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Project Management – Keeping On Track

How to keep a big project on track when you are managing conflicting priorities.

At the beginning, managing a big project can be exciting and everyone wants to get involved. However, as time goes by, other priorities can prove distracting. Maintaining focus is key to successfully delivering any big project.

Involve your key stakeholders
Every project requires you to solve problems for one or more stakeholders. Sit down and discuss your project with colleagues who manage finance, operations, IT and sales. Ask them to feed into your project plan and share their ideas.

Once you’ve gathered their inputs, break the project down into a list of deliverables and set out the inputs that are required from each stakeholder in order to achieve your project goals. Identify the “must haves” and the “nice to haves”. Prioritise the “must haves” and set these out as the top priorities for your project.

Set realistic deadlines
Build in some extra time when you set your deadlines for each phase of the project. There will be delays, things will go wrong and you will have to rethink certain decisions if they prove too difficult to implement. Build in some contingencies so that your timelines allow for setbacks. If everything goes well, then you might even end up delivering your project ahead of schedule.

Ensure that you have regular weekly team meetings to discuss deliverables and deadlines – this will help you to stay on track. If someone is unable to meet a deadline, it shouldn’t affect the rest of the project, if you have built in sufficient contingencies.

Seek feedback
Start with your internal stakeholders – involve them in decision-making and ask them to share their views on various aspects of your project. Most projects can also benefit from some external feedback. It can be useful to seek feedback from your clients too. Maybe they worked on a similar project in their own organisation and they may be able to share some of their experiences, which could help you to avoid making some of the same mistakes.

Consider the bigger picture
Every once in a while it can be useful to take a step back and consider your project in the context of the wider business. Revisit your list of “must haves’ and “nice to haves” on a regular basis. Has anything changed or are you still working towards the same objective? Perhaps you may need to refine your project as certain parts of the firm may have evolved. Consider the purpose of your project and focus on your key deliverables and deadlines. If things change, update your project plan and keep moving forward from there.

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