Whether leading a small or large project, there are key ingredients to success. First, the scope of the project as well as a clearly defined outcome must be determined and understood by the stakeholders. This begins with a leader who possesses the appropriate kind of leadership style which is typically that of a visionary and participant.

Identification of the necessary steps, the requirements to achieve these milestones (for example, permitting, purchases, acquisitions, navigation of regulatory issues, etc.) and the estimated timeline to reach each goal is paramount to success.

One of the most overlooked factors is the ability to be flexible. Despite the best of plans, circumstances will no doubt change, and modifications will be made. It is a delicate balance between remaining focused on the set goals and adapting to unexpected events, divergence of opinions, and other factors outside of the project manager’s control.

Buy-in from stake holders must be obtained and often there is reluctancy to share information or a willingness to compromise to achieve mutually beneficial goals. This is where excellent communication and listening skills come in. Each party must feel their needs and desires are being addressed with the end result being a general consensus. Depending on the type and scope of a project, providing adequate progress updates to a manager, employer, or the public is important, as well. The leader should provide an update of the project and openly state any delays or successes. Praise should be given to the team as a whole.

Here are the key steps of successful project management:

1. Develop and communicate the purpose, benefits, and outcome of the project to obtain consensus from the stakeholders.

2. Determine where adequate financial resources will originate.

3. Create and oversee a budget after necessary expenditures are identified.

4. When necessary, obtaining the assistance of individuals outside of the project with various areas of expertise.

5. The project manager should fill at least two roles:

A. Explain the overall vision to obtain the desired outcome.

B. Identify the steps and necessary timeline.

C. Play a “hands on” role to be sure milestones are being met in a responsive manner.

D. Be flexible and adjust to

changes in the plan. This may mean something that was communicated a month ago is no longer pertinent. These circumstances may result from new knowledge obtained, regulations and processes, or situations completely out of the manager’s control.

6. Conduct regular meetings with the stakeholders and others involved in the project to make certain everyone remains on the same page and is aware of the progress being made or obstacles which may occur.

7. Regularly report to the governing body or the public through memos, conference calls, or press releases and interviews with media depending on whether the project is private or public.

8. When milestones are met, congratulations should be given to the whole team and shared with the parties to whom the group is accountable. There is no one person who will be responsible for the success of the project.

9. Provide constant oversight of the budget to make certain there are adequate funds available and that they are being allocated properly.

10. Did I mention remaining flexible? A project of any size can be compared to safely landing an airplane. Adjustments for weather, wind speed and direction, etc. must be made.

Seeing a successful project and its benefits come to fruition is a very rewarding and time intensive experience, but the points listed above should provide an outline to achieving that goal.


Greg Smith is the director of the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center, La Grande. If you are seeking free, confidential business advising, call 541-962-1532 or email eousbdc@gmail.com.

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