At its core, project management is very simple. The simpler you keep it, the more effective it is.
Project management is about knowing…
- What needs to happen
- When (i.e. in what order, and how long it will take)
- By whom
And then making sure it does – or managing change when it doesn’t.
That’s all there is to it.
So you start with a project, which is a goal. I’m using “PWDA Blueprint live”.
Then you just need to ask: “What things need to be true in order for that goal to be true?”
If something isn’t a must, you can choose to ignore it for now.
Do a Project Plan
What I do is scribble the things that need to happen on a piece of paper, like this.
That’s my lo-fi project plan. It shows:
- The things that need to happen (in circles)
- The dependencies between things (arrows point from things that must happen first to things that can then happen next)
- And also estimated timings (small circles)
This is actually an incredibly powerful tool. It shows you what you need to focus on first, how long a project may take to complete, and even things like bottlenecks.
Project management can get an awful lot more complicated than this, but at our level this is all you need.
I recommend you chop up tasks into neat, discrete entities, to keep the overall number of things down. If you have a complex task, you could always break it down into a separate plan, but you may find it helps to keep your overall plan down to something you can fit on one piece of paper.
Critical Path Analysis
Fancy term, very simple concept. The Critical Path means, which are all the things that must happen in order for the goal to be reached?
On my project plan methodology, you just follow all the arrows back from the goal to find the critical path.
On the right hand side, I have some things that could happen in order to recruit new PWDA members, but they’re not essential for launch, because there isn’t an arrow from the last task to the “PWDA Blueprint live” goal.
You can then add up all the timings along the critical path (maybe the longest timeline), to find out how long you need in order to deliver.
So in my example above, all the 6 bubbles on the left side represent my critical path: they must all happen in order for the goal to be delivered. This shows it will take about 3 days to complete the project (although some tasks may be done in parallel).
If you have different people doing different tasks, you might colour-code your circles, so that you can see which things can happen concurrently.
Or you might put each person (or resource) in a different column on your plan. (Here’s an example of a fancier Role Activity Diagram.)
If you find that one person has a lot of things to do, which stretches out the critical path timeline (love these fancy words), you might consider moving tasks to other resources in order to shorten the overall timeline. Working in pencil on paper, or on a whiteboard, can make this a lot quicker. Avoid using software to do this, unless it’s very simple, or you’re very fluent.