How To Start A Project
Are you struggling with not knowing where to start when it comes to a new project? You might think it is a good idea to just start and deal with everything as and when you need to.
Getting a project started can be very difficult, pleasing the Stakeholders, managing the workload, planning for risk etc, there are just so many elements to consider. That is why we have brought you 7 simple steps to follow to help you get started.
- Identify Stakeholders
- Identify Requirements
- Define your Goals
- Identify Risk
- Develop a Plan
- Execute and Monitor
This is one of the most important stages of starting a new project, as the whole project sets out to meet Stakeholders requirements. Therefore beginning at this stage is wise. Firstly you need to identify your Stakeholder, as your project is only classed as successful if they are satisfied. To ensure this happens you need to manage their expectations and requirements.
So how do you identify your Stakeholders?
Stakeholders are an individual, group or organization who is impacted by the outcome of a project. They have an interest in the success of the project and can be either internal or external. Virtually anyone who has interest in the project can be a Stakeholder (have a look at our PM for Team Leaders blog for more).
The Project Charter (a document which contains key information relating to the project) lists the names of who is involved in the project and can be used as a starting point.
There may be many Stakeholders, so keeping them all involved with updates relating to the project can be difficult. It is, therefore, crucial to set up progress meetings or progress reports.
Remember that not all Stakeholders need the same level of communication throughout the project, so you might not interact with them all at once.
There are often many types of project requirements, although the majority of these will be brought up by the Stakeholders. Identifying the project requirements typically occurs at the beginning, although it is not uncommon for more requirements to appear throughout.
Often the first step should be determining what the roles and responsibilities should be. This is where you will want to identify the skills that are available to you. It is important to 100% utilize the skills that are available. There are also skills you should look out for among the team members, for example:
- Good communicator, as your team will be working with others at various levels of the company. Poor communication can have a negative impact on the project.
- Organisation skills are important as there can be various tasks running at one time, so individuals need to be organised so they know what is going on with each step in the project.
- Estimating Skills, PMs rely on their team to achieve their individual tasks. So it is important for them to be able to estimate accurately to give realistic updates and predictions on the project.
However, having the right team is only one part. You need to ensure that your team has access to information, support, problem-solving and decision making to help keep the project on track.
Define Your Goals
The next stage is where you should decide what it is you need to achieve for the project to be successful. You should develop one main goal (the overall goal of the project), followed by smaller goals and objectives that will eventually lead to the project’s overall success. There are various frameworks you can use to do this, for example:
- SMART Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results, Time).
- OKR Approach (Objectives and Key Results).
- ABC Goals (Achievable, Believable and Controllable)
After this, you should hold a meeting with the Stakeholders to review the proposed outline. This stage can be lengthy and difficult to get everyone to agree on how to achieve the project, but it is worth the hassle as having everyone on board will result in a more successful project.
Once you have developed your goals and objectives you should record these in the project charter or project statement. You can then go on to identify your milestones, as these are useful to ensure you are on track to achieve your targets.
In addition, you should remember that projects can change throughout the course, so it is important to monitor and review goals and objectives to ensure that they will help you achieve what your project is set to do.
There are several steps to go through when identifying risk and creating a Risk Management Process (read our PM for Team Leaders blog for more about Risk Management). The key factors to remember when identifying risk are:
- List the factors that potentially risk the success of your projects. Use reports, research or experience to plan. Remember that risk can appear at any stage, not just the beginning or end.
- Plan as to what you would do if this was to occur. When planning you should number and categorised into low, medium and high for easy identification.
- Continually monitor and review the list of risks with relevant Stakeholders at status meetings.
Risk should be constantly monitored throughout the project. The levels and categories of each risk can change due to external factors or scope creep. It is therefore wise to review risk at key milestones also, to ensure maximum success of the project.
Develop A Plan
Without clear knowledge of the objectives, planning the project will be difficult and inefficient. You should leave the planning stage to later down the line until you have clear goals and objectives and a project team assembled.
Set out a task list of everything that needs to be done. You should then start to arrange this into a timeline. By doing this you will get a rough guide as to when the project will be achieved. You will also see the relationships of each task visually.
Completing accurate resource planning which indicates who will be doing what and at which time is important to share with each member of the project team. This is an important step as it allows each member to understand their impact on the project but also their relationship with other tasks.
Collaboration with all team members is a good idea here, as it will ensure that everyone will have a clear overview of the whole project. This will also allow the team to see how their role will impact on the project and others workload.
This is a simple, yet vital step to all projects! This step will not only help you work faster but it will help develop your teams’ skills. Although you may feel dedicated to completing tasks yourself, or you have the fear that the task will not be completed to the standard that you want, you need to learn to let go. Delegate smaller tasks and gradually work your way up. Therefore, as part of you this, you should create a task list and assign your team tasks. You can monitor the progression of the workload and communicate changes.
A crucial part of successful delegation is being aware of your team’s strengths and weaknesses. You should look at the skill available to you and delegate the tasks accordingly. If you have team members who are lacking key skills, don’t panic! You should not be afraid of teaching your team new skills, however, some may be easier than others. One way to do this is to pair team members together for transferring of skills. By developing the skill set of your team you have a more varied skills matrix.
Above all, feedback is the most important part of the delegation process, it allows you to see how successful you have been and what you need to improve on. This stage is not always the easiest and many project managers struggle with this, however having trust in your team to achieve your goals and objectives will lead to a more successful project.
Execute and Monitor
The final stage of how to start a project is to get started!
Although you do need to keep your project plan to hand as you will need to keep monitoring your progress. It is also important to remember that you will need to keep Stakeholders in the loop with the overall progress, and some may need more attention than others.
Tracking the progress of the project is crucial to its success. As being aware of potential issues before they happen will allow you to minimise disruption. Unexpected scope creep and risk will undoubtedly arise and having a plan of action is key to keeping your project on track and will be vital to the success.
This is where task management software is very useful as you can keep track of all the tasks that you will be juggling. You will be able to monitor team workloads, manage deadlines, update team members with change.
You are now ready to start planning your next project. Follow these 7 simple steps and you will be more likely to succeed with your project.
Give it a try, and achieve more.
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