5 Tips to Attacking a Major Project 

It’s your time to shine! At long last, you’re asked to handle a big project or perhaps lead a team to get it done. Sounds great, but your first question might be, “What will I give up in order to get the BIG project done?”

While the question is valid and the response could be what you want to hear, most likely—in today’s business environment—you’ll have to layer this work on top of your current responsibilities, and manage this project on top of your regular job.

How can you maximize your time, get all of your work done, and avoid that overwhelming, black-hole feeling?

The key is to stay organized and stay on top of the big project and your other work. Here are 5 tips that will help you begin, stay on track, and finish with flying colors.

Get the background. Before beginning any project, you need to know everything about the scope of work, stakeholders, issues at hand and project objectives. Understanding the priorities attached to the project will allow you to determine the deliverables involved and meet the objectives to the satisfaction of everyone involved. Your team will look to you for guidance, understanding the entire story is essential.

Understand triple constraint, a method pioneered by Derek Heuther. The saying, “You can have fast, cheap or good; pick two,” ties directly to triple constraint. The term originated from the idea that (1) time, (2) scope, and (3) cost are the 3 constraints of any project. If you change one component of the triangle, it will impact the others. While this concept may seem overtly obvious, it’s nonetheless wise to be mindful of any hurdles. For example, if the scope of the project changes, the time and budget will also be impacted. Likewise, if you are asked to speed up delivery, you are either going to increase the budget to add resources, or decrease the scope to meet the deadline. Your project also may have more than 3 constraints, of course—customer satisfaction, risk, or quality, for example. As the project manager, your job is to provide the tools and techniques to ensure you are meeting the constraints of your project.

Know yourself and your project management skills. Sometimes, the success or failure of a project lies in the sheer will power of the people involved. Think about what you bring to the table in terms of managing this project, and more importantly, what skills you don’t have so that you can compensate. Obviously, organization is a key skill, but communication, honesty, delegation, leadership, team building, flexibility, and problem solving are also essential to completing a project successfully. If you aren’t sure of your own skills, ask a friend or colleague for honest feedback on what you can do better. Here’s an online quiz to get a better grasp of your own skills.

Start at the End. This may also seem obvious, but when you’re too close to something, you can sometimes miss the details. Create your project plan working backwards from the due date, and if possible, break it into multiple projects based on your deliverables. Even a project with just one major deliverable has components within it. Organize your team or yourself to meet the deliverables. Put a schedule in place and do everything in your power to meet it. This is important, especially if you are prone to procrastination or have a lot on your plate. Just like the term paper you wrote in one night in college, not spending enough time on a project frequently will show up as sloppy work. Allow enough time to get it all done!

Determine quality. Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Robert Pozen, author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, suggests that perfectionism is the enemy of productivity. Getting every moving piece right can be futile and prolong the project. One of the best ways to keep a big project in perspective is to ask yourself and your teammates to define success.

Project management is an everyday part of life—from planning a dinner party to doing your daily work. It is also a key to being recognized for leadership roles within your organization. Make sure you outline an approach that works for you and your team when tackling that big project. Being prepared and having success will produce a positive outcome!


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