Creating a plan for leading projects
Creating a project plan requires following key steps in the process so you can break each one down and address them as you go. When formulating a plan for a project, follow the five phases of project development to manage a project from start to finish:
- Plan conception and initiation process
- Definition of project and planning actions
- Launch and execution of the plan
- Performance evaluation and element control
- Close of project and results
1. Plan conception and initiation process
Managers first define the direction of a project and set a course for its implementation. This phase explains the planning process and shares projections for the project’s desired results. Explain how results will be measured (baselines) throughout the project timeline and share budget data and estimations to form a complete picture. This phase of the process lets managers create plans for changes or alterations to the project’s timeline.
2. Definition of project and planning actions
In this phase, managers outline the scope of the project and define team roles. Managers calculate budget details and define the resources the team will use to meet deadlines and goals. They also create schedules for the plan’s actions and provide solutions to obstacles such as late orders or missed deadlines.
3. Launch and execution of the plan
As work begins on the project, managers meet with team members to distribute resources and tasks. Effective leaders know their team’s strengths, and assign roles to team members accordingly. The team has a clear understanding of what they need to accomplish, and managers consistently motivate their teams for success. Managers define tracking systems and schedule regular meetings to evaluate progress and make adjustments as needed.
4. Performance evaluation and element control
As the project gets underway, evaluations take place throughout the project timeline. Managers hold regular meetings with detailed agendas to get feedback from team members and assess obstacles or plan changes. Managers apply metrics like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track objectives and project quality. KPIs track costs and project performance including the team’s problem-solving efficiency.
5. Close of project and results
Once the project is completed, managers assess its evolution and the goals achieved. Performance evaluations help guide future projects and redefine team roles if necessary. In this final phase of the project, teams celebrate victories such as keeping the project under budget or meeting deadlines early. Managers prepare final reports for upper management and reward their teams for a job well done.
Related: How to Motivate Your Employees
Best practices for leading projects
When leading a team, delegating responsibilities and assigning tasks are important to keeping the project on schedule and within budget constraints. Consider a few practices that streamline the process, boost communication and help the team realize its potential.
- Define your purpose and goals. Managers set clear goals so their team can complete tasks with confidence and efficiency. Project managers apply SMART or CLEAR goals to define expectations, set deadlines and ensure their team has the tools they need to complement their role.
- Understand scope, responsibilities and limits. Managers know how to apply the strength of their teams and assign team members to roles where they are most effective. A project’s team may have several members, and managers delegate responsibilities to keep the project on schedule while promoting quality. Effective leaders know who will need supervision and who works better independently.
- Put communication first. Project managers listen to the team and weigh suggestions or issues. Managers facilitate the team by providing tools, documents or templates to do their jobs effectively and independently. Project leaders help teams advance their knowledge by providing or suggesting related education or training for future projects.
- Involve the whole team. Successful projects are collaborative, and teams are encouraged to share ideas and provide feedback. Leaders that listen to their teams create a motivated environment by recognizing contributions and applying suggestions. Effective managers strive to manage tasks and lead people.
How project management works in business
Project management plays a role in several areas of business and may be large or small in scope, depending on the project’s goal. Projects are defined with a set of clear goals and objectives for the plan’s outcome and follow a designated path while allowing for alterations and limitations. Some of the projects a business may undertake include:
- Launching a new product
- Opening a new location
- Hosting an event or fundraiser
- Performing market research and analysis
Project management FAQs
Here are answers to common questions you may have about project management:
How does project management help a business?
Project management helps a business understand its objectives and form a plan to meet its goals or realize its vision. Ideally, projects are constructed with a path in mind, and project management defines how the business will accomplish each step.
- Align strategies
- Create clear objectives
- Consider realistic possibilities
- Define costs
- Control quality
- Manage risk
- Oversee cost and progress
- Analyze results, learn from mistakes and plan for success
What tools do project managers use?
Project managers might use a wide array of tools to communicate with teams and measure a project’s progress, including:
- Documents, spreadsheets and templates: Includes charts, stats, file storage and editing.
- Collaboration tools: Examples include email, text messages, social media or company intranet.
- Planners: Examples include calendars, timelines, budgets, schedules, delegation and workflows.
- Evaluation and measurement tools: Examples could include KPIs, resource management, risk management and reporting.
- Project management software: These may include elements of the above items all in one place.