The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide To Effective Project Management

There's no getting around it: failing to plan is planning to fail.

May 2, 2022
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There's no getting around it: failing to plan is planning to fail.

This is especially true when it comes to project management, where you're managing multiple people and the work of multiple teams, all with the aim of completing a task that's comprised of many different moving parts.

You can't expect to see results or stay on budget if you don't have a solid structure in place, but luckily, there are best practices that can guide your approach, and we'll cover them extensively in this blog post.

But first, let's start by defining what project management is:

What is project management?

If you ask a hundred people what project management means to them, you'll probably get a hundred different answers. "Project management is about delivering projects on time and budget," say some folks. "It's about communication!" say others. And don't forget those who believe that project management is all about planning, or defining requirements upfront, or keeping stakeholders happy.

The truth is that effective project management is the sum of many parts.

Project management is the thing that makes taking on a big project possible. It is the process of planning and organizing the work to be done and monitoring progress once the work begins.The goal is to keep everyone on the same page and ensure all the steps are completed on time.

When can you say a project is successful?

In other words, when is a project done? The answer to this question might vary depending on your definition of success. A project is only considered successful if it achieves its goals and meets the requirements of the project plan.

5 phases of project management

Project management is a complex process that involves numerous phases, and each phase has separate goals to accomplish. Here are the five most important phases of project management.

  1. Planning

What needs to be done and by whom? In this phase, the team brainstorms goals and assigns roles. This phase also requires you to answer questions like: Do you have the right people on your team? Do they possess the skills necessary to complete the project? 

You want to make it easy for every team member and stakeholder to contribute at this stage. Assembly's Project Kickoff workflow is perfect for this. It helps you gather ideas and perspectives from all of your key stakeholders.

  1. Initiation

In this phase, you determine if you have enough resources to achieve your goal. You need to evaluate what you have at hand and what more you need to get things going. 

  1. Execution

This is where the real action takes place. Execution involves putting all plans into action so that the project can be completed in a timely fashion. The execution phase requires constant communication with all parties involved to ensure a smooth workflow. 

  1. Monitoring/Controlling

It would be best to make sure that everything is on track at this stage. You monitor progress, identify potential roadblocks, analyze problems and brainstorm solutions for them. The monitoring should continue until all work is completed according to plan.

  1. Closing

Once your project has been completed and delivered, there are still a few things left for you to do before you can call it a successful wrap! You'll need to collect feedback from everyone involved in your project, including clients, stakeholders and team members so that you can learn from it and improve for next time!

7 tips for successful project management
1. Define your objectives

Every successful project starts with a clear objective. If the objective is unclear, the project will not be seen as successful, no matter how many boxes are ticked off a checklist or how many tasks are completed. The purpose of an objective is to give the project a clear outcome to reach for. A good objective should have three essential qualities:

  1. It should be measurable: You won't know when you've gotten there if you can't measure it.
  2. It should be attainable: You can't achieve something that's impossible.
  3. It should be realistic: The objective needs to reflect your team's capabilities so that it can actually be accomplished.
2. Define what needs to be done

When defining the scope of a project, it's easy to get caught up in detail. But even at the most basic level, you have to have a sense of what needs to be done and why. We've all been there; a project has taken on a life of its own, bit by bit. It's not until you stop and think about the scope that you realize where it's gone off the rails. The process can help you step back and regroup before you get too far down the wrong path, but first, you have to define what needs to be done.

 The answer might be something very simple. Maybe it's as easy as adding an extra step or two to an existing workflow, or perhaps it's using Assembly's Goal Defining workflow that lays out the structure for you to plan your goals and set clear objectives for your projects in a way that works for you.

3. Create a schedule and set deadlines

Projects often run into trouble when there isn't a clear, detailed schedule with deadlines. Setting a deadline for each task will help you track what has to be done and by when. It also gives your team something to work toward, and they'll be more likely to get their work done in time if they know that doing so is important to the success of the project.

With all the "to-dos" spread across all team members, it is really easy to lose track of everything and make poor decisions as a result. Assembly's Daily/Weekly Agenda workflow can help you and your team keep track of everything that needs to get done every day & week. 

You will be able to plan your workflows, follow all your projects & goals, and prioritize tasks as you complete them.

Remember: getting things done on time is just as important as getting them done right.

4. Assign roles and responsibilities

Your project is more likely to run smoothly if each person is aware of their role and knows for sure that there isn't anyone else who will be doing the same task. 

You don't want your team members to step on each other's toes and waste time doing the same job. You also don't want to have a situation where no one is working on a particular task because no one thinks it's their responsibility.

5. Be on the lookout for scope creep

One of the most important things you can avoid is scope creep when you're working on a project. Scope creep is when a project takes on additional tasks, features, or goals as it progresses. It is what happens when a project gets bigger and bigger without proper adjustment to its original plan. Scope creep is insidious; just one small change in the details can seem harmless enough at first, but it can turn into an avalanche if left unchecked.

To prevent scope creep from happening in the first place, it's helpful to document everything — Assembly's Meeting Notes workflow is perfect for effective documentation. Keep detailed records throughout the project (and make sure they're accessible to everyone). 

By using Assembly's Project Feed workflow, you can:

  • Make sure no message slips through the cracks between employees, departments, and teams.
  • Get a clear view of the project's progress and developments. 
  • Allow for any level of visibility that is needed for a specific task. 
  • Get complete control over what gets tracked, accessed, and updated.

Remember to constantly check progress against documentation.

6. Communicate with team members regularly

Communication is key to successfully managing any project. Establish regular meetings with team members, clients and stakeholders to update them on progress and ensure that all information is being shared as openly as possible. The more you communicate with your team members, the more likely you'll stay on track and hit your deadlines. 

If your project involves many people and different steps along the way, you should prioritize staying connected with your team. And you can do this with Assembly's Group Feed workflow. It will help you stay connected with everyone and be up to date on everyone's tasks, deadlines, and timelines. 

7. Find ways to make meetings more efficient

As you set up meetings, find ways to make them more efficient. You can do this in a number of ways. For one, consider eliminating meetings when possible. Do you really need that weekly update meeting regarding the status of each project? Or would it be more efficient to simply use an online tool that would allow your team to make updates whenever necessary, without having to meet? Assembly makes this possible through its Weekly Updates workflow.

Now that your project is complete, it's time to celebrate your success! You can even use Assembly's Team Retrospective Template to gather anonymous feedback on what went well, what didn't and how the team could improve next time.

The more often you can practice looking back and analyzing what worked and what didn't, the better equipped you'll be to meet new challenges in the future.

Using project management tools ensures a successful project.

One of the most important aspects of managing a project is using project management tools. These tools are designed to help you increase your success. A successful project delivers on time, within budget and meets the stakeholders' expectations. But as project management professionals know, this is no easy task.  Stakeholders expect more for their money, and project managers are under increased pressure to deliver positive results and outcomes for the business.

That's why using project management tools to deliver these projects is essential. Not only do they support collaboration, communication and productivity, but they also provide real-time access to project information, so team members can see what's going on at any one time.

When it comes to ease of use and accessibility, Assembly has the features and support you need, making it the perfect solution for your project management needs. You can sign up here.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. These one-time services start at $5,000. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at support@joinassembly.com.

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

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