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Project management is vitally important to any business, whether small or large. Good project management can lead to better project outcomes — and therefore better outcomes for the company. Bad project management, or a lack of project management, can prevent your team from working to their fullest potential. To give your employees the best chance at success, implement these project management best practices in your small business.

Have great communication skills

Effective project management is built upon proactive, detailed communication. The ability to communicate affects every stakeholder in your business, from your employees to vendors and customers. Open and clear communication helps ensure that the job gets done right every time.

Consider communication to be a crucial tool in your project management arsenal. The methodology you use may vary depending on your individual circumstances but be sure to use both written and verbal channels to facilitate easier communication between leadership and employees and between employee teammates. Some effective options include:

  • Email: Ensure that everyone receives the same message and can refer to important information as needed.
  • Meetings: Create space to have nuanced conversations and open discussions together.
  • Surveys: Find out directly from your employees what is and isn’t working about the current project plan — and then adjust accordingly.

When communicating with external stakeholders, such as customers, the same mindset applies. Keep channels of communication open and use them clearly and transparently. When you communicate deliberately and intentionally, you are more likely to achieve the results you hope for.

Create a risk management plans

One component of project management is risk management. As a project manager, you will have to make decisions that will impact your business, employees, and customers. Part of making those decisions is evaluating the associated risk and developing a plan to mitigate the impact should things not go as planned. Risk isn’t always business breaking. It could simply be the risk of lowered productivity or unhappy employees. But even those risks can affect your bottom line and therefore require a risk management strategy.

Managing risk starts with identifying and analyzing the potential risk and ends with putting a plan in place to manage and monitor it. You can also insure your business against risk to further lower the potential impact on your business.

Highlight the importance of time management

Time management is one of the most crucial parts of project management — and one of the hardest to learn. Each person on your team likely has their own concept of time management and their own strategies for managing themselves. As a project manager, your goal should not be to micromanage their daily tasks, but rather to provide additional strategies and tools to unite your team in their efforts. These could include:

  • Helping your employees avoid a perfectionist mindset that prohibits speed
  • Negotiating conflicts between team members that are distracting from the ability to complete work
  • Creating clear, definable roles on the team so there is no ambiguity in task ownership

A defined project plan is a very useful tool, especially for teams that include multiple people. A project plan gives everyone involved an eagle’s eye view of the project from start to finish, helping reinforce the end goal. It also provides milestones to work toward and helps your employees understand how their hard work contributes to the success of the project.

Use project management software

If developing a project management plan sounds daunting, there are numerous software tools available to help you get started. Project management software can provide an easy framework for you and your employees to work within to ensure goals and deadlines are met.

When identifying the project management system that’s right for your business, budget is an important factor — but so is the function. Look for a tool that helps you stay on track with day-to-day tasks while still providing the big picture. It should also help facilitate collaboration and feedback between employees. Monday.com and ClickUp are two project management solutions that are popular among small businesses.

Divide projects into 5 phases

If starting a project feels overwhelming to you, one simple project management method is to divide the project into five phases. This helps you turn what needs to be done into micro-milestones. Instead of worrying about the entire project, give your full attention to each phase in turn. Being aware of what the five phases of a project are can help you break the project down into achievable chunks.

  1. Initiation
    During the Initiation Phase, you should communicate the goals of the project to the team responsible for completing it. This phase isn’t about how you will achieve the goals — instead, it’s ensuring the entire team is on the same page about the desired outcomes. Consider creating a Project Charter, a document that outlines the project requirements, key players and metrics of success.
  2. Planning
    The Planning Phase is where you should create a roadmap of how you will complete the project. Clearly lay out all of the milestones and tasks that will be required to successfully complete the project. Take the opportunity to assign team members to tasks so everyone understands what they will be responsible for. Remember that project plans need to allow for a certain amount of flexibility as you encounter unexpected information or hiccups during the Execution Phase.
  3. Executing
    The Execution Phase is when the team embarks on the tasks you determined in the previous Planning Phase. During this phase, it’s important to utilize a project management software or other system to track progress and stay ahead of any potential delays. Keep your channels of communication open between team members to maximize the efficiency of the project.
  4. Performance
    The Performance Phase occurs after the execution is complete. This is when your team should track and monitor the success of your project. This is also your chance to make any adjustments as necessary — if you see any parts underperforming, you can make tweaks in real time. Keep detailed records along the way of any data or other metrics that can be analyzed later.
  5. Closing
    The Closing Phase should wrap the project up entirely. During this phase, you should communicate out results of the project and any learnings gained from it. Ensure that any obligations from the project are completed, and create documentation of the project that you can refer to on future projects.

Adhere to project management methodology

There are multiple different established project management methodologies that companies can leverage. Choosing the right one for your business is important because they call for different team structures, project organizations and software tools. Implementing a project management methodology is a major change for any business, but popular methodologies such as Kanban and Scrum have the potential to significantly increase your productivity.

Kanban methodology

Kanban is a highly established and proven project management methodology. It uses a heavily visual approach to give a detailed overview of the project. The eponymous Kanban boards are designed to maximize efficiency and smooth the flow of work.

Agile scrum

Scrum is another methodology that uses an incremental approach to achieving goals. It helps you break down a large task into smaller, more manageable chunks to complete in a timely manner. In Agile Scrum, employees complete “sprints” of productivity that encourage efficiency and focus.

Waterfall method

The Waterfall Method uses a five-phase approach similar to the five phases outlined above. A widely used project management method, it is best applied to projects that have an element of predictability, as each phase relies on the successful completion of the phase before it. Because it forces your team to set clear goals, it is a favored method for projects with a strict budget. The five phases of the Waterfall Method are: Requirements, Design, Implementation, Verification and Maintenance. The downside of the Waterfall Method is that if one phase goes off track, the other phases will be affected. But with discipline and good communication, the Waterfall Method can be a powerful and effective approach to project management.

Effective project management

From increasing efficiency and productivity to providing your employees with the tools they need to succeed, investing in project management can take your business to the next level.

As you begin your project management journey, be sure to utilize Nationwide’s additional small business resources. Learn about cultural intelligence, the must-read books for any small business owner, and more.

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The information included is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts. It is the reader’s responsibility to comply with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations and to make their own decisions about how to operate their business. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no warranties about the information nor guarantee of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided.