Developing a Project Management Process

Many small businesses hire individuals to fill a certain position, but then responsibilities outside that person’s job description accrue on their desk over time. One of the most common additional tasks employees find themselves taking on is project management, or at least involvement in the project management process. Team members are usually willing to take on extra duties as needed to lead a project to success, but that doesn’t mean they’re always overjoyed about it. Business owners can start to help by designating some employees as project manager leads. The best candidates will be those who are naturally very organized—they will be able to lean on that strength to build out the right project process for your business. As they discover the best strategies for leading your projects to completion, those can be implemented between and across departments to support even long-term projects to success.

Project Management Stages

The Project Management Institute has identified five stages of project management, each with its own set of tasks, as indicated below:

1. Conception and InitiationProjMgmnt_Conception_Icon

This stage is when the project is broadly conceived and given the green light.

2. Definition and PlanningProjMgmnt_Definition_Icon

Anyone involved in the project should be involved in the goal setting and defining of roles and responsibilities that take place at the beginning of the project. The risk management plan—a list of foreseeable risks and what can/will be done to both prevent and react to them—as well as the project timeline should also be created during this stage.

3. Launch or ExecutionProjMgmnt_Launch_Icon

Each department carries out their step-by-step plans of action that were developed in stage 2.

4. Performance and ControlProjMgmnt_Performance_Icon

This stage can be said to take place alongside stage 3. The person or persons managing the project must make sure it’s staying on track, under budget, and up to quality standards.

5. CloseProjMgmnt_Close_Icon

You finish the project—whatever that looks like for your team—and deliver the products or outcomes as promised.1

Employees who are project manager leads will do most of their work in stages 2, 3, and 4. Some project managers might be really great at planning but not so good at budget tracking. Different players on your team will emerge with different strengths, so don’t overload one talented employee when several might get the job done better.

How They Apply

Think about what it means at your business to bring on a new client or satisfy a new contract from beginning to end.

Is one person in charge of overseeing each onboarding or rollout, or does everyone take on some ownership of the process? Who delegates the work and who does it? What bookkeeping or client communication is required, and who is in charge of it?

Answering these questions will give business owners some idea of where throughout the project management process employees might be filling roles beyond their job description. Market sectors like construction, defense, and petrochemical have strictly regimented project processes, largely due to regulations.2 In industries like telecom, service, and finance, though, the process of delivering to a customer can be different at every business.

Qualities to Seek

There’s no one theory of project management, but there are certainly ideal qualities to be sought in a project management process. The first is consistency. The processes for documentation, communication, and quality management should be the same from project to project, though different people might carry them out. The second is flexibility. Every project will have its variances and challenges that arise, and your team won’t succeed if they can’t adapt to them. Last, the best project management processes are transparent. This is especially true when it comes to how team members are using resources, including their time.3

If your work is more digital than physical these days, consider a project management software to keep everyone on your team connected and updated about any deadline or budget changes. You may even find that using a project management software in conjunction with a chat/fileshare service like Slack or Google Chat/Drive works best.

Integrate, Don’t Invade

As you’re evaluating software or rethinking your project process, ask yourself how the project management tasks you need employees to handle can be made as easy as possible for them. That might mean short daily check-in meetings for each project, or software like a calendar with deadline reminders. Depending on the nature of your business and uniqueness of your process, a custom software might even be a good option. Certainly don’t leave your employees out of the process of determining what the most effective strategies are for the team. For some, designating someone as the project manager for each new account is a good tactic; for others, assigning management of different aspects to different team members makes more sense. Whatever the solution, it’s essential that it’s one you’ve developed intentionally, not simply allowed to evolve on its own over time as circumstances have changed.