Several types of Project Management exist… Traditional, Critical, Lean, Extreme—you name it. The field of project management has only “been around” since the late 1960’s (speaking of the 1960’s, did you see last week’s Mad Men themed blog?) and, as such, is still constantly being altered/bettered. Regardless of what type of project management works best for you and your company, there are some best practices and recommendations that can be adhered to across the board. (Note: “across the board” is only the first of many cliché phrases that I just can’t seem to stray from… you’ve been warned!).

Proactively Plan

No-one likes to put out fires—it’s a dangerous waste of precious water (water = time and money). Proactive planning is key to the successful completion of a project. A great place to start is with anticipating what might happen; use examples of similar projects from the past, research the background of what/who you’re working with to better understand the what-ifs, etc. Spending a small amount of time in the beginning of a project to plan for what might happen (even if it never ends up happening) is a much better use of time than trying to figure out how to fix a problem when it happens.

Clearly Communicate

Nothing eats your time like having to clarify what you meant when you said “x”. Clear communication is important not only for the time-saving factor, but also for ensuring that both your team and your clients are always in the know. I recommend crafting your communication and, depending on what it’s in reference to, having someone read it to make sure it a) makes sense, b) is to the point and c) is clear and concise. Depending on what field you work in, it may be useful to have a team member craft the communication (if perhaps you lack the subject matter expertise to meet the aforementioned criteria).

Balance Budgets

Many projects start off with beautifully balanced budgets—then the team starts logging hours, meetings are held, documents are submitted for approval—that’s when the balancing act begins. While it may seem tempting to balance individual project budgets at only the start and end of a project, it is truly a best practice to balance your budget on a monthly basis (especially for longer-term contracts). Pull up your project management software and see where you stand—how many hours do you have left for which parts of your project? Is something running a little too close to allotted hours for comfort? Schedule an internal meeting with the team to see how best to approach the situation. If necessary, clearly communicate (see what I did there?) with the client the situation to establish what your next steps will be.

Track Your Time

It is terribly easy to lose track of time when you’ve got thirty projects, 10+ people attached to each of those, and an always overflowing email inbox. Tracking your time not only helps you keep a balanced budget (oh, I did it again!) but also helps you make sure that you’re keeping up with keeping everyone else on task. I recommend scheduling specific time to approach each project on an individual basis as well as approaching all projects globally. The smaller time slots can be just for you to make sure you’ve got all of your bases covered, whereas the global time should be used to make sure your team is up-to-speed, on task, and ahead of deadlines.

Frequently Follow-Up

Frequent follow-up applies to everyone involved in your projects—clients, team members, contractors, etc. It makes sense to follow-up when you’re waiting on deliverables or are under a tight deadline, but you should also follow-up even if things are in a slower part of your project’s process. If you ever have the thought, “I haven’t spoken with so-and-so in awhile,” chances are so-and-so has had that thought too. I recommend regularly scheduled communication with everyone involved in your projects—again: clients, team, contractors, etc. Depending on the size and scope of your project, client communication should be either weekly or bi-weekly. Team communication should be at least weekly, but never fear scheduling internal meetings whenever truly necessary. The frequency of contractor follow-up is heavily reliant upon how in-depth they may be involved in a specific project. For the most part, though, they should be considered part of the team and followed up with as such. I hope these project management best practices recommendations have left you feeling entirely enlightened (or at least like we’re on the same page!).
Do you have other project management best practices that you couldn’t operate without? Share them in the comments section below!

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