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Project Management

9 Simple Ways to Save Your Project from Self-Destruction

Stephanie Gonzaga
January 22, 2014
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It usually starts out sweetly.

You've got this huge idea for a project that you're passionate about. You hire the best people to handle the different resources. As project head, you delegate and oversee everyone's progress.

As preparations are made, you dream of your future customers raving and shelling out hundreds of their dollars for it.

But as you go deeper into the project, things start to take a turn for the worst. You begin to lose control.

Holding on to dear life

Many projects start out with a great idea and the basics down pat. But when you're incapable of handling the problems and complexities of the project, that's when things can spiral out of control.

The most common problems that infect great projects are usually rooted on lack of communication, specific details, and balanced supervision on the part of the project head. Moreover, each project has its specific requirements and unique processes. If these are not met, you will encounter issues that could delay the project's progress.

In short, if these issues are untouched and ignored, you can expect your time, money, and hard work to self-destruct in your face.

Here's the good news though: as with all things in life, it's never too late to make things right. You can tweak your project management methods and routines in order to stay focused and get back on track.

Here are 9 simple ways to save your project from self-destruction and to see it through to completion.

1. Set a regular schedule to review the project scope, goals, and progress.

As you go deeper into the project, new related tasks and processes are added into the scope that could steer the project out of focus.

The best way to retrieve clarity is to regroup and review the project scope, its goals and the overall progress.

More than just a recap of all that's been done, this is a great opportunity for everyone to see where they stand, what has yet to be done, and what should be top priority from hereon. You'll also have time for an open forum where opinion, feedback, and suggestions amongst the members can be heard and addressed.

2. Document the minutes of each agenda meeting.

With so many things being addressed in the meeting, important details can slip through the cracks and are left forgotten.

This is where simple yet effective documentation comes in. It's a task often neglected as we focus our attention and effort on production.

Make this a simple routine for everyone. Assign a member of the team to record minutes or essential points raised during each agenda meeting. Once the meeting is over, save a copy of the minutes in case you need to go back and review what has been discussed.

3. (Re)write your tasks with clarity.

One of the reasons we stall on a particular task is because it's too vague or unclear that we don't know exactly what to do with it.

One useful tip is to create a list of action steps in which each task begins with a verb—write, edit, test, etc. This allows you to quickly make a decision on what to do with the task.

So instead of "Logo redesign" or "Blog header," you'd rewrite them as "Change the primary colours of the logo from red to blue" or "Adjust the size of the blog header to 450px wide."

4. Scrape project fat out.

With new processes come new tasks, and sometimes these tasks don't align with the agreed project scope and goals. On the flip side, there may be open tasks that don't work with the project's direction anymore.

Check these tasks out and see if they are truly necessary for the project. If there are no dependencies and removing them won't impact the project significantly, scrape them out.

In short, devote your team's time and effort only to the essentials.

5. Take snapshots of your progress.

Ever found yourself scratching your head, wondering how your project suddenly took a wrong turn?

A snapshot of the overall progress enables you to see if your team is driving the project forward. You can also use this to pinpoint areas where the project stalls and address them right away.

On TeamGantt, the baseline feature allows you to compare what you originally planned versus where your project currently is.

6. Set a reasonable deadline for each task.

The worst thing you can do is to leave everyone with a free reign. It's equally unproductive and disappointing to assign tight deadlines that are impossible to meet.

The key is to understand the task at hand and to set a reasonable deadline. It serves as a motivational push while setting the right expectations for everyone.

7. Check in through daily or weekly project updates via email.

Working on a variety of high-priority tasks can make you forget what you're supposed to do next.

One tip is to utilize today's most essential communication line: email.

If your team uses a project management and collaboration tool, you can enable it to send project summaries via email. These summaries typically remind you of what your next set of tasks are and those that are still in progress.

On TeamGantt, you can choose whether to include all tasks and milestones of a project in your daily project summary or limit it to only what you're assigned to.

8. Break the routine.

The last thing you want is a team of professionals who grumble every time they sit down to work. You need to keep your staff happy, motivated, and invested if you want them to stand behind you, your product, and ultimately your company brand.

There are many ways to break routine and increase engagement within the team. For some, it's unlimited vacation days and free food. For big companies like Google, Apple, and 3M, it's giving people the opportunity to work on their own projects to encourage creativity and motivation.

If your budget can't afford big perks just yet, simply break the daily routine to refresh and engage with your team. oDesk.com, one of the world's largest marketplaces for remote work, would surprise employees during their birthdays, hold ping-pong tournaments, and welcome clients and freelancers alike who happen to stop by their San Francisco office.

9. Communicate with just the necessary people.

Picking up from our last post on taming the email beast, we can't stress enough how important it is to keep group communications at a bare minimum.

Besides the fact that email notifications are a ruthless external distraction that completely breaks focus, you should include and delegate project tasks to just the best people to avoid overlapping responsibilities.

So, the next time you find yourself sending out a group message, decide who would be the best people to contact.

Will your project make it out alive?

As your project progresses and becomes more complex, you're bound to hit a few roadblocks on the way.

These challenges can take its toll on your time and money, especially if you're slow or incapable of facing them. Ultimately, the last thing you want is to throw your hands up in defeat and close the project down.

These 9 simple tactics are just some of the ways you can prevent bigger problems from bringing your project to a screeching halt. With these in mind and practice, you'll be able to tackle any problem, address any concern, and finally ship that awesome product.

Project management milestone examples

Milestones make it easier to keep projects on track by calling out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables. Here are a few examples of project milestones you might include in your plan:

  • Start and end dates for project phases
  • Key deliveries
  • Client and stakeholder approvals
  • Important meetings and presentations
  • Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline

Let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 specific examples of how using project milestones can benefit your projects.

Monitor deadlines

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables project milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top-level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose because they’re called out in a special way—usually with a diamond—in project plans.

While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.

Here's an example of how Washington Hyperloop uses milestones to track an important deadline in their project.

Spotlight important dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will need to be out of the office for a mandatory training. Maybe there’s a board meeting you’re expected to attend.

It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.

date milestone in gantt chart

Identify potential project bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.

That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of what that might look like for a client approval.

deliverable milestone in gantt chart

Want to hit major milestones on time more often?

We’ve got a free class to help you get everyone on board with your plan! Register for Plan Up: How to Create and Sell a Winning Project Plan to see why planning sets the stage for project success, and get a free Guide to Project Planning when you sign up.

How to create a project milestone

Creating milestones for your project plan can be simple, especially with TeamGantt. Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can easily add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Adding a milestone (or converting a task to a milestone) is very easy in TeamGantt.

Once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account, here’s a quick video on how to create milestones:

Project milestones are easy to create and even easier to track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project.

How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders

Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Simply follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.

1. Filter your project by milestones.

From your gantt chart view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.

filter gantt chart by project milestones

2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.

Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.

export gantt chart with project milestones to PDF

Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.

share PDF of gantt chart filtered by project milestones

Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?

Hit every project milestone with ease

TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.

You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.

Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍

Give TeamGantt a free try today!

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