Have you just been asked to lead a key project?  After years of creating RoadMaps for companies and projects big and small, here are my 10 steps to make sure the “big rocks” are considered:

1. Spend time clearly defining the end goal and WIIFM.  Most projects fizzle rather than fail due to ambiguous definition or lack of commitment by team members or company leaders.  Spend considerable time in advance clearly answering these questions:

  • What is the Goal or Objective? 
  • Who are the stakeholders and what’s in it for each of them? Do they all agree on the goal?  What is each person’s role in the project?  Are they contributing time, budget or buy-in?
  • Who needs to be involved and at what points in the project?

2. Define success and make sure you can measure it.  How does this project play a role in the overall big picture or important work of the organization?  How can you quantify or make tangible a successful outcome?  Can you collect the right data that will really measure this metric?  Estimate the time and money will it take to collect, synthesize and report this metric and incorporate this into the project plan.

3. What are the project deliverables? Keep the project scope manageable.  Is it a presentation, a prototype, a series of recommendations?  If you can define this clearly (even providing a template), you can much more quickly focus your team and reign in tangential discussions.

4. What are your assumptions and risks? As you move through a project, document your assumptions or risks (for example, product “x” will be launched in December).  This will help you later when you are trying to explain changes in timing or cost.

5. What are the needed resources? What budget, person-hours and skills are needed?  These can also be part of your project assumptions.

6. Set milestones or progress markers.  To make sure you can more quickly assess changes that need to be made in scope, budget or expectations, establish interim goals or milestones in advance.

7. Define the project’s managing process.  Follow-up is critical to projects being completed, on-time and within scope.  How often will the group meet and report progress?  How will interim questions be handled? Get dates on everyone’s calendar up front to ensure a fast start.

8. Pick the right project management tool.  The goal of a project management tool is to help organize the information and reporting so it is easy to see what each person needs to do and the due date.  The best tool is one that will be actually be used by each person in the team.  To select a tool….  What information needs to be shared? How much training is needed?  Do you need to bring in outside people at times?  Is there a special need for information security?

9. Learn.  In our ever-fast-paced working world we often finish one project and immediately jump to the next.  Take time to look over the project.  What went well? What could have been improved? 

10. Celebrate.  Schedule a team celebration to mark the successful completion and publicly give thanks to key contributors.

Click here for a copy of SCORE’s Successful Project Management Guide.