Mastering project management skills is a cornerstone for success in any entrepreneurial endeavor, especially for female business owners. If you’ve ever orchestrated complex events or juggled multiple responsibilities, you already possess the foundation to excel as a Project Manager. In this article, we’ll delve into the top three essential skills. Every female entrepreneur should cultivate to ensure project success and drive their ventures forward.
What is a project?
Look up “project” according to Oxford dictionary project is “an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim”.
Precise, but a little dry.
If you have a task that has multiple stakeholders, collaborators, a budget and a due date…you’ve got yourself a project.
So, what skills does an aspiring Project Manager need to be successful? As someone that has been delivering projects for over 25 years, I am happy to share the answer with you! Here are the top three skills that I’ve found are essential to any project’s success:
- Understanding Scope
- Scheduling skills
1. Scope – What’s in? What’s Out?
Get out your sticky notes, excel spreadsheet or whiteboard because your first task is to understand what your project “is” and “is not” going to deliver.
Once you have a list of deliverables, then you need to document every task that needs to be completed for each deliverable.
If you are comfortable using an online tool like Trello or Asana then you can create a card for each activity you identify. If you prefer to use pen and paper then I find sticky notes + sharpie + a white board are also effective.
Create a separate entry in your plan for every task. You should include on the card estimations of how long it is going to take, who is going to do the work and how much it will cost to complete. If you don’t have all the information now, that’s ok, but you will need to come back to it later, to fine tune your schedule.
Now you have your “What’s In?” list.
Write a separate list of everything that will NOT be included in your project. This is just as important as defining what you are going to deliver. We make this list so we don’t end up delivering a feature or function that cost time and money to develop that was never supposed to be part of our project.
This is your “What’s Out?” list.
Once you have a definitive list of tasks that are in and out of scope, book a meeting with your project owner (the person who wanted the project outcome but doesn’t deliver it) or your team to validate your scope. If you’re delivering a project for a client, any changes to your project’s scope after this approval will require your Project Owner’s input, as they may impact on the cost, the timing or the quality of your project’s output.
2. Scheduling … aka Task Shuffling
You probably found that there are a lot of tasks to complete and now it is time to shuffle your tasks around your board.
Personally, I like to work backwards from the due date of my project to see what tasks need to be started first to fit into my schedule. If I find I have a few spare weeks up my sleeve, then starting some tasks early means I might deliver the whole project early and at a lower cost. Win/Win!
These are my scheduling basics;
- Tasks that are sequential get put to the top of the board – side by side – as the total time required to complete these tasks (when summed up) will tell you the minimum amount of time your project needs to run. This is known as the projects “critical path”.
- Tasks that will take a long time or have long lead times go next (assuming they don’t take longer than your critical path). You need to get onto those as soon as you can, or you risk materials or resources not being available when the project needs them.
- You can chunk the remaining tasks into blocks of work and then spread them across the life of the project – prioritizing them, of course. Try not to leave the boring ones till last, instead spread them out amongst the more interesting tasks to dilute their impact on your motivation.
Fingers Crossed, all your tasks and their lead time easily fit between your start and end date.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. On some projects, you might find that the tasks you NEED to complete just won’t fit in your timeframes no matter how many times you shuffle them around the board. Project Management experts coined this concept as the “iron triangle”. Change one aspect and something else has to “give”. Decide with your team or client what is the highest priority of the project to advise you how to proceed. You will need to adjust one of the following to enable the delivery of your project.
- You can increase the budget;
- Extend the due date or;
- Adjust the product.
Once the scope, schedule and cost have been ratified by your Project Owner or team you can schedule a Project Kick Off meeting. This is where you communicate to your suppliers and internal team members the work required from each of them to deliver your project and secure their acceptance and commitment to the successful project delivery.
You have gained approval for your project, your team is on board, and you are confident in your well-prepared project schedule. How are you going to ensure your project runs perfectly? I mean, your team should fully engage and focus on their work, and your client shouldn’t be making calls every two days to inquire about the progress of their pet project.
You deliver your project by setting up a communication plan that everyone is aware of and agrees to. You don’t need to create an overly complex plan, but it is crucial to create and follow your communications plan. Otherwise, you may discover in the last two weeks of your schedule that your project has veered off course, and it hasn’t progressed as you had planned.
Avoid being in that position! Establish a schedule and present it to your team members and client at the project’s outset. Outline the method by which you will obtain and furnish updates to them throughout the project’s duration.
Here is an example you might use for a simple project:
It can be a bit like juggling chickens sometimes but if you can get the right balance of communication between your team members and your Project Owner then you can be confident that you will not receive any “surprises” related to your project. No-one wants to hear about a problem when it has already happened.
Effective and timely communication is the ONLY way to prevent this from happening.
Everyone gets busy, everyone gets conflicting priorities that drop on them that may prevent them from completing a task on time and life has a habit of getting in the way of deadlines. If your communications are effective and timely, then you will know something is slipping and you can start working immediately on ways to mitigate that risk and prevent it becoming an issue.
So…. Can YOU become a Successful Project Manager?
Absolutely, you can! We women demonstrate enterprising capability and formidable force; we consistently find a way.
If becoming a project manager is something you would like to explore further. Find a mentor, find the right course to take in your spare time. You can look for a Junior Project Manager role. It can be a great way to learn to apply these skills without risk.
Whatever you choose to do, revisit these 3 project management skills often – scope, schedule and communications, and get ready to fly!
If you’re having trouble with a project and could use some expert advice, reach out to Katy through our Certified Coach Directory!
Katy is an expert Fempire Business Coach, Project Manager and Business Launcher. Katy has spent the last 20 years delivering projects across more industries than we have space to list. She is also an award winning Personal Training Manager and has helped many wellness professionals launch successful businesses.