3 Ways to Simplify Project Management & Get More Done

Managing a single project or multiple projects can be a hassle. For large projects, leading your team in the right direction is often easily said but treacherously achieved. However, project management shouldn’t be complicated. With so many different options for project management software and tracking tools to monitor progress, keeping your team in a straight path can be more simple than you think if you have certain processes in order. Here are three tips to simplify project management and get more done:

Remove Low Performers

Low performers can be a huge barrier to accomplishing project success. By identifying and removing weak links, you’ll be met with a massive increase in productivity. Low performers or lazy workers tend to look for easy solutions and will not think outside of the box when working on tasks. Thinking outside of the box doesn’t necessarily mean conjuring groundbreaking ideas or spending double the time to finish a task ahead of time. Instead, thinking outside of the box includes creating more efficient ways to achieve project goals or new solutions that enhance the project premise.

When analyzing project performance, keep the Pareto principle in mind. This principle asserts that only 20% of effort is needed to achieve 80% of the result. Peter Taylor, author of “The Lazy Project Manager,” recommends emphasizing effort during the early and end stages of the project.  The early stages focus on coming up with a plan that lays out the groundwork for successfully getting the project from Point A to Point B. This aligns with the oft-used mantra, “failing to plan is planning for failure.” The end of the project should have a retrospective aspect tied into it, allowing the team to review the work they’ve done and analyze project management methods than can be improved or removed.

Turning a blind eye to low performance can actively hurt both the project and the company. Similarly, allowing majority members of the team to take on the lacking effort of others creates a low morale. So how do you go about identifying low performers in your project management team? Here are a few ways to put practices in place that help identify low performers:

Create accountability. By structuring your project in a way that delegates member ownership over certain areas, you’re creating accountability that’s hard to distance from. Having ownership over a piece of the overall project incentives team members to complete their portion of work thoroughly and on time. Failure to do so would be a clear demonstration of lack of work or effort. Additionally, if the quality of one area of the project is beneath that of the others, you can easily identify the cause of that quality loss.

Set weekly goals and deadlines. Your weekly goals and deadlines should be reflected in your project management software, and ensures that no tasks slip under the radar. A weekly status meeting — however long or short — demonstrates the seriousness of the project and importance of getting quality work completed on time. It also allows team members to explain why any delays may be occurring, and provides a forum for briefly discussing goals for the upcoming week. During these meetings, you’ll be able to easily tell who falls behind often.

Create specific tasks that involve a group effort. These project tasks will involve several members of the team, who will each have their own independent action items. Communication is crucial here, and how individual members perform during collaborative tasks is a huge indicator of their ability to perform well with their own projects and moving forward with the company.

Eliminate Complexity

You may not realize it, but complexity can impact your project and future projects for years to come. This goes back to the notion that coming up with a simple solution to something isn’t always the smartest; taking the easy way out can make methodologies very complicated later down the road.

Example: you may believe that managing your project with Google Sheets or Documents requires less of a learning curve, and therefore decide to communicate roles and responsibilities via this method. However, as time progresses, you’ll find managing several documents, different sets of tasks, deadlines, and mini-projects becomes increasingly exhausting. Soon, there are so many documents and moving parts that it becomes more difficult to migrate to a more streamlined project management software. The fact is, had you endured a small learning curve at the onset, you would have saved a significant amount of time, energy, and money.  

Complexity comes in many forms: bad communication flow, too many people, unclear authority or no concrete decision maker, poorly written tasks, or ambiguous deliverables. The key to avoiding complexity is to create a plan that considers both the path to final deliverables and subsequent projects. Each decision should be met with the questions:

  • Is this the most efficient and organizational way to achieve success?
  • Is there any room for potential fallbacks? If so, what are they? How can they be solved?
  • How does your particular project management system affect the actual project?
  • How does your project management affect future projects?
  • How does your project management make it easy to communicate?

Complexity often isn’t apparent at the start of project, and tackling the potential for complexity will make it easier to simplify your processes. This way, you avoid strenuous effort towards the end of the project and confusion among the team.

High-Autonomy Teams > Low-Autonomy Teams

When it comes to getting the most out of your project management software, teams and autonomy are closely linked. As a part of a team, members work together towards a specific goal and failure or success is shared. Autonomy allows individual team members the freedom to take charge of their assignments and create some of their best work. Combined, there’s a greater chance of project success than apart.

High autonomous teams act as a cohesive unit while supporting individual contributions and expression. While delegating ownership is important, sharing and communicating amongst everyone is equally as important. This encourages independent thinking and boosts team morale. Over time, the team can make their own changes as individuals and as a group that will improve the way they complete projects. This type of thinking is crucial, especially for teams where remote workers are involved.
Teams who work with high levels of autonomy have reported that they are less likely to feel emotional exhaustion while working. Another study demonstrates how individuals feel more personal satisfaction when being able to govern their own actions within a team, particularly with virtual teams. A happy team works more cohesively, and the chances of project success increase when individuals feel confident in their positions. Additionally, high autonomy teams naturally evoke group cohesion, where a group is bonded together by the same goal.

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