Four Tips for Better Project Management

Business school libraries are filled with books about how to manage product development. There are many approaches to managing projects, and much discussion (sometimes heated) about which approach is best.

Clint feels that good project management can be distilled down to these four key principles:

  • Planning and preparation
    • Many companies rush into product development without proper planning up front. Often there is a feeling that the sooner you start engineering, the sooner development will be completed. Usually this is a fallacy. Take time at the outset to carefully and thoughtfully map out the course of the project. A rule of thumb is that each hour of planning at the start of the project saves 10 to 20 hours of engineering at the end.
  • Aggressive and active risk management
    • A good project manager constantly looks for risks that could derail the product development process. These could be cost risks, technical risks, schedule risks or market risks. If you identify risks early, you can address them before they derail the project.
  • Assiduous and meticulous project management
    • It’s impossible to overstate the importance of keeping a close and constant eye on every task and detail of product development. All of your up front planning and risk management will be of no avail if product development heads down the wrong path. If deviations from the project plan are not detected and addressed quickly, they can grow into engineering black holes that will cost a lot of time and money to correct.
  • Have the right people on your product development team
    • If development of your new product requires skills or expertise that you don’t have in-house, you need to find outside talent that fills the void. Finding and retaining key talent – as new employees or on an as-needed basis – can often be the difference between success and failure in developing a new product. Identify the outside talent that you need, find the best person/people you can to fill that need, and pay them fairly. A few hours of input from a domain expert can save dozens of hours of work by engineers who are well intentioned but lack expertise in a key area.

If you follow these four key principles of project management, you’ll be 95% of the way to a well-managed project. If you would like help with management of your product development projects or if you would like mentoring to improve your project managers, please contact Clint.