Project management involves the organization and administration of resources to accomplish goals. Every team member, more so leaders, must possess various project management skills that enable them to undertake the project from start to finish, efficiently. These skills refer to the core abilities required in the various operations management stages, such as initiating, planning, designing, implementing, supervising, and eventually completing projects successfully. Here we’ll cover top skills that a company needs to say afloat.
Ability to Clearly Set and Communicate Objectives and Benchmarks
Let’s start with setting objectives. This means precisely outlining what you’re seeking to achieve from your project. Stating objectives and goals gives you a clear picture of your destination. Whether you’re running a small company with 20 employees or a multi-million dollar company, your ability to set and communicate your goals is a critical ingredient for business survival.
The SMART goal setting principles are utilized the world over to guide the process of setting objectives. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based, respectively. Let’s look at the significance of each principle.
For illustration purposes, let’s pick a company that offers escrow services. An escrow account comes in between the buyer and the seller in an online transaction and holds the funds until the product is delivered, then earns a commission. This reduces instances of online fraud. Now, let’s see how SMART goals would look like in our escrow company.
The number and volume of transactions determine the scale of business in an escrow company. Here, you can decide how many transactions you need for the business to survive.
In business operations, numbers don’t lie. Make your objectives measurable by including figures. What should be the net worth of your monthly transactions? Let’s say you set your target at $40,000 a month. This means that you can aim for $10,000 per week. You can have these figures plastered on a whiteboard to remind the team of the benchmarks and monitor the progress.
Even with the dreams that you have for your business, you must remain rooted in reality through project management, especially if you’re running a relatively small company. Reaching one thousand transactions per month sounds ambitious, but is it attainable? Setting objectives that are beyond your scope will discourage and frustrate you in the long run.
Consider the prevailing business climate when setting your goals. For instance, during these COVID-19 times, certain industries such as hospitality and aviation have ground to a halt. Online businesses, on the other hand, are booming. The escrow service from our example would be well placed to set higher targets for this particular period.
Every objective must have a time-frame tied to it. If you’re aiming for 100 transactions a month, you’ll have to strive to attain 25 transactions per week. With this in mind, you can now formulate daily tasks for each team member and ultimately stand a higher chance of meeting your goals.
Once you have precise objectives and benchmarks set, communicate them to the team to get everyone on the same page. Let them present their views as well. Break down the goals into actionable tasks and assign them to relevant departments. Remember to review the goals periodically and make necessary adjustments.
Project Prioritization and Task Management
Once you break down the goals into tasks, you need to determine their order of priority. Resources are first allocated to the tasks which appear on top of the priority list. One of the main factors to consider here is the return on investment. Those projects generating the highest revenues should go on top of the list. The advantage of this model is that you can use those project’s proceeds to fund the others. Consider the payback duration as well. A project could be promising handsome returns but in five years time. Do you have sufficient funds to keep the other projects going in the meantime? If not, you can choose to start with other projects that will pay off faster.
The cost of the project also determines its priority. Consider how much money is required for each project in relation to the funds available. You’d rather complete smaller projects than start a more substantial project whose completion is not guaranteed. You can then use the revenue from the smaller projects to finance the larger ones.
Consider the effect of the project on customer satisfaction. Positive customer experience translates to higher revenue. If you opt for this criteria, you’ll prioritize those projects that create products that are appealing to the market. Do you have some projects which are dependent on others? Consider this in your ranking, so you don’t have some projects stalling along the way.
Task management is the junior version of project management. We stated earlier that each project gets broken down into tasks, which are essentially mini-projects. Once you understand the importance of project management, task management will be much easier. Most of the task management skills match those of managing a project. Some of the additional strategies that you can utilize here include writing down a detailed to-do list. Write down the tasks that you intend to do in a specific time frame. Put them on sticky notes and hang them on your desk. Scheduling acts as a constant reminder of your daily goals and enhances your chances of achieving them.
Commit to handling one task at a time. Multi-tasking has become the order of the day, but in essence, achieves little other than making you look busy. Focusing on one task at a time increases productivity and accomplishes more in the long run. Remember, you’ll encounter some unforeseen circumstances along the way, even with the most meticulous planning. Remain flexible enough to allow the necessary alterations, with the ultimate goal still in sight.
Handling a project is often overwhelming. Consider operations consulting to give you a different angle on your project. Consulting can also bring on board expertise that you may not have on your team, offering services at a fairer cost since the consultant only stays for the project’s duration.
Communication and Time Management Skills
Communication is a vital part of day-to-day interactions, and project management is no exception. Throughout the project, there will be an exchange of information, ideas, thoughts, and feelings between individuals and teams. Effective communication ensures that all stakeholders are on par, and all team members know what their duties are.
There are active and passive means of communication. Passive communication is one-sided, such as memos, emails, podcasts, and bulletin boards. Active communication facilitates interactive dialogue and presents a much better option for finding business solutions. Here you can have face-to-face meetings, phone conversations, video conferences, webinars, and so on.
For effective communication, listen to understand, not just to answer. Give the speaker your undivided attention. Avoid dominating the conversation; give others an equal chance to speak as well. Use open-ended questions to encourage dialogue. These are questions that invite further discussion as opposed to a yes or no answer. Ask follow-up questions on the points discussed. You can voice your disagreements, just do so amicably without attacking others directly. Finally, cover only one topic at a time. Remember to take minutes and present each member with a copy afterward. With these communication skills, you can be confident that the entire team will be on the same page regarding the operations strategy.
Time management refers to allocating and controlling the amount of time spent on each task. Clarifying what you’re seeking to accomplish is the first step in time management. You can then break down the job into separate tasks and assign appropriate timelines for each. In what order will you execute the tasks? Come up with the criteria that you use to rank the tasks to determine the ones that should be given priority. Come up with an operational strategy outlining the actions that should be taken at each stage, then delegate them to the relevant departments. Finally, monitor the project closely, keeping an eye out for elements that could derail the progress. Here your problem-solving skills come in handy.
Poor time management leads to delays, procrastination, poor performance, and even low morale among workers. Keeping an eye on the clock helps tame these operational challenges.
Competence in Software Usability Training with Marketing and Sales Team
Manual operations are now giving way to digital technologies, and the marketing and sales sectors are no exception. Can you train your team to use the relevant software to bring in more customers? Some of the tasks that they should be able to perform with marketing software include content tracking. This is the ability to analyze web activities as well as the buying behavior of your potential clients. Have you noticed that if you search for a particular item online, you’ll soon have adverts from similar items appearing on your newsfeed? Marketing software has been tracking your online activity and is now keen to convert you into a paying client.
Task scheduling is also a crucial component of marketing software. Your marketing tasks do not have to stop when you’re not online. The software should be in a position to schedule emails and even give automated responses. Such consistency makes a lasting impression on customers and encourages loyalty.
The software should analyze information and present the data in user-friendly forms such as graphs, charts, etc. By analyzing the reports generated, you should be able to tell if that particular marketing strategy is delivering results. If not, you can make the necessary adjustments or opt for a different marketing strategy altogether.
The company should be able to adequately train its marketing and sales teams on the relevant software. Remember, newer and more advanced software is introduced into the market every other day, so the training should be an ongoing activity.
Performance Management and Goal Tracking
Performance management involves evaluating and monitoring employee’s work to ensure that they’re delivering on the tasks allocated to them. Goal tracking seeks to ensure that the company is hitting the set milestones. Performance management is about individual members of the team, while goal tracking focuses on the bigger picture. Here you can utilize various project management tools to help you monitor these parameters.
Monitoring begins with having clear goals, which we’ve elaborated above. Performance management mostly deals with short-term goals, the tasks that should be carried out daily, weekly, or monthly. Here you must have a continuous engagement between managers and employees.
The first test is to determine how each employee is doing on the tasks allocated. Is the quality of work satisfactory? Is it on course to beat the deadline? Is it contributing to the overall goal of the project?
The employees also get to express views, ideas, and concerns to the management, particularly regarding any operational challenges that may be hindering them from fulfilling their tasks. Use different modes of communication, such as one-on-one meetings, group meetings, emails, etc.
Peer reviews are also a vital component of project management. Here coworkers get to present their views about each other, both positively and negatively. The manager can then use this information to appraise the workers. The management should also be keen to recognize and reward outstanding performance. Whether it’s a simple employee of the month card or a more expensive gift, the thought does count. That act of appreciation goes a long way in motivating the entire team.
Goal tracking is easier when you already set SMART goals, as earlier illustrated. With precisely defined goals, you can always check if you’re hitting the set milestones. For larger projects where the managers may not keep an eye on every detail, tracking software offers a great way to improve processes. Ultimately, constant reviews enhance the chances of success of any project.
Businesses the world over are facing unexpected difficulties during these COVID-19 times. There are plenty of business challenges companies must overcome as they attempt to rise again, but, some may not survive at all. These project management tips should ensure that your business will bounce back and succeed.