Project Planning

Small business task management best practices

Task management can be convoluted and confusing even within a small business. For this very reason, we have analyzed a few suggested practices for project managers. We have clumped together several successful practices as PPP – People Planning Purpose (granted, not the most creative mnemonic).

PEOPLE

As mentioned in earlier posts, people are the most valuable project management resource.

  1. Establish one integrated communication system.

One terrible mistake project managers seem to neglect is the lack of a direct line of communication. Granted, in a small business you probably won’t see project managers with dozens of subordinates reporting to them. But if you rely on e-mails, phone calls, text messages, apps, sticky notes, or whiteboards instead of having one integrated system for communication, it can lead to one very confusing mess. Think of ‘Chinese whispers’, the immensely fun children’s game in which you whisper a message to the ear of the next person, only to have errors aggregate in retellings, and thus lead to humorous new words. Only that in project management, the joke is on you.

  1. Share your vision with everyone

There is no better method to get people engaged and excited about your project than to let everybody know exactly what it entails. By creating an atmosphere of inclusiveness in your work environment, people will want to commit themselves to the project. Also, communicate with all project members from the get-go: team members, contractors, clients, and so on. For example, why not have a small office party or gathering in which you include everyone? Clarity of vision can make or break the project. Moreover, working as a team pushes your project further. You can complete work faster by delegating team members for specific work. And this leads us to back to number one: communicate effectively.

  1. Ask for frequent feedback

How does the workload feel? What can be done to help the project push forward? Is there a management tool or method that everyone hates? Be it a poll, survey, or a general meeting, make sure you get enough feedback. Truthfully, it all boils down to how well you can take criticism.

PLANNING

As the adage goes, here are other seven great Ps to live by: “Prior Proper Planning Prevents Painfully Poor Performance”. On a serious note, staying organized in a fast-paced work environment where people expect things to be done by yesterday, is quite the strenuous endeavor. If you happen to lag behind or alter the course of your project without a plan, you might as well prepare for a disaster. If project managers barely keep up with the task, manage resources, update the plans, and so one, how can they expect the team members to prioritize their work?

  1. Create a system that works for you

Do you hate spreadsheets as much as we do? Use an integrated software tool. Do you fancy to-do lists? Use Kanban boards, such as Trello. Would you rather visualize the task ahead? Use Toggl Plan or Gantt charts. Set up as many reminders and alerts as you see fit (and also see how effective they are). Track the time you are spending on a task with apps, such as Toggl, so that you have a rough estimate of how long a specific task can take. It will help you immensely in the future, especially when you collaborate or have to switch between projects.

[bctt tweet=”What is most important to the #growth of your #business: People, planning, or purpose? Make the most of all three.” username=”toggl plan”]

  1. Keep a detailed account of project progress

Here’s an introductory guide to resource planning. One good idea would be drawing up documents or contract that clearly defines project work and objectives, preferably one stating the role and degree of responsibility of each team member. While this may scare some people off, it is conducive to accountability and a clearer understanding of the effort entailed and project duration. Next step would be emulating your project plan on a previous one that was successful. You can improve it and see what works better for meeting deadlines, hitting milestones, establishing the critical path, and so on.

  1. Persevere with your project until completion

Document everything, from additional costs, unforeseen dependencies, scope changes, and whatnot. It might be painstaking at first, but it is a sure way to foresee possible issues and fix some of them way before it is too late. Let’s imagine this one project you have been so passionate about goes south. Irrespective of the reasons, we advise you to keep at it and follow through to completion. First and foremost, give the project a finish date. Even if everyone thinks that the project is doomed to fail, at least completing it will foster a sense of closure. It’s as if you are telling one another that you did your best, but unfortunately the surgery was unsuccessful. As sad as it may sound, nobody can blame you for trying until the end.

PURPOSE

Always ask yourself, “How will this task help push forward our project?” The influx of urgent and important tasks can be overwhelming, so it is important to use a tool to manage them. I personally recommend you use Eisenhower’s Productivity Matrix. Sometimes even important tasks can postpone those that are truly urgent. Therefore, prioritization is essential.

Whenever team members or higher-ups come with suggestions, add-ons or new project requests take a deep breath and analyze their proposal:

  1. “No way, Jose”

Is their idea terrible or unfeasible? Then show them exactly how that one change will affect the project progress, timeline, schedule, or budget. Show them Gannt charts and a possibly hindered Critical Path.

  1. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

If the idea is great and you want to implement it in the project, make sure everyone is on board and signs yet another document or contract. It could serve as a reminder of their responsibilities and your objectives.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, these are a few good practices to employ in your task management. Focus your activity around the three Ps:

‘People’ – communicating effectively, engaging in teamwork, and asking for feedback

‘Planning’ – creating an efficient system, keep minute track of your project, always persevere

‘Purpose’ – prioritize between urgent and important tasks, firmly reject or accept suggestions.

What is one good practice we left out? Do you swear by its effectiveness?

November 28, 2017

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