Project management/planning refers to separate, distinct projects, events or programmes. These will link to the actions or activities in your operational plan for the whole organisation.
Project management applies to managing smaller, community-based projects as well as major projects. Any project can be divided up into four distinct phases.
Project initiation (or start-up)
This is where you work out what you aim to achieve, the resources you'll need to do it and how you'll know you've been successful. The project's terms of reference set out the overall reasons for, and scope of the project.
The terms of reference document includes the following:
- Name of the project
- Project manager - have one person responsible for co-ordinating and managing the project to reduce the risk of too many people, each with their own ideas, all trying to influence things
- Project objective - the end goal you hope to achieve and why it is being done
- Project deliverables - the specific things you want to achieve
- Project scope - what's included and what's not. Be clear about what you want to happen and what you'll need to leave out
- Project inter-dependencies/relationships - what other projects will affect, or be affected by, this project
- Resource requirements - including time and money
- Overall project schedule and deadlines - when it is to be completed
- Risks - what might threaten the project (see separate section on Risk Management below).
This is the what, where, when, who and how stage of project management. In this stage you work out the detailed tasks to be done and map it out on a project schedule or GANTT chart.
To create a project schedule (or GANTT chart):
On a whiteboard or large piece of paper, draw up the following template:
Project Schedule (or GANTT chart)
You can also include the following plans and documents:
- risk register and management plan - see Risk management
- communications plan - see Your communications plan
- budget - see Financial planning
This is the action stage of the project. How much monitoring you do depends on the scale and complexity of your project. As you put your plan into action
- have a system to monitor progress, budget/expenditure and risks
- have a system to approve changes to the scope of the project
- produce regular (e.g. monthly) reports for your management committee or board including:
- progress against the project plan, especially noting any delays
- financial update
- any communication (correspondence and media queries) about the project
- any significant risks and how you plan to manage them.
On larger projects, or in larger organisations, it is common to have a formal change management process where changes to a project are introduced and approved. For this there are a range of other forms and registers, such as an Issues Register and Project Change Request forms that need to be signed off to approve changes.
The Change Management Toolbook has useful information and tools to help with managing change.
Tip: Be prepared to run into some unforeseen issues that might mean the project will take longer, cost more and/or not be up to the quality you'd hoped. You may have overlooked an important item when you defined the scope, and now need to include it. Don't panic - it's often just a case of keeping track of these issues and adjusting your actions accordingly.
This is the last stage of the project. In many situations there will be some ongoing work to do, such as offering continuing support to your community or maintaining a resource you have developed. This stage will quite often merge with your group's regular activities.
There are four things to do in the project closure stage:
1. Evaluate the project, checking:
- whether the project met its objectives
- how well it was run, and
- what you learned that may help future projects - consider what worked well and any difficulties you faced.
2. Write a closure report to record the project's completion.
3. Tidy up any loose ends, making note of what needs to be carried over into regular business.
4. Celebrate - take a moment to celebrate the completion of the project. You've earned it!