8 tips on how to control projects at work
Published in Leadership and Soft Skills.
Being knowledge workers, we all got multiple projects and tasks. Our managers and colleagues rely on us to keep things under control and manage up when needed. Have you ever struggled to tell your manager, outside the project, what has changed since last week? Most probably, something happened, but you weren’t involved. That’s a natural condition for big projects. We must find a way to keep control of things that are within our reach without direct control over them.
There are several reasons why this happens.
Working with projects, it’s near impossible to track everything you should do with a simple To-Do list because each task has a lot of related information. Documents, Tickets, and Letters are required to do a simple task.
Projects get so big you cannot remember the details. Being asked a question, you have to look up answers. That’s counter-productive and makes you look foolish.
Projects receive updates you don’t know about. Many processes happen without you involved.
What can you do about it?
1. Document anything Stakeholders need to know. When asked a question, you’ll be able to answer that by providing related documents. I’ve written an article with tips on effective written communication earlier.
2. Keep track of extra information, including project updates in a centralized place. It can be a OneNote page or a Knowledge Base dedicated to this project based on its size.
3. Schedule regular updates be it a call or an email conversation. It is knowledge coming from Project Management. Nevertheless, there is no more reliable way to ensure every project team member is on the same page than a centralized project update meeting with slides deck or a note shared afterward. Here’s an article on how to run effective meetings with no experience.
4. To make project information more manageable, decompose the current project status into a set of problems you need to solve. These can be technical issues, organizational & budget problems, or unfinished tasks. Track them separately in a centralized way.
You will be more efficient and rational in making decisions about a single problem by working with the information required to solve this issue.
5. Add as much background information into your communications. Use unique identifiers of things you are working with commonly used in your organization and industry. You’ll have an easier time getting others to understand what you are trying to achieve & what your obstacles are. This technique will also make it easier for you to browse emails later.
6. Be a responsible employee, know people responsible for current steps & ask direct questions. If you are 1000% sure the project has a dedicated and determined person interested in project completion who keeps track of things for all of you, you may ignore this. Otherwise, you have to be that person and manage the project from your perspective.
7. Cooperate with others on every step. A way to ensure there’s at least someone who will remember what you were doing and why is to have a colleague working with you. When doing pair techniques, you have to argue decisions you both make.
8. Lose track of things you don’t need to know. There’s a thin line between things you must know and things you must be able to look up when working on a project. Find where that line lies, and stop trying to keep track of things outside your reach. Focus on the things you can be responsible for.
Being in control of a project isn’t an easy thing to do. But you can accomplish it if you meticulously follow the best Information Management techniques and organize your work. Recorder information is your best friend there.