Chris Croft
Project Management

The 12 Steps to Successful Project Management


Define the Project

List the tasks

Estimate times and costs for each task

Find the critical path

Consider crashing or overlapping critical tasks

Draw Gantt (bar) chart

Calculate resource requirements over time

Assess risks, and prepare action plans

Monitor progress to the Gantt chart

Monitor cumulative cost

Communicate progress and changes

Review: learn and praise

About The Author

1. Define the Project

  • The most important part of the project! Getting this wrong and you will be doomed to a nightmare project – months of pain and suffering! Take some time to make sure you know what you are trying to do before you wade in.
  • Agree the success criteria and major constraints with the customer, in writing.
  • Success criteria will be in terms of Time taken, Cost (which will partly be from hours worked), and Quality (what they get, exactly).
  • Quality should have a measurable acceptance test.
  • List anything that the project depends on – funding, decisions, resources from the customer or from within the organisation.
  • There should probably be a kick-off meeting, where the Project Manager (PM), the client, and if necessary Sales / Commercial all discuss and agree the above details.
  • At this meeting, or earlier, probe the client for key drivers – are the time cost and quality MUST-haves or just nice-to-haves. Do this by asking why that date/budget, what if we went late/over, and see if they are interested in trading for example more time for a higher specification. Knowing the key driver will be extremely useful when/if the project gets into difficulties later.
  • Consider negotiating some contingency into the time, cost and specification at this stage.
  • Negotiation means if possible getting the client to open – they should tell you how much they can afford, when they need completion, and the ideal specification they would have.
  • Negotiation also means knowing your walk-away point in advance. This is the point (or points in terms of combinations of time quality and money) at which you feel that the project cannot be done and at which you will say “You’ll have to get someone else if you are going to insist on this specification – because I can’t do it and I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep”.
  • Be assertive – don’t be pushed into agreeing anything that you feel is impossible (or unlikely) to achieve just because that’s an easy option or you want the client to be happy. In the end everyone will be less happy if you do this – including you!
  • In order that the PM can have a strong case to argue, and in order to have a plan to agree and sign off, it will be necessary to have done some planning before this kick-off meeting. Therefore steps 2-8 on this website will need to be done, at least in brief, before step 1. They may have to be re-visited after step 1 is complete.
  • There should be a specification document or Project Initiation Document which is signed by the project manager to say that they are happy and can achieve the task, and by the client to say that they will be happy with what has been promised. This protects both the client (from under-delivery) and the Project Manager (from the client adding extra requirements, moving the goal posts, and complaining afterwards that it wasn’t exactly what they wanted).
  • Successful completion of the project will require a suitable team – quantity and quality. Team members could be formally invited and signed up, with an estimate of how many days / weeks will be required – if they have a different line manager, he or she may need to sign up to letting them go for the full required time.