When it comes to managing a project, many people may already have their own set of criteria or ways they go about it. But for those people who are new to project management or who just may be looking for some quick advice on how others come at it, then I have compiled a list of 5 basic steps to successfully managing a project that hopefully will help others in need!

Step 1: The Beginning – The best way to start is by thinking about the end. You want to think about what the end results of the project should be, and that will dictate what you need to do in order to get there. Prepare a detailed, actionable plan before you start. It’s critical to define the scope of the project – what to include, what to exclude, what needs more attention or less attention.

Step 2: Break large elements down into small, achievable goals. You want goals that are actionable and measurable, nothing vague. Focus on achieving one project milestone at a time and don’t get ahead of yourself. You should be flexible, but don’t allow scope creep to delay your project. Scope creep is a term used for what happens when you have an element of your project complete, but then you add new elements or make changes that throw off the scope, the budget, and the time frame for completion. If any section of your project is deemed as complete then move on to the next – no looking back!

Step 3: Test each deliverable as it’s ready to find and fix problems. In order to stay focused and driven, test and measure that it is completely workable. Deliverables should be tested at every significant milestone to assure the product is coming along as planned. Know the scope of your project by heart and stay focused on the details. Never rush through any aspect of the project, no matter how small, because even the most minute wrong detail could end up with disastrous consequences.

Step 4: Never strive for perfection and anticipate setbacks. This may seem like a ‘negative-Nancy’ view, but we all know that nothing happens exactly as planned 100% of the time. If you actually allow time and resources for potential setbacks then you are already ahead of the game! Setting impossible deadline and expectations will more than likely lead to failure instead of a successfully completed project. If you have a project team, listen to them as their feedback and communication will be critical in getting the best results possible. Also, in times of crisis and unexpected setbacks, a team can provide much needed support and recommendations to get your project back on track as quickly as possible.

Step 5: Evaluate the project when complete. Projects have an end date, and once you get there stop and evaluate what you have accomplished. Compare the intended results from your planning phase to the actual results you concluded with. If they are identical or even close then you have completed a well-managed project. Each project is a valuable learning tool, take time to assess what you learned from the process and how to use it in the future or what you may like to do differently. You can use the lessons learned from each project to maximize your effectiveness in the future.

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