The Practical Project: Making it Work for Your Small Team
Managing projects can be tough, even for a trained Project Manager. Without a process, tools, or training, teams sometimes just “wing it.” But in doing so, individuals and teams run the risk of failing in the process. Some estimates indicate that 37% of corporate projects ($74M in investment) risk failure at any given time – for early stage ventures, the numbers are likely higher.
Entrepreneurs often find themselves managing projects without much training or experience. But creating a clear plan and managing effectively isn’t rocket science, and with a basic understanding and tools, entrepreneurial teams can get farther, do more.
Our series “The Practical Project” is intended to help you increase a basic understanding of project management and the basic tools you need get your startup from point A to point B. As part of our effort to contribute to the community of entrepreneurs, we’ll cover the basics – no PhD required!
Managing Projects as a Solopreneur
These solopreneurs find that traditional project management methods are beyond what they need and aren’t always relevant to their goals and values. Small teams situations call for agile tools that focus on communication and task management, but that doesn’t mean that traditional project management is completely irrelevant…
- A Clear Road Map:
A guiding document is completely necessary, even if you’re working closely with a small team. You need to have things in writing. Not sure where to start? Check out our review of the Business Model Toolbox app for iPad. We think that it does a great job of organizing all of your options and giving you an indication of where to start laying some bricks for a solid foundation.
- Clear Communication:
Speaking the same language is key. Nothing is worse than having a team come to a ‘consensus’ with wildly different interpretations. There’s nothing wrong with defining some key words or terms that your team will use often in discussion. To make the most of the meetings, save time at the end to go over expectations in detail, ensuring that the other team members completely understand what’s going on.
- Achieving Goals:
Of course, one of the biggest goals of the project is to make the product as best as it can be, no matter what. That is a great spirit for the team to embrace, but realistically speaking, there are variables that can make having a ‘perfect product’ a very big detriment on time and resources. The Project Management Body of Knowledge, which is typically regarded as the authority on traditional project management suggests that the project plan focus on updates, features, and redesigns that are priority for making the product work. Once that is done, extra features can be added as part of a new project. By breaking the work down, you’re making sure not to overwhelm yourself or your team, and you’ll have better chances of achieving project success.
- Lessons Learned:
Running into problems during a project is completely normal. There will be times when communication will fail to deliver the right message, deadlines or expectations will be misinterpreted, and milestones will be achieved past the time that they were originally estimated to be delivered by. Surely, you won’t want to run into these troubles during your next project, so what can you do? That’s when the ‘lessons learned’ meeting comes into play. At the end of a project, schedule a time with your team to reflect your experience: What things went right? What went wrong? And most importantly, how can the negative things be avoided in the future. By conducting this meeting, you’re improving the way that your team works with one another and their outlook on a project and its related tasks.
- Staying Organized:
It’s a simple fact, large teams need to keep a high level of organization in order to succeed, but what many entrepreneurs learn too late is that even small teams need to be well-organized. How your team will stay organized is largely up to you. There’s no right or wrong answer, but there are some tips to keep in mind:
- What: Keep relevant documents, emails, memos, files, and prototypes in the same place. They should be similarly stylized, and each piece of information should clearly state who the author was.
- Where: Whether you choose to keep files online or offline, they should be kept very secure. Consider a filing cabinet with a lock, or an online account that’s password protected. Remember to keep up-to-date back-up’s handy in the case that an emergency occurs.
- Who: The entire team should have knowledge that their documents are being kept in a place where they can access the information, and on what basis they can use the information on.
Over to You:
Have you encountered any unique project management issues while working within a small team? What methods did you use to get past them? Share your story in the comment section below.