If the world won’t be a better place once your project is completed, then your project isn’t worth doing. If the world will be improved when your project is done, then by all means, get it done as quickly as possible so the world can reap the benefits! Here’s how to ensure your project management strategy includes being prepared to keep your project moving at a swift pace with confidence.
Despite this common sense realization, companies and teams everywhere act as if they have all the time in the world to complete a project. When companies do this, they often end up with a lack of resources and doing too many projects at one time, which results in too much much multi-tasking, ineffective project coordination and (drumroll, please…) fewer projects actually getting done.
When projects start continually taking longer than you planned, customers push for more projects to be started earlier, which only makes the problem worse.
The longer a project takes, the more likely it will lead to time and money wasted.
[tweetify]“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” – Bruce Lee[/tweetify]
Project managers know that projects in process are a liability, not an asset.
While unfinished projects have potential value, the longer they stay in an unfinished state, the higher the chances are that they will miss the mark when they finally are completed. Perhaps the reason the project was started is no longer valid. It might be that the market, customer, or technology has changed during the time you and your team were flailing about while trying to finish too many projects at one time.
The longer a project stays in process, particularly if it stalls, the greater the chances are that one of the risk factors in your project will manifest. Perhaps a team member will be swept away onto another project or even quit the team.
Here is one tactic that can help to get more projects done faster.
The Ready in ‘Ready, Set, Go’
Before you go fast, make sure you have everything that your project needs before you actually begin. In manufacturing, this is sometimes called ‘Full Kitting,” referring to the fact that it simply doesn’t make sense to start building a widget until you have all of the parts required to make it. This is the Parts Kit.
With projects, we aren’t building a widget and we don’t necessarily know everything we will need to complete the project. This is especially true with projects with which we have limited experience. (And if that’s you, and you need additional help on getting started, here’s a must-read read: How to Start a Project When You Don’t Know Where to Start.)
When managing a project, be an ambulance.
An ambulance goes FAST! It completes its mission quickly. But it doesn’t start from scratch.
It has all of the equipment and supplies that could potentially be needed on any given incident (project). The paramedics don’t have to gather the equipment after they get a call that someone is trapped in their car on an overpass. That equipment is already staged on the ambulance.
No doubt, they won’t need everything on the truck for every incident, but they need to be prepared for many different types of emergencies because they never know what is going to hit today, and they don’t have time to pack the truck after they get a call. The paramedics team — and their ambulance — is full knitted.
There is a balance between cost and being ready for anything.
However, we should always make sure we have at least the basics in our Project Kit before we start:
This should be clearly defined. What are we trying to accomplish? How will we know when we are successful? Without a clear destination, the trip will no doubt take a long time.
If we don’t have all of the needed people on the team including customer representatives, critical technical resources, and a strong project leader, the project will stall. Make sure you’ll have sufficient time commitment from each team member in addition to the skills required, and make sure your approach to remote collaboration is organized, clear, and has team buy-in.
If supplies, equipment, or other items will be needed, check order lead times and make sure you can have them on hand at the appropriate time before you start the project. If you need any virtual project management tools to help you get started (like online sticky notes, ahem), make sure you have the format and plan for that before you dive right in.
4. Contingency plans
In addition to the basics, it pays to develop contingency plans for additional resources that might be required should things not go according to plan. What will happen if the project champion leaves the company? What will you do if your best programmer quits the team?
Part of a project manager’s job is ensuring that any curveballs can either be addressed before they happen — or be addressed quickly when they happen. It’s worth the added cost to throw a few additional resources into your Project Kit–just in case you hit some road bumps along the way. Having contingency plans and additional resources at your disposal will help you mitigate any risks that turn into real problem.
Finishing a project fast requires starting prepared
If you want the project you are managing to move on a reasonable timeline, the preparation before starting is a non-negotiable. Every project manager who takes the time to integrate a Project Kit in their project management strategy will be grateful for the time and effort spent on it, as it may save them and their team from failure!
This post was updated in April 2020.