How to Manage a Project



These are a set of questions that people have asked, mainly about applying the project management approach to their normal work situation. We have tried to give what we feel are "best practice" answers but cannot pretend that the answers are definitive.

Have you any tips for a project manager?

First and foremost, make sure that you have a sponsor
That someone or some group is acting as client or sponsor for the project. Just as if you take a job you want to know who you report to - who is your boss. If there is no project sponsor, then perhaps establish who you would like it to be and then suggest to them that they should act in that capacity for you.

Second, organise sponsorship
If your sponsor is a large (above six people) steering group, project board or management team; try to ensure that someone in that group is acting on your behalf - in fact is acting as your sponsor on behalf of the group. Preferably, the person most interested in your project.

Third, scope the project
Find a means of getting agreement to carry out a Project Scoping Study - or if that fails carry out the study and present your project scoping report anyway. This should only take a short time and the project plan need only be two or three pages long. Otherwise, you are simply accepting the objectives, timescales and resources that others think are necessary.

Fourth, get organised.
The first thing an experienced project manager will do is open a slim project folder, not to contain all the paperwork but simply to contain the current state of play of the project. Often only an update of the project plan. If you need to go to a meeting to update a sponsor or a steering group, that project folder should contain all you need.

Fifth, actively keep in touch
Build in time in your diary to keep up to date on progress. If the project is a really large one then this may mean getting people to do progress reports on their area. However, with most projects the best way of keeping in touch is by talking to people. Get your project sponsor to do the same at their working level. However many reports, meetings and systems are used, much of project management still comes down to progress chasing.