It is certainly true that a project needs a lot of different threads to come together for it to work but there are a few common factors which should always be at the front of your mind.
Know the Objectives
This seems so obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning. However, lots of projects of different types have floundered because the objectives weren’t clear all through the process. In fact, it is incredibly easy to get caught up in the rest of the details and forget what you are aiming for overall. The objectives need to be clear in the minds of everyone in the team from the start of the project to the end. If you feel at any point that team members are taking their eyes off the ball then it could be time to get them all together and go over the basics again.
A Strong Team
A project manager can have a huge effect on the success of their project but there is a limit to what they personally can do. Without an effective project team backing them up, all of their work can end up counting for very little. This means that you need to find ways to get the team involved right from the very start. Some project managers find the team leading aspect easier than others but it is something which they all need to get to grips with. If you get the chance to choose and train your own team then you should find this a lot easier to do, and if you can stick with the same team from one project to another you will get to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.
What I mean by documentation is basically everything you have written down throughout the project, from the initial plan to the business case and the minutes of the meetings. It is easy to think that you will remember everything but as the project progresses it is more than likely that you get overloaded with so much information that you forget a lot of what has already gone on. The only sure way of avoiding this becoming a problem is by making sure that everything is clearly written down.
Easy to Find Information
The last point leads me onto this one. It is all very well keeping a note of everything you do but what if you can’t find any of this information when you most need it? One of my first tasks in any new project is always to set up the computer file folders to make it easy to locate everything. If you are going to need to store paper archives as well then is something else you will need to put a bit of thought into before it is too late.
The stakeholders are very important people in your project and it certainly doesn’t pay to try and ignore their wishes. If you get off on the wrong foot with these people then it can make the entire project a whole lot more complicated. It is a far better idea to make them feel part of the process and to encourage their input. If you do this then you will have a much better chance of making it a success and of enjoying a positive relationship with the stakeholders. Don’t forget that the same old stakeholders often pop up on different projects over time, so you probably won’t be seeing the back of them after this one is over.
A Strong Start
There isn’t really a scientific way that I can find of putting this, but getting your project off on the right foot is essential as far as I am concerned. The first few weeks are when you need to get up a head of steam and get everyone involved in the project as enthusiastic as possible. If you can get ahead of the project plan as well then this is great. A project which falls behind can be recovered but it is draining to always be behind and need to make up for lost time. It is far easier and more enjoyable to get in front and then focus on staying there. If you do this then you will know that you have some contingency built up if things go wrong in the future.