Friday, September 5, 2008

Project Management: How To Stop Freaking Out and Start Getting Things Done

Being in charge of a project can be an enriching experience. Recently, my boss put confidence in me to see a project to conclusion. When I was first assigned the task it seemed daunting if not impossible and I wondered why they chose me, of all people. But when I was cc'd an email from the CEO to my contact person that said am an overachiever and he had total confidence that I would do a great job, I changed my opinion of the entire thing. I began to believe the same thing at that point!

This project has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. Along the way I have been thinking about the things I have learned while working on this project. Here's my advice to you (and to a future me).
  1. Take time to think it through. You have just been assigned a big project. You're really not sure you can handle it, or you are really confident it's no problem. Either way, you might be wrong. That's why it's so important to stop and think. Take a day before getting going, seriously, the more you think through now, the less road blocks you will deal with later. Sit in front of your computer, open a blank word doc and start typing all your questions in. Furiously type!!! Close your eyes if you have to. Think of everything. Look at that list. You missed a ton of shit. But it's okay. Your brain is now in project mode. Activate Project Mode!!!
  2. Contact people immediately. Do not delay contacting any outside sources that you will be involved with. The sooner you establish a relationship and rapport with your collaborators, the better. This person will be your direct link to crucial information such as how it's been done by other companies. This person is someone you want to have a good relationship, because in the event that you have a gazilion questions, they will take the time to answer them.
  3. Ask for help. Many people have been in your shoes before and they too have asked for help. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for advice or extra help on your project. People in other departments may have better insight into how it will run the most smoothly when it gets through their department, or ideas as to what can be streamlined or eliminated. As always, the more minds you have in on it, the less details you will overlook. If Joe from accounting is good at flow charts, ask for his help. If Betty in customer service writes good proposals, seek out her advice. You will gain their respect because everyone likes to be good at something. Preface your request with a compliment that accentuates the very thing you need help with. "Betty, your work on the Hefner merger last month was incredible. I'm in charge of the Jones acquisition now and I would love to pick your brain for a few ideas whenever you have time." You will be glad you have an ally.
  4. Get organized. Draw a map of the building if you have to and imagine who needs to do what. Devise a flow chart. (Microsoft Visio is perfect for these tasks.) Imagine yourself in the shoes of each person who will be physically involved in the process once it's underway. Break your project down and concentrate on finishing the planning for one area at a time. Bring that area as close to completion as possible and then do the same for the next tasks You will find that completing the first process or task will help you understand the other areas and you will be able to plan those much better.
  5. Make decisions. Your boss, or whoever gave you the assignment, has given you the authority to determine processes, order supplies, etc. Do not wait to order things or delegate tasks - time will run out faster than you think. If you are in charge of this project that means that no one else is going to be making these decisions. At least ask for input from the person who knows about the ordering.
  6. Keep people informed. You will find it helpful for you and for the people you to will report to to keep a list of what has been accomplished and how. This list will also contain what still needs to be done. From this you can gather a list of questions that you can sort according to the appropriate people to ask. If you have to report to someone or many people, make a Status Report outlining what has been done and what needs to be done. It's better to have more information than not enough; when you bring this list to the meeting the recipients can decide what they need to read and what they can skim.
  7. Always have a backup. Remember to keep a plan B in mind for each part of your project. If you are presenting an idea, someone may bring up an objection as to why it cannot be done that way. Be ready with a rapidfire backup plan to blow them away.
  8. Delegate. If you are in charge, then by default, someone else is not. If you have any people at your disposal, use them for the smaller tasks that you need done, freeing you to focus on all those little details that no one but you knows about. Remember that it may be hard to get people to work 'for' you, they may have other things to do, or possibly harbor resentment that you are in charge. Tattle on them. Just kidding. Sit them down and talk to them, blame it on your boss if you have to, saying that he has you under a tight deadline and he's all over you about the deadline. If that doesn't work, then tattle.
  9. Relax. Things will go wrong. Things will go wronger if you panic about them. If a crisis occurs, think it through, gather advice and input, and then try to calm down. If you can take a day to step back and focus on another area of the project, that's great. You may need to reevaluate your entire plan at some point. The main thing to remember is that the worst thing that can happen is that you will fail miserably and get fired. And even that's not so bad in the grand scheme of things. And that probably won't even happen, so don't worry. You will be fine.
  10. Celebrate. You did it! Yay!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bananza

Have a look at the 4 min video on

Its simply a better way through the middle of this