Effective Management of Projects

Project management is a well planned and ordered technique to accomplish a specific one-time objective, for example, constructs a building, installing water or power supply, putting up a bridge or implementing a major new computer system in an institution or industry. Project management includes developing a project plan, which includes defining, and confirming the project goals and objectives, identifying responsibilities and the ways in which the goals will be accomplished, quantifying the capital required, and determining budgets and timelines for the finishing point. It also entails managing the implementation of the project plan, along with operating regular 'controls' to ensure that there is accurate and objective information on 'performance' relative to the plan, and the mechanisms to execute recovery procedures where required (James 2007). Project management is chiefly associated with planning and managing change in an organization, but also a project can be something unrelated to business and can even include domestic situations such as planning a wedding or even moving house. Projects usually follow major phases or stages, including achievability, definition, project planning, implementation, evaluation and maintenance. The project manager decides on what the project needs, whether it is worthwhile investing, risks involved since this projects generally involve high level of investment, a large number of people and a mix of highly diverse specialists with their respective interests. They also involve high levels of risks including financial, physical safety and require broadly based sourcing of materials and equipment. Typical project management involves scheduling, budgeting cost and risk management (James 2007).EXECUTIVE SUMMARYThis paper talks about the guidelines and tools that planners or project managers ought to employ to ensure that projects (both simple ones and complex ones) are executed smoothly to completion. It gives the guidelines and things that project managers should take into account when managing projects for instance the significance of effective communication, how to manage risks and requirement analysis. This paper also prescribes a standard method that should be employed in effectively planning a project (chapter three) and prescribes the necessary tools that should be employed in each stage of project management. For instance it gives an insight into the methodology in project planning and the necessary tools employed. These tools include: brainstorming, Gantt charts, fishbone diagrams and project critical path analysis. An example of these tools and at what stage they are applied in project planning and management is given in the appendix.LITERATURE REVIEWProjects are finite in length, usually they involve a number of activities that must be accomplished in a given time, and usually on a fixed budget it brings the introduction of new initiatives or organizational changes. Common examples of projects are construction of a building, introduction of a new product, installation of a new piece of machinery in a manufacturing plant, creation of a new software tool, or the design and launch of a new advertising campaign. While the very simplest projects can be managed simply by using common sense, projects that are more difficult need a great deal of scheduling, and benefit from a proper, disciplined management approach. From making sure that activities will actually meet the specified need, to devising a workable schedule, developing systems for reporting progress, and managing requests for changes - all of these issues require thoughtful consideration (Gayer 2007).Managing projectsManaging projects properly requires a great sacrifice of time, skill, and finesse. There are many sides to project management and this is what makes it so interesting and demanding. Project managers are expected to take an uncertain event and make a certain promise to deliver. They are also expected to do this within a specified time and within a limited budget. A number of tools are necessary for good management. One should always be on outlook for excellence. The following are the guidelines that a manager can follow to a successful project (Brockett 1999).(i) Effective CommunicationThe manager should gather initial requirements from client and start developing a design to create a frame work so that the development team can start working. It is vital that the requirements are checked with the client, the development team and other experts regularly to avoid misunderstanding between the parties that might lead to the fall of the entire enterprise so as to complete the project on time. Before the project kicks off, the manager should meet the project team to discuss on how to dig in to the project. Before the actual execution of the project the team should be getting together to get acquainted with each other and learn about the task they are tasked with completing. Face to face meeting is one of the best ways of communication where members can have lunch or dinner get-together, team building exercises or brief presentations by team members about themselves: past projects and hobbies interests. Virtual meeting and teleconference are also other effective methods of communication when the members cannot meet face to face. Another option is sharing information via email. If there is no other option, at least have the team members email each other sharing the same information discussed above under "teleconference." This is not a good option, but it will help the members to get to know each other and get communicated prior to the actual kick off of the project. Portal method of communication helps the team especially on the first day to have information on the project, status reports, project schedule and documentation, tools and templates, special project team member information like problem solvers, software specialists, organization of people and resources, document sharing and best practices and processes ( James 2007).(ii) Risk management in project management

Virtually, almost all projects carry risk or uncertainty. The most obvious examples of sources of project risk comes from internal or external and assumptions made by project team members regarding any aspect of the project. At the kicking off of any project, the possible impact of risk in terms of cost or schedule is almost unlimited. The only easy option is to dedicate proper and timely attention to understanding and risks involved in a project and prescribe possible intervention procedures or you will otherwise suffer the impacts later. Most companies have not been always able to manage risk in their project management. The managers are normally busy developing project plans and overlooking risk management. From a business point of view, projects should be challenged to exhibit a disciplined move toward the management of risk and that their project's exposure to risk will similarly reduce in a desirable way, in particular through the early stages of the project lifecycle (Philip 2004).(iii) Requirement analysisTo ensure that a given project succeeds, project manager or requirement analysts should effectively gather initial requirements from the client. He or she should then develop a frame work to be used by the development team. It is important that these requirements are checked with the client on a regular basis and the requirement manager or project manager should keep asking the client at each stage of the project if there are any changes in the requirements. Therefore it requires that good requirement analysts to frequently meet their clients and discuss in great depth their requirements. This enables any shortcomings in the project in the requirements to be identified in advance and to ensure that it is executed smoothly ( Alam 2010).(iv) Effective resource management.Resources should be properly utilized to ensure every process in the project runs smoothly and successful to completion. This requires that resource should not be or underutilized. Each resource in a project should always be put into best use at the correct stage of the project.To ensure effective project management and execution some, there must be laid rules, and proper employment of effective tools and methods. This requires project managers to employ a well- chosen project management technique especially in the planning stage. Any task that calls for some preparation to achieve a successful outcome will actually be done better by using a few project management methods somewhere in the process. Project management methods can of great significance in the planning, and managing all kinds of tasks especially the more complex ones. Therefore project management methods have far reaching significance and very useful than people assume. Project management techniques and planning play a very critical role in situations or tasks in which there is a possibility of different outcomes that are associated with risks and problems of failure. Situations like these calls for planning, assessing options, and organizing activities and resources so as to make sure successful results are delivered. Projects can take various shapes and magnitude and can range from straightforward to extremely complex ones. Successful management of both large and small projects requires the method outlined below (kerzner 2009).Project management process:

To ensure that a project is executed successful, a project manager should adopt the following management process or method:(i) Agree precise specification for the project.This first step is usually referred to as the project 'terms and references'. The project specification should be an accurate description of the things that the project aims to achieve and the criteria that is to be involved to meet the required objectives. This requires the project manager to consult with others and then agree the project specification with the relevant authority or his superiors. Before it is agreed upon the specification can involve several drafts. Having a comprehensive project specification is of great significance in that it creates a measurable accountability for anyone who is wishing to evaluate how the project is running or its success upon completion. Project specifications also provide basis for discipline and a perfect framework to keep the project on track and to ensure that it abides by the agreed aims and parameters. A properly drawn and agreed project 'terms of reference' plays a very critical role in protecting the project manager from being held accountable for issues that are not within the original scope of the project or those that are beyond the project manager's control. This is the stage during which, the project manager agree to special conditions or exceptions with those of the authority. A published project specification creates a very solid set of expectation by which the project manager will be judged (Philip 2004).When developing a project specification the following template should be followed:1. Describe purpose, objectives and deliverable of the project to be executed.2. State the parameters of the project. This must include timescales, budget, range, scope, territory, authority.3. State the people involved in the project and how the team will work. This should include the frequency of meetings and decision making criteria.4. Establish break-points at which to review and evaluate progress of the project. Results should also be measured at every break-point.(ii) Plan the project.Various stages of the project should be properly and prudently planned. A project manager should involve his team in planning where possible or necessary. An important tip in project planning is to work backwards from the end aim, identifying all the things to be put in place and done, in reverse order. Also from the bare beginning of the project, brain storming should be employed (noting ideas and points at random- typically with a project team). This will be indispensable in gathering points and issues and to explore innovations and ideas. Use of fishbone diagrams will be critical for brainstorming and in helping identify causal factors which otherwise will be forgotten. A project manager should involve others when handling complex projects or ones that he or she lacks experience of the issues in the correct order and in creating correlation and links between each issue (James 2007). For instance in complex projects there can be a number of activities running parallel. Some parts of the project will demand other parts of the project to be completed before they can commence. Such mutually dependent parts of the project calls for prudent consideration and preparation. Also some projects may demand a feasibility stage before a detailed plan is completed. Gantt charts and critical path analysis flow diagrams are two critical tools used for detailed project management planning, enabling, scheduling, costing and budgeting other financials and project reporting and management. The following should be considered in project planning and management:1. Project costs and time scalesA project manager should not plan a timescale that is over ambitious for instance when projects come in late but instead he or she should plan for some slippage. When given a project with a fixed deadline, you should plan to meet it earlier and always build some slippage or flexibility into each stage of the project. A project manager should always slip up on the side of caution where he can. This is because some projects which slip back and are submitted after the deadline, or run over budget or do not meet the financial requirements usually cause a lot of trouble. Although ambitious and aiming higher are good attitude but planning without proper prudence and responsibility is draft.2. The project team.Picking a team is a very imperative stage in project planning. Prudence should be employed by project managers or planners especially where team-members are imposed on them by the project brief. The process of choosing and gaining commitment from the best team members is a very vital determinant to the quality of the project. Avoid appointing people whose credibility you do not know until they have devoted themselves to the project upon terms that are undoubtedly acceptable and understood.3. Project management tools.The commonly employed tools in project management include: fishbone diagrams, brainstorming, critical path analysis flow diagrams and Gantt diagrams. Each of these tools is associated with particular strengths and purposes (see appendix).(a) Brainstorming.This is the vital creative process in project planning and management process. Unlike other project methods and skills this stage can be ignored or underutilized as it is ideally a free thinking and random method because it may not be obvious to many people whose main strengths are systems and processes. Therefore this step of project planning process can benefit from being enhanced by a team member who is capable of managing such a session in order to help specifically very organized people to think randomly and creatively (James 2007).(b) Fishbone diagrams.They are also known as 'cause and affect diagrams' or Ishikawa diagrams after Kaoru Ishikawa, a Japanese industrial quality management professor who first designed and used designed them. These diagrams play a vital role in quality management, fault detection, and in business improvement especially in production and manufacturing. This model is indispensable in project planning and management and generally in task management. They are of great help for early planning especially when gathering and organizing ideas for instance during brainstorming. They play a vital role in bringing out hidden factors which can be significant in enabling larger activities, resources areas, or part of a process. Where a fishbone diagram is used for project planning, the 'effect' is indicated as an objective or result or outcome and not a problem (Cleland 2006).(c) Project critical path analysis flow diagram or chartIt is also known as 'critical path method'. This is a very vital method in planning and managing of complicated projects. It is usually shown as a flow diagram with a linear format and specifically a time-line. These diagrams play a crucial role in identifying interdependent factors whose timing overlap or match thus enabling a plan to be scheduled according to a time scale (Cleland 2006).(d) Gantt charts.Gantt are named after a US engineer Henry Gantt who devised this technique in the 1990s. These charts are extremely significant project planning and management tools. These charts serve as excellent models for scheduling and budgeting and for reporting, presenting and communicating project plans and progress easily and quickly (James 2007).(e) Project financial planning and reportingProjects that require more than petty cash will require a spreadsheet to plan and report planned and actual expenditure. Small projects can effectively be managed by use of Gantt charts. Large and complicated projects require a dedicated accounting system. When one does not know how to put together a basic financial plan he should get help from someone who does who must be friendly and flexible. The spread sheet must enable one to effectively plan, administer and report the detailed finances of the project. This requires that one create a cost line for main expenditure activity which is then broken down into individual elements. Also a system should be put in place for allocating incoming invoices to the correct activities and show clearly when the cost hit the project account. One should establish unambiguous payment terms with all suppliers and abide by them (Kerzner 2009).(f) Project contingency planningTo ensure that a project runs to completion smoothly, there must be planning for and anticipating the unforeseen or the possibility that thing may go contrary to what was expected. Contingency planning plays a critical role in situations where the results or outcomes of a given project cannot be absolutely guaranteed. Therefore this requires a contingency budget to be prudently prepared as there are usually costs associated (Gayer 2007).(iii) Communicate the project plan to your project team.This procedure serves to inform the project team what is happening and also to obtain necessary support, agreement and dedication from the team. Therefore it requires that, if the project is complicated and involve a team, then you should involve the team in the planning process so as to maximize accountability and ownership. Communication and involvement is crucial for cooperation and support (Brockett 1999).(iv) Agree and delegate project procedures.A plan should clearly identify those responsible for each procedure or activity in a project. The activities should be unambiguously described and must include relevant parameters, costs, timescales and deliverables. A proper delegation method should be employed to ensure successful project management involving teams (Brockett 2009).(v) Manage, inform, encourage, motivate and enable the project team.Project managers should encourage meetings with team members, promote effective communication and motivate the team by 'praising loudly' and 'blaming softly'. One should look out for differences in personality in his or her team and develop a procedure on how to manage them effectively so that they can deliver their best ( James 2009). (vi) Check, measure and review project performance; adjust project plans; inform team members and others.The process of activities should always be checked against the plan. It is also required that performance of the project to be reviewed on regular basis and make adjustments to the plan if necessary based on performance, new information and changing circumstances but always remain within the initial terms of reference. Transparent and pre-agreed parameters should be employed when judging performance (Philip 2004).(vii) Complete project; review and report on project; give praise and thanks to the project team.After successful completion of the project, the project manager should hold a review with the team. He or she should understand what happened and why. Reflect on any failures of the project from a positive perspective and objectively without directing any personal blame also the successes of the project should be reflected grateful and realistically. A review must be written and also make observations and recommendations about follow up issues and priorities Gayer 2007).A project is characterized by five fundamental activities which should be well planned using appropriate tools and methods. These activities include: the initiating process, the planning process, the execution process, the monitoring and controlling process. For smooth running and conclusion of the project; each stage must be prudently planned and there must be trust, good communication and understanding among the involved parties. To achieve success, the project manager must create a perfect team that is fully committed and understand the project.

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