Hire a project manager, they said.
It’s gonna be awesome, they said.
Well, they were wrong.
Deadlines? Consistently missed. There goes another one.
And productivity is lower than a shipwreck.
That leaves two big questions: what’s wrong and how can it be fixed?
What’s wrong is you don’t have systems. Wishing and hoping that projects will magically start to run smoothly all on their own isn’t going to work.
But using the right project management checklist and processes will get your projects off to the races and on to the finish line with minimal hiccups on the way.
Repeat after me:
You 👏 need 👏 systems 👏 to 👏 scale.
All right, so what’s the big system secret to scaling in this particular scenario?
It’s a project checklist template.
Picture it — deadlines consistently hit.
Happy PMs and staff.
Is it too good to be true?
No! You just have to put the systems and tools in place to get it and scale.
Ready? Let’s go.
What is Project Management?
Project management is the way your company gets things done. In the words of Project Management Institute, “project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
So yeah, systems and tools. Like I was saying.
Anyway, when it works well, project management is the shiny, well-oiled machine you need to get sh$t done. It streamlines your deliverables process, makes projects more successful, and keeps everyone sane.
So, how do you improve your project management process? Take a proactive approach, and watch your agency grow. Here’s how to make better project management happen.
The Project Management Plan Gap
Your business is made up of many different moving pieces.
These include people, processes, products, and more. Left to their own devices, though, these moving pieces are like renegade windup toys running into each other.
Unless you bring some order to your project management process, the chaos will never end.
Clients be like, “Hey! Can you make this small change?”
It sure seems innocent. But it’s the start of the dreaded scope creep *gasp*. Before you can say it’ll cost ya, you end up with too many deliverables to fit into your finite schedule and bandwidth.
Result? A negatively impacted production and delivery line.
Here’s the thing.
If you can’t find a way to make all the moving parts fit together, you will end up with big, expensive, time-consuming project management gaps.
But good news, mate. The fix is in. A checklist will give you streamlined projects. Bust open roadblocks. And standardize processes and workflows across the board. Work smarter, not harder!
Download our free Project Management Checklist now.
Project Management Checklist
The 9-Step Project Management Checklist You Never Knew you Needed
No two projects are the same. So no two checklists will be either. As a general rule, though, here are the five essentials for a comprehensive, scalable, ultra-effective project management checklist:
1. Identify the Outcomes
First things first — identify the project’s goals, objectives, and the outcomes you need to attain.
While you probably covered this during the kickoff meetings, ask yourself and your team the following questions:
- What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
- How are you going to solve it?
These questions are simple. But they’re critically important in defining the project’s core deliverables and determining how you plan to solve the client’s problem.
Plus, these questions help establish a high-level vision of the project. That way, you’ll know which team members to loop in to get everything done.
2. Communicate With Stakeholders
Stakeholders are the people — internal and external — who have a personal interest in the project’s progress and success. Your job is to help meet stakeholder expectations throughout the whole project.
Depending on the situation, stakeholders may be:
- Project sponsors
- Internal management
- Department leaders
- Individuals contributing to the project
A good project management checklist should include a plan for each of the project phases. The checklist should have a plan for meeting and communicating with stakeholders. And it should also include a way for your team to identify and understand stakeholder priorities.
3. Clarify Requirements
The next step on the checklist is to outline all specifications and requirements for a given project. This will depend on the type of project you’re working with.
In general, though, you’ll want to consider a few key points:
- Success indicators — How will you know whether the project was successful?
- Tests and specifications — How will tests be administered?
- Reporting metrics and formats — for both tests and success factors.
Once you’ve clarified requirements, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of your project’s performance and communication plan. This ensures you’re not missing any critical details that could otherwise derail a successful project.
Remember though, no two projects are the same. Adjust these checklist details accordingly so they fit your project and team. The end goal is a clear vision and path forward.
4. Create a Project Plan
All right, you’ve done your research, outlined the requirements, and gotten your little duckies in a row. Pour yourself a drink and get comfy. It’s time to make a plan.
While most of us tend to think in terms of the project timeline during the planning phase, I recommend not starting with the project schedule.
Before you can schedule project deliverables, you have to identify what those deliverables are. This is the time to get granular with things like specific steps. Understand the small parts that come together to form your completed project, and outline those milestones first.
If you don’t know where you’re going, how the hell do you expect to get there? Pinpoint your destiny, in this case, deliverables, then plan and schedule them.
5. Budget it all out
Once you’ve finished your project plan, it’s time to think about dollars and cents. At this phase, you’re working with a time-based estimate of what you think the project will cost. Ideally, the project stakeholders will give you a rough estimate to work with.
“But we don’t live in an ideal world!”
I know. The news reminds me everyday. If you don’t have a rough estimate, or your estimate is super rough, here’s what you need to do.
Identify the different elements and resources you need to gather to make the project work. Use that info to create a budget that’s as accurate as possible.
Budgets can be tricky things. Remember, they have both direct and indirect costs. Your budget might include things like labor, travel, digital and hard goods. Include it all.
6. Assign Resources
During this step, you’ll allocate resources to start getting work done. This means assigning tasks to team members and setting milestones.
As you assign tasks, take a few things into account:
- Each team member’s skills, previous experience, and roles within the company
- Their availability and bandwidth to take on new projects
- The ultimate turnaround time and the deadline for the job
In addition to assigning tasks to team members, this is the step where you’ll think about equipment, software, and schedules.
Take a look at all your resources and ensure you have everything on-hand to get the job done. In rare cases, you may need to hire new talent, order more inventory, invest in new software, or take other steps to up your resources in preparation for the project.
7. Build Your Schedule
Congrats and give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve determined what needs to be done and what resources you need to do it.
So what’s next? It’s time to schedule the project accordingly.
Are you using a task management platform like ClickUp or Asana? Cause, you should be. That’ll make it much easier to schedule out projects.
When scheduling, keep these in mind:
- Start and due dates
- Estimated time for each project
- Time tracking functions for each team member
Use Calendar or Gantt Chart view to keep everything organized, and for more advanced project management, plan for resourcing and capacity. Prevent employee burnout and make sure all the stuffs are distributed amongst team members.
8. Establish a Communication Plan
Prevent project communication from turning into an Abbott and Costello skit. Establish a communication plan next.
During this part of your checklist, you’ll establish expectations surrounding project updates, check-ins, and communication.
Depending on your team and preferences, this could take the form of daily Slack check-ins, weekly meetings, or bi-weekly status updates.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all rule for how frequently you should communicate, you want to make sure it’s enough to keep all the stakeholders and team members involved in the project up-to-date.
This frequency may scale up or down as the project progresses. So don’t be afraid to update accordingly.
9. Watch Your Progress
You’ve put all the plans in place, now it’s time to watch it roll.
If you’re using a project management platform, you can set up features like Critical Path (in ClickUp) or task urgency (in Asana). This will help you keep track of what’s done and what needs to be finished.
No matter how you do it, make sure you have an established process for tracking your team’s progress. It’s the best way to keep things on track and avoid running through your deadlines.
Simple Project Management Starts Here
Your project management process doesn’t have to suck. Instead, focus on:
- Creating training protocols to increase productivity
- Filling the project management gap with tools to get on the road to freedom
- Downloading your brain to break free of the project management hamster wheel
Now you can keep your peeps accountable, protect scope and establish a high performance culture.
That’s it. Promise.
Identifying your project management cracks and knocking them out with these simple project management hacks is that easy.
Need some help with project management? Don’t forget to grab your copy of our Project Management Checklist to get out of the weeds.