Project Management Tools and Methodology

Tools and methodology walk hand in hand

The tools and methodology behind sound project management require a bit of a “chicken and egg” discussion. There is a distinct methodology used in creating an exceptional tool to manage your project. Then, once that tool is in place, you use a specific methodology to manage the working of the project. (If project management skills are of interest, see our related article here.)

So then, let’s begin at the beginning. What project management methodology builds a good tool? The following factors are critical when you sit down to plan out your project:

  • Involve a representative from each key stakeholder group in the team that outlines the project management plan.  For example, if your project is a move from one building to a new one, make sure your tech expert is on hand for all your equipment connectivity needs, bring in a representative from finance, customer service, etc. so that you assure that you are examining the project from every angle.
  • Ask each stakeholder group to determine the tasks needed from their unique perspective in order to bring a successful project to its fruition.
  • As you outline each task to be completed, assign accountability for each to an individual  and be sure that individual understands both the task and the due date needed.
  • Look for constraints between one set of project tasks and another.  Understanding where the constraints lie will guide coordination during the project and determine certain due dates.  For example, in building a house, you can’t schedule drywall until the plumbing and electric is done, nor painting until the drywall is done, etc.

Above all, the project management methodology must be able to take a complex, overwhelming project, and unravel its complexities, turning the overwhelm into a streamlined flow of work. Which brings us to the right tools for the job.

What project management tools come out of the methodology described?

project-plan-tools-300x200.jpgThere are two key tools we use in project management – a project chart and the task definitions.

The project chart is essential to the project’s success. The chart is the map you follow during the work of the project. It includes all the tasks to be completed, organized by time and common track of work, i.e., all finance tasks are grouped in order of completion, then all HR, all customer service, etc. As described in methodology, each task is assigned to an individual who is responsible for completing or overseeing the work, as well as a timeline for getting it done.  (To learn more about a project chart, view our related article on the Project Management Template.)

The second project management tool we recommend is a task definition sheet. Each task that must be completed in your project should have a corresponding task definition sheet that explains the work to be completed and includes the name of the person responsible for its completion.  Why is this valuable? Over the many years we have worked with teams on large projects, we have noticed that the task which made perfect sense and was clear as could be at planning is frequently not the least bit clear 3 months later when that task is due. “I’ll remember what I meant” can become awfully cloudy when several months and many other tasks – both those of the project and those of other work – have come and gone.  Clarifying tasks by creating a definition sheet for each keeps the cryptically written steps on a project chart clear and becomes an essential tool to keeping the work of the project moving forward.

Back to methodology

So now the project is planned and the tools are in place. What methodology is used to keep the project moving toward an on-time, on-budget completion rate. Aside from the obvious “methodology” of people doing the work they have been assigned, we recommend a brief weekly meeting to keep your project moving forward. What has proven most successful in the teams we have worked with is a standing 45-50 minute meeting at the same time and place each week between the key team members on a project. Each member simply reviews the work done that week, what is up next and any challenges that have come up. This level of accountability to the team has proven essential time and again to keeping the project moving forward.

What else do you need to manage a project successfully?

To feel confident as a large project looms on your horizon, we recommend you check out the articles referenced above covering project management skills and a project template. or a popular article on project communication. We also have a past newsletter article on implementation planning as part of a change initiative that details more of what a good project plan includes. You can find it here.  Finally, we encourage you to consider Dynamic Planning® for your project rather than reinventing the wheel. Dynamic Planning® is the project management tool we have used successfully for over 30 years. You can learn about it here.

If you have more specific questions or if you are interested in talking to us about Dynamic Planning® for your project, let us know.  We would be happy to discuss your specific needs and questions, and what our approach includes.