7 Essential Tools and Tips For Managing Projects

With our combined 15 years’ experience of managing projects, we have tried and tested many tools, approaches and methodologies (some with greater success than others). Here is a list of what we have found works best for us:

 

1. Wunderlist

Having an online collaborative task list / project management tool is something that we are increasingly using to delegate and manage tasks to resources on projects. There is an extensive list of tools available online in the current market, however, our platform of choice is Wunderlist.

Wunderlist has loads of useful features to help manage your project tasks and resources easily, our favourites are having the ability to:

Create Separate “Lists” (useful if you are managing more than one project or resource)
Set Reminders
Set Delegates / Permissions
Send an email directly to a list (or using Outlooks “Wunderlist Plugin”)
Access anywhere (including an installed app on your phone, laptop, tablet, smartwatch or via a web browser)

If you prefer the traditional “kanban board” tool, Trello is also something we have used to great success.

 

2. Putting Pen to Paper

Although online collaborative working tools are great when managing and tracking project team tasks, there is certain authenticity and ‘realness’ about writing down your own tasks for the day on piece of paper. We always start each day before our team huddle writing down our own list of tasks for the day, this is usually over a coffee to help us get into the right frame of mind before meeting the team.

 

3. A Daily ‘Huddle’ and task list

The importance of a “Daily Huddle”, an informal discussion at the beginning of each working day can help increase the teams moral and project understanding, ensuring everyone is on the same page; which can sometimes be lost when managing multiple projects. This should include your plan and targets for the day; this has been an invaluable method to ensure our team is always focused on the right tasks at the right time.

Set aside 15-minutes (depending on the size of the team), with no agenda. Go around the table asking each team member for an update on what they are working on and if they have any questions. We find a daily huddle useful although some people prefer to meet on a weekly basis, depending on the nature of the project(s).

 

4. SBAR

We love SBAR’s! This is a small concise document we use whenever we need board / senior management level decisions, including but not limited to; issue / risk mitigation actions, scope changes, approach clarification. SBAR breaks down into the following sections:

S – Situation: Narrative describing what the current situation is.
B – Background: How we got to this situation, and pertinent history relating to this.
A – Appraisal: List the options and any costs, risks, impact / changes to processes.
R – Recommendation: Make a recommendation with justification and an alternative.

 

5. Concise / succinct regular progress reporting

Although most organisations have a defined reporting structure (usually monthly highlight reporting). We have found that providing more frequent updates can lead to increased productivity, as it can expedite decision making and therefore progress. We have produced our own in-house reporting template we refer to as a ‘NUR’ (Noteworthy Update Reports). These reports contain all the pertinent information middle management and exec level project sponsors would need to be able to provide updates to their peers and also to take essential action in a timely manor. These are very concise 1 page ‘snapshot’ reports (usually covering a two-week period), and contain the following:

Brief narrative about progress made in the reporting period
Overall percentage progress of the project
Completed tasks (in the reporting period)
Upcoming tasks (expected to be completed in the next reporting period)
Top 3 open risks and top 3 open issues

 

6. Credit where credit is due

Keeping your team motivated and making all team members feel as though their efforts are appreciated and important, is essential to maintaining good progress in the project. Our approach has always been to highlight at all levels of reporting who has completed tasks successfully and where our team has gone above and beyond expectations to turn things around. We ensure our NURs (Noteworthy Update Reports) include owners for any tasks so that not only the execs and managers reading the report are aware of who is completing the tasks, but also that our project team members feel as though their efforts are not going unnoticed.

 

7. Prince2 ‘Lite’

Although most organisations (especially in the Public Sector) ‘mandate’ the use of PRINCE2, we have found that a lot of the methodology can become counterproductive when managing projects on a day-to-day basis. We have found that taking a more concise approach and following what we call ‘PRINCE2 Lite’ can help improve project productivity by cutting out some of the red tape.

In some projects, there can be milestones for which having an agreed approach (signed off at exec / middle management level), with associated timescales for overall completion, is more suitable when compared to having a stringent ‘plan’ for the milestone. By its nature, PRINCE2 is very adaptable, however many project managers who try to follow it strictly, can end up managing / updating project documentation as a full-time job and lose sight of project delivery. A significant part of successful project delivery is to manage the team, tasks, issues and risks; all the while ensuring the key stakeholders are kept informed.

 

Useful Links:

Our Service Brochure, including documentation templates, is available by contacting us on Our Website

 

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