If you have ever headed up a project, you know how hard it can be to keep more than one person on the same schedule. For that matter, it can be hard enough keeping one person on schedule! So how do you do it?
Scheduling and completing a project becomes even more complicated when the team working on it is scattered across the country, across time zones, or even around the world. Even assuming everyone does their task on time and in order, it can be nearly impossible to remember who was in charge of what, and when everything was due.
So, how should you keep a project on a schedule? Here are eight crucial steps:
Use email, instant message, Zoom calls - whatever works best for your team. Stay connected. Just as if you were in an office, your team needs to get along with each other and talk to each other. While you can’t schedule a Friday night drinks out, you can say good morning to each other and check up on them. Try to build a sense of teamwork; even little things to stay connected can help a great deal.
Know your team
Part of staying connected is knowing your team. As the project leader, you should know who works fast and who lags behind. Give out projects in light of each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Your team will have a wide range of skills and proficiencies and by catering to them, you can build up not just the individuals on your team, but the whole team itself.
Discuss projects before they launch
Don’t throw projects spontaneously at your team and hope they figure things out and complete it in the deadline you’ve set up for them. Talk about a project before it’s assigned to determine who is best situated to handle each part. Discuss projected due dates and feasibility. If you’ve established a good sense of connection with your team, this round of discussions should feel natural and organic.
Use the right tools
Don’t rely on email and Google Docs or sheets to keep a project moving. Find the right project management software that works for your entire team and use it. Today’s software offer a wide range of options for personalization, with specific tools for every aspect of a given project. Using a central piece of software will also help keep everyone on the same page and working together; increased visibility options will allow everyone to see where a project stands.
We've put together a comprehensive list of over 300 project management software companies designed to meet any need.
If you're pushed for time, here's a simple list of some of the most popular project management software companies of 2020 (clicking on the name will take you to a page with more information on each of them)
Even the little ones. If your team isn’t used to working remotely, celebrating the little milestones is especially important. It’s up to you and your team to determine what milestones are worth celebrating and how you’ll celebrate them, but even delivering a small project on time can be a big deal, useful for boosting morale and encouraging a good performance on the next project.
Look for red flags
You know your team best and you should know your project, but you also need to be prepared for mistakes and issues. Despite your best laid plans, nothing is going to go perfectly, and you can’t prepare for every single little error that may crop up. You have to find the perfect medium between trusting your team and looking for potential red flags without being too control-obsessed.
Choose the best project management software for your use case; set up your project well, prepare your team, then trust them and trust the process. Just be prepared to handle issues when they come up.
Have a contingency plan
Not every project can be completed by the deadline, even with the best laid plans. Use a double-deadline system, and understand who can step in to complete a particular aspect of the project if someone becomes sick or unable to work. You won’t be able to plan for every contingency, but staying on top of the details will help you be better prepared.
Set realistic goals
Project management isn’t just about managing the details of a project, but about managing all the people involved in the project. Give actionable tips to your workers, set realistic deadlines, and expect them to deliver. Manage your client’s expectations, making sure they’re aware of any difficulties that arise with the project. Encourage everyone along the way and set goals that fit the project and the team.
Keeping your project and your team on schedule requires the right tools and the right mindset. Not everyone works at the same pace and if you have remote workers, there may be other circumstances that prevent them from working the same way as they would in an office. That doesn’t mean that projects can’t be completed in a timely manner, but it does mean that projects need a bit of different encouragement to ensure it’s done in time. Project management isn’t just about the project, but about the people. Putting them first will help every project flow more smoothly.