Being in business is exciting. Whether you’re a small business owner, tech entrepreneur, or a new business leader, it is easy to quickly take action without thinking through the process. In previous blogs, I’ve stressed the importance of creating plans and strategies, but execution brings plans and strategies to fruition.
The end game is results. Between the plan and results are resources and time. Tracking the consumption of resources over time and measuring performance against expectations is as important as the strategy itself, because no strategy is perfect (I will get into that point in another blog.) There’s a chance that the strategy may need to be adjusted along the way to either improve on performance or take advantage of an unexpected performance accelerator.
Also, resources and time are scarce, especially for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Small businesses typically do not have deep pockets. Unless your startup has gone through a series of funding, you are likely running on limited funds. Also, time is of the essence; the faster you can get your idea to market, the more you can capitalize on that idea. In other words, you don’t have the luxury of a large business, which can write off poorly executed plans and still keep their doors open.
So how is this done? Project management.
No, you do not need to jump into PMP courses and become a certified project management professional. Yet understanding the basics of managing a project will help you effectively execute marketing campaigns, manage engineering projects, or manage the process of developing an app. Once project management skills are practiced regularly, the possibilities of applying the skills are endless (why do you think PMPs make so much money.)
Get a tool.
The first step is to acquire a project management tool. I find many business managers attempt to manage projects or activities using a spreadsheet, or even worse, out of email and the calendar. Those methods are ineffective and defeat the purpose of utilizing resources to their fullest potential –you’ll spend so much of your time living in Excel and email that you won’t get much done.
Subscribe or buy software that is designed for project management.
Don’t get overwhelmed.
The capabilities of software like Microsoft Project can be overwhelming, so start with the basics. Without getting into project management concepts, here’s what you can accomplish with core project management activities.
- Create and assign tasks – The first step is to list out what must be done and who would do it. When you’re recording the activities that must be accomplished to achieve a result and begin assigning tasks, you’ll begin understanding if you even have the resources or time to achieve results.
- Establish a timeline and timing for tasks – Some things must be done before others can start. While it is a simple concept, you cannot visualize this or manage the timing of tasks in Excel. Also, you’ll see the availability of resources and understand what a realistic timeframe really is.
- Manage the project and follow through – After the project is mapped out, you can use the tool to hold resources accountable to the completion of tasks and timing. The tools allow you to measure against results as they come in, so that you can see if the project is progressing to plan.
The idea of project management is that all the resources agree to the timing and scope, and have a voice in the creation of the project plan. The software tools allow for a dynamic plan, visualization of progress, and reporting to the team.
If you can run with the basics, you’re ahead of the curve. However, if you plan to make a strategic investment and expect flawless execution, don’t do it on your own. Bring in someone to manage the project, and that person does not need to be an expert in your industry, but rather an expert in managing resources and working in teams.
And you don’t need to put someone on your payroll either. Project based work is something that I do –send me a note.