Ever start to bake a cake and then realize that you don’t have flour, so you run to the store; then on the way you realize your gas tank is nearly empty and you after you stop to fill it, you realize you have spent the last of your cash getting gas, so you have to go to the ATM? It happens to all of us and it is a classic If You Give a Mouse a Cookie scenario.
In project management we call these dependencies—stages along the critical path that can totally foil the forward movement of a project. Dependencies determine the order in which smaller tasks within a project are completed. For example, it clearly doesn’t make a lot of sense to think about how to market your services before you have settled on what services you want to offer or what logo you will use to represent your company.
Figuring out the best way to organize a new project is always daunting. Finding out you are on the wrong side of a dependency that will derail a whole project, makes it even more so. Shameless plug…using an all-in-one marketing firm, like Spring Insight, can help structure the project to avoid these kinds of surprises. How do we do it?
Here are a few simple steps to help breakdown our process:
Step 1: Make a list of project dependencies
While new tasks are bound to pop-up once you get into a project, you can anticipate many project dependencies ahead of time. Early in the project, brainstorm and document all the tasks necessary to complete your project and then put them in order. If you can estimate the timeframe for each that’s even more helpful and gives you a target for project completion. Trello is a great tool for saving lists like this.
Step 2: Assign tasks to team members
You probably already have a rough idea of who on your team is responsible for different tasks within a project. Get that list out of your head. Assign each person to-do’s and work with them to determine reasonable deadlines. At Spring Insight, we primarily use Basecamp for keeping to-do’s organized and allowing everyone, including the client, to see the full picture as the project develops. This way, everyone knows what she is responsible for and can think about how those pieces fit into the overall scope of the project.
Step 3: Assess and monitor progress
Agree with your team and project manager about how to deal with the dynamics of the project. If you have dependencies outside of your team, chances are you will need to modify your initial project plan and that’s OK. Think about what will make you feel less stressed (This is not just about self-care either; I always find that when I’m less stressed, business follows.). Are you comfortable with the project manager only reporting to you when things are not happening according to plan? Or would you feel more in the loop scheduling regular meetings?
Following these few steps on each project will help you avoid project derailment. Still not sure where to start? Why not sign up for a Free Website Assessment and let me help put you on the right path?
Photo credit: By Felicia Bond, Illustrator (Supplied by Felicia Bond, illustrator) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons