Many people mix up the terms “task” and “project.” It’s important to understand the difference between them, because each must be managed differently.
A “task” is an action item with a specific deliverable. A “project” is a bigger initiative with goals, conditions, budgets and stakeholders. Tasks can have multiple steps but typically have a smaller, more defined scope of impact. Tasks may be part of projects or stand alone.
Project management requires great organizational skills and the ability to motivate others toward a common goal. Manage your projects well, and your results will be better, faster and cheaper.
Because of their scale, projects often necessitate the use of specific tools to track tasks, timelines and resources. And projects often have teams that are accountable for their completion, so roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined.
Here are some tips for for managing your projects — before, during and after implementation.
Before starting a project
- Appoint a project manager. This person will organize all aspects of the project including meetings, deliverables, dates and resources.
- Identify the stakeholders. These are people who have a vested interest in the outcome of your project. What role should they have?
- Specify a project sponsor. Usually a manager or executive who oversees the major deliverables, supports the project and generally puts his/her clout behind the project if it faces obstacles.
- Gather a project team. Once it’s in place, schedule regular meetings for status updates.
During your project
These tools will help you get the job done right.
- Project scope document. Identifies what the project will address, the timeline, budget, people involved and, most importantly, why it’s important to see the project through to completion. (3-4 pages)
- Work breakdown structure (WBS). Typically in spreadsheet format. Identifies specific tasks that must be completed, by whom and start/end dates for each.
- Status update template. A report delivered to the project sponsor at regular intervals to keep him/her informed of major milestones and potential pitfalls that need to be addressed. (1-2 pages)
- Electronic collaboration tool. A centralized place to collect electronic documents and provide platforms on which team members can collaborate. Examples: Basecamp, 5pm, SharePoint or even a shared network drive folder.
After the project
- Have a debriefing meeting. Discuss what went well and what could be done better next time. Record the feedback and deliver an executive summary to the project sponsor.
- Celebrate your success. Too often the reward for a successful project is … more projects! Take some time to get the team together and celebrate your achievement.
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This post explains one of the 33 skills all meeting and event planners need to master. Discover the others here.