is task dependency. If one contributor’s task directly impacts another’s ability to complete their side of the project, both teammates need to be informed throughout the process. And it may be tempting to schedule the tasks as close together as possible, but in these cases, you want to add a buffer in case something goes wrong. A buffer will prevent the entire project from going off the rails if one task is delayed.
A clear financial picture is essential for any project, and it needs to account for the detailed scope (including deliverables, salaries, production costs, and any initial investment like software or materials), which is directly affected by the budget, as most changes can reasonably be added to a project — if there are resources to make up for the additional time and tasks.
Clear communication is half the battle when you’re running a project. It’s the project manager’s job to keep the team and stakeholders informed throughout the process so that everyone knows what to do and the project stays on track.
A weekly recap email is incredibly effective at keeping everyone informed and accountable for their tasks. No need to be fancy, either. You can create a simple template that includes the past week’s accomplishments, open items for the week (with deadlines and assignees), and any challenges that may be coming.
Once you know what to say, it’s time to figure out who needs to hear it. The RACI chart is a valuable tool that allows you to assess the type of information you need to share with each party, from simply keeping someone in the loop to asking for clarification or approval from others. It simplifies your task and makes it easy to only gather the feedback you need to move forward.
In many cases, clients come to you to complete a project because they’re under a lot of pressure with their existing workload. The last thing they need is yet another task on their to-do list.
In order to hold them to their end of the deal, you will want to outline clear boundaries and expectations. But you also want to make the approval and feedback process, as well as any client-side tasks, as simple and clear as possible from the start. This way, you’re more likely to establish a collaborative relationship rather than constantly having to chase them down to get their part done.
Similarly, customers don’t want to spend hours trying to figure out how to work with you. So you’ll want to build a scalable and replicable process to make it easy to onboard clients at the start of a project. Bonus points if you create a folder of SOPs (standard operating procedures) to show them the ropes so that they can jump in and get their work done.
Many people rely on metrics and take a black-and-white approach when measuring project success. But a big part of completing a successful project is creating a positive experience along with the agreed-upon deliverables and ensuring that the client’s needs are met throughout.
Thankfully, the bulk of project success is communication. Once you, the team, and the client are aligned on the objectives, it’s easy to determine whether what you’re doing is leading you there.
Are you looking for tools, tips, and hands-on learning to improve your existing processes and deliver a positive result to all of your clients? Download now: SIPOC Checklist, the tool to kickstart your next process improvement project.