Project Management Skills Training – Guide to project planning and successful implementation

by ltconsulting on August 1, 2011

Managing projects is not easy, but it is a crucial task in the workplace. Our Project Management training course will present delegates with useful strategies that will assist them with:

  • organising projects
  • improving project management skills
  • managing projects effectively
  • project planning
  • becoming a great project manager

With ever-increasing workloads and deadlines, the ability to manage our time has never been more important. Project management is a crucial factor in work and our project management courses are created to ensure that delegates can make their work based projects as efficient and effective as possible. We do this by supplying a project management training course that is full of tools and tips for improving project planning, time planning, delegation, organisation and management strategies, managing meetings, as well as handling and using time effectively. Our Project Management Course will cover subjects such as goal setting, improving organisation skills and managing time successfully. Our seminars are packed with useful tips and techniques that allow you to become a better project manager instantly.

Whether we realise it or not we all work on projects and in our experience most people benefit when they use a structured approach to planning and implementation. All of the checklists and tips are included in our course ‘Project planning for non-project managers’.

Quiz – Planning pitfalls

The examples below highlight the problems and pitfalls of projects which, due to one missing factor can lead to failure. These may not be the identical to the situations that occur in your organisation but the principles of sound project planning and project management can prevent the many obstacles and hitches which beset many undertakings. The answers are given at the end of this newsletter.

  1. Lois jeans, one of the best selling range of jeans in the UK, suffered a major setback in the eighties when it launched its most profitable brand of jeans in Scandinavia. In spite of excellent distribution, merchandising and promotion the jeans sold badly. Why was that?
  2. An aid programme to help develop farming in an area damaged by drought failed even though the aid workers asked the local men for advice on what they wanted and the type of assistance they needed with their farming procedures.

Guide to project planning and successful implementation

These ten steps will help you to think through the processes of project planning and management. Although not comprehensive, you will find it useful as a guide for your next project.

Step 1
Define the objective, aim or purpose (be specific) and describe the expected result. If you have been given the project, ensure the project commissioner is specific about what the ‘end result’ must look like.
Estimate the cost and negotiate the project budget.

Step 2
Brainstorm with the project team and break the project into bite-sized, manageable portions with their own specific actions. A mind map will help you to do this.

Step 3
Contingency planning is essential to the smooth running of the project. Remember ‘Most people don’t plan to fail-they just fail to plan’. A good way to do this is as follows: think through and discuss with other team members possible contingencies, challenges, and obstacles and list them on the left-hand side of a clean sheet of paper. Then on the right-hand side, brainstorm for realistic solutions to each problem. The time taken at this stage will be more than compensated by the time saved during the project when unexpected crises occur.

Step 4
Sequence and prioritise your activities by working down the column, asking where in the list of priorities each task should be placed (e.g. does the second follow the first?). By now you should have a good idea of how the project will flow. This is when the project manager can now start to involve the project team fully.

Step 5
Estimate the duration of each activity in days, weeks or hours. Tip; plan in extra contingency time but don’t communicate this with the others – effective project managers will work to complete agreed timescales but will always need a buffer zone for problems that may occur.

Step 6
Time-activate the steps and write them down on the written checklist or project graph. Tip; make this visible for each member of the team-peer pressure can play a part in an individual’s completion of their part of the project plan.

Step 7
Review the project with team members and define and agree their roles and commitments. Note the dates for start and completion. Ensure that all people involved are fully informed and that each has a written copy of the plan. Tip; plan in project reviews prior to major milestones-nothing ensures effective productivity than a realisation of the next deadline.

Step 8
Evaluate the project often by checking the completion dates. Remember to check the team members’ commitment dates. This helps to ensure that all members of the team function in tandem. Tip; get team members to email successful completions of targets-forward these onto the others with your congratulations.

Step 9
On completion of the project, appraise it with all team members and note results and observations for future reference. This is the best way to correct shortcomings, reinforce strengths, and raise the bar on future performance and productivity.

Step 10
Celebrate your successes.

What is the definition of a project?

A human activity that achieves a clear objective within a commonly recognised time scale to the desired quality and within budget. Therefore project managers have to focus on three elements to guarantee success: Time, Cost and Quality. When the project is not going to plan the project manager will usually have to negotiate or compromise on one of these three factors.

Common Problems and Possible Solutions

Most projects are subject to unforeseen problems. How you deal with them to keep the project on track will depend upon; the completeness of the project planning; the synergy within the project team and external resources; the leadership of the project manager and the level of communication throughout the project.

Many projects can suffer setbacks due to unforeseen circumstances. The following points may help you to assess your project and implement alternative strategies.

TIME – Behind on agreed timescale

The PM can look for possible compression or overlap of future activities to recoup time or bring in additional resources to reduce the time future activities will require. The PM should also try to renegotiate the project schedule with the project stakeholders and attempt to delete desirable but less essential objectives from future events to save money. Finally the PM can offer performance incentives of bonuses for rapid completion of future activities.

COST – What to do if you are running over budget?

Decisions can be made to reduce the quantity or quality of resources required for some future activities or delete desirable but less essential objectives. The project budget may need a renegotiation to see if it can be extended. Other ways to save money are; substitute cheaper materials than those specified (but ensure quality is not compromised); reduce the use of external contractors and use internal staff with required skills or the PM can reluctantly accept less than ideal performance quality as long as specifications are met.

QUALITY issues

If, as in most projects, the quality of output is non variable the PM can try the following:

  • Insist on compliance with specifications
  • Offer performance incentives or bonuses
  • Renegotiate your project specifications
  • Identify any sub-standard materials and eliminate them
  • Inspect or test the quality of work provided on a regular basis to avoid problems

Writing Project Proposals

The essential elements of a project proposal can seem confusing when you have to take many factors into account. The following checklist may help you to order your thoughts prior to writing an effective project proposal:

  1. Objectives of the project
  2. Statement of the case-why the project is necessary
  3. Financial analysis
  4. Projected cash flows/other financial benefit
  5. Detailed breakdown of total project costs
  6. Results of Feasibility Study
  7. Results of Risk Analysis
  8. Proposed timetable
  9. Details of proposed contractual arrangements & engagements
  10. Information on internal resources to be used

When Writing Proposals

Remember your objective-for a project to be successful it must have a clear definition and strategy. The questions that need to be asked are?

  • What is its purpose?
  • What authority is needed?
  • What is the optimum strategy?
  • What skills are necessary?

Consider the audience – their priorities, attitudes, state of mind, hot buttons, acceptance criteria

Make a plan

Draft the text in rough

Put it aside for a day-this allows you to incubate your ideas (an essential element in creative writing)

Review and edit for clarity, conciseness, completeness.

Read it aloud or get it checked with someone will give you accurate feedback

Running Successful Project Meetings

Do you suffer from Meeting-itis? The average senior manager spends 17 hours per week in meetings, plus 6 hours a week getting ready for them, and even more hours recovering! There are 2 million meetings each day in the UK, and almost one-third of the time spent in meetings is considered a total waste. (Source: Complete Time Management, Godfrey and Clark, Piatkus. This is an excellent book on time management.)

There is a lot to think about when conducting a project meeting. Use this checklist as a guide to help you conduct meetings more effectively.

Before the Meeting:

Set goals: With the people on your project team, determine what you want to accomplish during the meeting. This should be clearly defined for all participants and included in your agenda.

Send out meeting notices and include:

Date · Time · Place · Purpose

  1. Write the agenda before the meeting
  2. Write agenda items as questions to focus attention on answers not politics
  3. Give each agenda item a time slot
  4. Make changes only with the consent of the group.
  5. Make enough copies for all attending the meeting.

At the Meeting

  • Start on time.
  • Agree the finish time at the start of the meeting. This allows the chair control over agenda items and focuses attention on task completion.
  • State the purpose of the meeting clearly on the agenda. This also gives the chair control as side/non-relevant issues can be eliminated.
  • Find background information ahead of time or invite resource people to come to the meeting.
  • Get everyone to contribute and involve everyone who attends the meeting.
  • Get points of view by questioning or restating as you go along.
  • Assign tasks and delegate responsibility as the meeting proceeds. See that they are recorded in the minutes.
  • Guide the meeting from problem to solution.
  • Finally, summarise the agreed actions arising from the meeting. A good way to do this is to get each member of the group to summarise their own action plan-a good way to test both competence and commitment.
  • Establish the next meeting time and place. People should walk away from the meeting knowing when and where they will meet next.
  • Finish on time.

Answers to project management quiz

  1. The reason: no one in the organisation had considered the fact that the Scandinavians leg size and bottoms were of a different shape to those in the UK. In short, the jeans just didn’t fit properly.
  2. In fact, it was the local women who were responsible for the agriculture in the region, and the men had little useful knowledge or experience; the programme did not provide what was required as the farming developed did not match practice and needs in the area.

The course is designed to help delegates organise their workload while planning a project. This is done with the aid of Gantt charts and project management templates, tools and techniques. This course is also a great option if you seek project management for junior staff in the workplace as it will informatively aid staff in planning successful projects.

There are many benefits of being a project manager such as; better task management; increased self esteem; the ability to negotiate more effectively and reduce the stress which results from a lack of effective planning.

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