What do George C. Scott, Elvis Presley, and Robert Redford all have in common? They can all be linked to Kevin Bacon through “Bacon’s Law,” the theory that any actor can be connected to Kevin Bacon by some degree. But, what does arbitrarily choosing an actor to connect them via their film work to another actor have to do with project management? Similar to this theory, you can link one critical variable to all aspects of project management, regardless of team, product, or client.
When business development pursuits are fruitful, project management becomes the next critical element to delivering projects for your clients and team. Effective project management involves many pieces, some of which are core values across industries and businesses. In addition, successful project management creates value, efficiency, and trust across all levels of your team, organization, and business structure. Though “project management” can be challenging, the points below may help to deliver a successful project for your organization. And, try to see if you can identify the Bacon’s Law of project management as we walk through this process!
Develop a plan for project delivery. The beginning of a successful project begins with a plan that ends in success. Critical items include scope, deliverables, schedule and milestones, budgets, clarifications, risks, limitations, exclusions, and identified team members, partners, and/or subconsultants. There must be a plan before the plan can come together!
The earliest source of potential conflict, confusion, or inefficiency in a project can be attributed to ineffective communication. A developed plan for project delivery is near-worthless to a team or organization unless it is effectively and thoroughly communicated. And this is the easiest part! In today’s business environment, there can be no claim of inopportunity to meet and collaborate – either in-person or virtually.
Whatever your desired or available platform, including (and my preference) in-person, begin every project by discussing the details of how you intend to deliver a successful final product. And, don’t forget to include your clients in this communication step. Clients want to know three things, and not necessarily in this order:
- Can you do this?
- When can you do this?
- How much will this cost?
- By including clients in this kick-off meeting, you’ll answer all three of these questions for them – and your team.
Put the plan into action. The project is primed and your team is eager to begin – let them! But remain in regular contact with the team and client. Request and relay status updates to team members and the client. Remember, the project may require regular status meetings or updates. As the project manager, it may not be your role to complete any or all aspects of the work, but it is certainly your responsibility to see them through. Also, trust your team to manage their specific responsibilities and contributions, but verify throughout the process. Regular communication with team members is critical to successful execution.
In addition, you must remain watchful of the project budget and schedule. Your role may involve reporting a project’s status to others in your organization. Learn to identify red flags related to deliverables, schedule, workload, and conflicts. They exist in every project and only differ as it relates to scale and complexity.
- Deliver! The end of every project always seems to be where the most work is and, consequently, the most risk. Though they sometimes seem to drive the project, do not let budget, schedule, assumptions, or expectations allow you to deviate from your delivery plan. Here are a few things to keep you on track:
- Perform quality control checks.
- Confirm application and permit processing, if required.
- Obtain final status updates and confirmations from team members.
- Advise the client of the status of final delivery.
- Ensure the deliverable meets quality expectations of your team and client.
- Once these are complete, take pride in submitting the final product to your client.
- Close out the project. Of course, final delivery of the product is not quite the end of a project. Remember to confirm the product was received by the client, submitted properly, and that no further action or assistance is needed. This is an excellent time to request feedback from the client related to the team’s performance on any aspect of the project. Take this information to your team to communicate successes and identify areas of improvement. Be sure to praise specific team members who deserve it and use this opportunity to offer constructive criticism. Having this regular exercise builds relationships, creates trust, and improves how project roles and experiences can be applied to the next project.
Projects vary in size and scope depending on your profession or business environment. But, regardless of the specific organization, team, or project, communication is the time-tested variable that is directly related to efficiency and quality. Communication is the “Bacon’s Law” of project management! If your team can keep communication at the forefront of your project, you’re sure to be a success.
Houston Matthews, PE serves as the manager of engineering services and head of Croy’s Alabama engineering department at the firm’s Huntsville office. He can be reached at email@example.com.