Less than a third of all projects were completed on time and on budget in 2015. While it’s common to extend deadlines — and most clients or managers expect they will have to — why is it so common for projects to run out of time and money?
Often, the root of all overruns is a lack of strategic planning. The team lacks clear processes for completion, backup plans, and timelines that leave room for error. Many of these problems can be solved, or at least reduced, with team task management tools.
Before you begin your next project, follow these steps to break out a project through your IT task manager and test how the workflow improves.
Hold a Meeting to Address the Project’s Scope
Whenever you take on a new project, or have an assignment looming ahead that requires multiple hands, it’s important to call a meeting to review the scope. The breakdown can either be discussed during the meeting, or the project manager can create tasks and assignments beforehand.
Start with a 20,000-foot view of what’s going to happen and address any challenges or concerns. Then, take a deep dive into the tasks and time required. Before your team leaves this meeting, everyone should know what is expected of them and what their due dates are.
Once you have an outline of what the project entails, give yourself room to fail. Use your calendar and task management tool to add hours for missed deadlines and extra items. Even if you think you’ve thought of everything, there will almost always be little details you forgot that need to get done.
Some teams pad their calendars with TBD tasks and schedule them in multiple departments. This way, the time is already assigned when the forgotten task comes up.
Meet as a Team and Individuals on a Regular Basis
As you’re organizing your calendar and task management tool around a project, set up regular touch-base meetings for your team members along with a group meeting at least once a week.
When you meet on an individual level, go into a deep dive of what each team member is working on, what their problems are, and whether they expect to be on time. Some of these meetings will take three minutes if the project hasn’t reached them yet, but some will take almost an hour. Regardless of the time, it’s important for your team to get in the habit of meeting around a project and reporting their status.
The purpose of the individual meetings is to make the team meetings go smoother. No one wants to be stuck in a project meeting with nothing to say, where the focus is on an entirely different department.
The group meeting should cover major changes to the project that might affect the workload or timeline of several people involved, problems that address multiple departments, and major milestones hit. Remember, 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt better appreciated and recognized, and this meeting is a great opportunity to celebrate your team.
Create Detailed Subtasks As You Complete the Project
Documentation of your time and resources needs to be part of the project scope, even if you don’t bill your clients hourly. The primary reason is education. By documenting the exact steps required and time spent on each of them, managers can see what is sucking up their employees’ time and look for ways to improve it.
Documentation also provides insight into how well a project was planned. If an employee only has a week to complete a task and logs 60 hours to get their part done on time, the IT task manager knows to extend their deadlines on the next project. Conversely, if they’re given a week and only spend two hours working on it during a Friday afternoon, they might not need as much turnaround time.
Creating tasks and subtasks will also help your department when a similar project arises or you need to recreate the event next year. It’s easy to look backward through rose-colored glasses, and you could make the same mistakes year-over-year and project-over-project if you’re not writing down what is going wrong and how you plan to fix it.
Require Teams to Conduct a Post-Mortem
Even if the project is complete and the client has paid your company, you cannot close the book on the process until your employees create post-project reviews. Each review should address open-ended topics such as what went right and what went wrong, but they should also address concerns such as tight deadlines, bottlenecks, ambiguity in the instructions, and unexpected tasks.
As a manager, it’s your job to upload these individual reports into your team task management tools along with your own analysis of your team’s performance. This reflection and documentation will help you when creating tasks for the next project that comes along.
Reuse Old Projects to Create New Scopes
All of these project updates, comments, and reviews and completely useless if you fail to learn anything from your failures. Many calendar and task management tools allow users to copy old projects and update them with new information. This is ideal for agencies and companies that sell the same services (such as campaigns, software onboarding and training) and try to tailor them for their new clients. Our Workflow Sharing makes this process incredibly easy.
As you share, copy and update old projects, read over the notes from your past experiences and see what changes can be made. What roadblocks did you face then that you’re not worried about now? What new roadblocks have arisen?
As much as the company founders and CEOs want you to immediately improve with your IT task manager, there’s a learning curve that most managers will experience when applying the new tool to their projects.
This is an education tool that you will use to learn why you’re failing before you can take the necessary steps reduce errors in time management, budget allocation and employee engagement. Without it, you’re taking shots in the dark and hoping your process improves.
Remember, hope is never a strategy.