5 Smart Project Management Moves That Will Boost Your Cash In 2020 - Striven

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5 Smart Project Management Moves That Will Boost Your Cash In 2020

Gene Marks
February 7, 2020
5 min read

There’s a great British show on Netflix called Grand Designs. The show follows individuals that create and then build their own sustainable, environmental-friendly, aesthetically pleasing homes from the ground up – many of which are incredibly innovative and beautiful. These people are just normal, everyday people who want to do something special. They have a vision and passion and want to build the perfect home.

But unfortunately, most of them are lousy project managers.

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Why do I say that? Because many times (not every time), their projects almost always blow up. Things take longer and cost more. There are headaches, fraught nerves, increased stress and occasionally a profanity or two. Most of the projects work out in the end. But they’re almost always tumultuous and painful.

I wish I could give these good people some advice. Because, after running information technology projects for more than 20 years and making all the mistakes they’ve made, I’ve learned a few things. Things that if I knew earlier would’ve saved me a lot of cash. For example…

Know all your costs

And know them before you start a project. I mean, REALLY know them – and use a good project management software to track them. Too many people on Grand Designs went into their home building projects on a wing and a prayer. That’s very risky. Don’t make too many assumptions. Don’t “hope” that things will work out. Price out whatever time, materials, technologies, and other overheads will be required to do this project. Use software to crunch the numbers. Good project managers don’t walk into projects with many – if any – unknowns. Your most important project is planning the project. By the time the project gets underway, there should be very few – if any – surprises.

project management triangle with cost scope time and qualityBe a manager, not a doer

Frequently when things got out of control, one of the Grand Designs people would inevitably say “I’ll just do this myself.” Some were even so bold as to figure in their own handiwork as part of the job. This is usually a mistake. No offense to these people, but few of them are carpenters or know a trade. They’re tinkerers and you don’t want a tinkerer doing work on your project. As a project manager, your job is to…well…manage. Let others more experienced and better than you do the work they’re trained to do. You just keep a close eye on them, OK?

Avoid scope creep

During every project I’ve worked on, people come up with new things they want. And that’s cool.  But the scope is the scope. If you start adding things to your existing project you’re going to find yourself navigating off-course and running up unnecessary costs. Stick to the project plan and don’t divert from it, unless there’s a serious gap. Anything to be added should be listed separately and a “phase 2” can be done in the future. 

Have clear and measurable objectives

project management software success

My most successful projects have had an end. A clear and measurable finish. A deliverable that can be determined without any debate. For the people on Grand Designs it’s not just the completion of the house, but a house that can be comfortably inhabited and approved by local zoning authorities. When managing a team on a project each member must have the specific things they are responsible for achieving and payment or other incentives needs to be reliant on achieving those deliverables. 

Use cushions

I don’t care how long you’ve been managing projects or how smart you are, you’re not going to know everything. There’s something someone’s not telling you. There’s rot under the boards or a bug in the software. That’s why you’ve got to be conservative. It never ceases to amaze me how the people building homes on Grand Designs cut things so close to the edge – and then are oftentimes forced to go over the edge because their costs and timelines were just too aggressive. Go ahead: pad your numbers and timeline a bit. Everyone does it, and they do it for a reason. 

Will following this advice lead to a successful project? Frankly, yes. I’ve seen plenty of smart people do these things with great results. Unfortunately, not on Grand Designs. But then again, that’s what reality TV is all about, right?

Gene Marks

Gene Marks

A past columnist for both The New York Times and The Washington Post, Gene Marks now writes regularly for The Hill, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine and The Guardian. Nationally, Gene appears regularly on MSNBC and Fox News as well as The John Batchelor Show and SiriusXM’s Wharton Business Channel where he talks about the financial, economic and technology issues that affect business leaders today.