Walt Disney was one of the greatest entrepreneurs and project managers of all time, mortgaging himself to the hilt to create Disney World and countless other successful vehicles for entertainment, from the character of Mickey Mouse to movies like Snow White, his first feature film.
“Somehow, I can’t believe there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true.” Disney once said. “This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C’s. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy, and the greatest of these is Confidence. When we consider a project, we really study it—not just the surface idea, but everything about it. And when we go into that new project, we believe in it all the way. And we work hard to do the best possible job.”
Disney also knew that nothing works unless a team is organized—and we are talking five-star-level organization. To that end, we offer you ten ways project managers can keep their work running as smoothly as the Disney World water ferries speed to the Magic Kingdom. The goal is for you to arrive at your destination with the least stress and the greatest productivity.
A house without a good foundation will tumble in an earthquake. In the same way, a project manager must communicate closely with stakeholders from the start to ensure he or she knows the vision of the project down to the studs. Clarity is essential. Ask stakeholders to specifically describe their goals and listen—closely—for as long as it takes. Ask as many questions as needed to prevent problems down the line.
Once your vision is in place, create a road map using the Gantt chart for the work ahead, identifying key milestones, and a timetable. The timetable must be for the overall product/mission as well as for individual phases. The map and timetable may change in response to shifting needs, but it will serve as an essential guide.
In a global study of IT projects, Harvard Business Review found that the average project management budget runs 27 percent over initial estimates, leading to countless organizational problems, such as late shipping. In agile, budgeting by task and then executing tasks by priority is more efficient than traditional formulas such as figuring out hourly rates plus the time needed of individual team members.
Not all tasks are created equal. Prioritize the most critical tasks needed to prove the project idea, and to show progress, to be done at the beginning of the project. If your project uses a new technology or is something that has never been done before, you want to make sure early that the idea is solid enough to continue. Prioritized Checklists help you know what sequence things should be done in and help you stay on track.
Carefully analyze your Project plan during the creation phase to ensure it includes all the tasks required. Once work commences, analyze the plan regularly and add detail as you learn more. The more details you know, the better you can plan the work.
Planning short phases and setting achievable milestones are the backbone of smart project management. Brief, daily progress reports from your team on the status of each task creates the ability to spot little problems before they become big ones. Reports can be executed in multiple ways, from within the project management software platform itself to a simple phone call. Don’t get bogged down in the how just make sure it happens. Daily.
Because of the fast, cyclical nature of today’s project execution, teams can often rush through a phase or milestone, missing critical testing activities. Direct your team to not sacrifice quality for speed, and let them know that if need be, the phase can be extended.
When a phase is completed, compare the end result to the original plan to ensure the targets were met. If something went off the rails, analyze why to avoid the same thing happening in the future. Also, ensure everyone involved in the phase attends the review so that you get the feedback from the whole team.
If tasks are incomplete or confusing, team members can’t execute a Phase with clarity and speed. Creating standards for task completion criteria helps everyone understand what is required and contributes to a smoother work-flow.
Update the Plan daily with the daily progress reports and keep a close eye out for tasks that may be slipping. Make sure you understand why they are slipping, and take action to help. While it can be tempting to delay overly complex and confusing tasks, addressing them as soon as possible can help you avoid major issues later.
Dedicated Quality Assurance (QA) team can help you define the standards for your task completion criteria on software projects. Especially in ERP implementation cycles, deliberate hands-on testing equals excellent IT project management. As the project progresses, they can automate tests of already completed tasks to speed up regression testing.
Timely project delivery works when you stay connected with the plan and know what is happening with the work. Interacting with your team daily will help you know if there are issues and how you can help the team get past them. And regardless of the project management tool and method that you are using, projects are still completed only by people. As Walt Disney once said, “You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”