Small businesses often grow chaotically and organically at the start. When there’s a task that needs to be completed, the owner or manager just picks it up and does it. But as a business grows larger, it becomes necessary to have more substantial business processes. Otherwise it becomes very difficult to manage everything effectively. Here are a few ways that a company can improve upon its project management.
1. Start With the Right Software
Project management software doesn’t have to be complex. Asana, Trello, and other similar platforms are easy to use, and can be accessed both through a computer and a phone. With project management software, it becomes easier to see the tasks that you need to complete, and to make everyone else aware of the tasks that they need to complete.
2. Have Regular Meetings
There’s nothing better for touching base than regular meetings. A meeting doesn’t need to be long to be valuable. A standup meeting once a week will at least get everyone on the same page, and allow people to raise concerns that they might have. Keep notes on each meeting and give people action items to complete throughout the week.
3. Use a Bulletin Board
Place projects up on a bulletin board so you know what has to be done. A modified “scrum” board can be used, so projects are moved from a “to do” pile to a “completed” pile. That makes it much easier for everyone to conceptualize what has to be done, rather than having to track it on their own. Sometimes a physical, tactile bulletin board works best.
4. Break Large Projects Into Milestones
Don’t tackle a big project all at once. Instead, break a large project into small, discrete milestones, so they feel more approachable. This doesn’t just help you psychologically: it also means that it’s easier to see where someone is regarding a task. If you just have a huge, single project, you don’t know how much of the project has been completed at-a-glance.
5. Organize Projects by Priority
There will often be things that need to be done immediately, and things that just sort of need to be done eventually. By breaking projects down by priority, you can make sure the most critical things get done. Consider a stoplight system: RED for urgent, YELLOW for important, and GREEN for as is possible. This will give employees more direction as to what they should work on first.
6. Consolidate Communication and Information
Don’t have employees looking everywhere for their data. Keep things in a shared drive or document management system, and make sure employees communicate with each other through a single, consolidated dashboard. This makes it less likely that employees will lose the information they need, while also improving security (because there’s only a few systems to secure).
7. Assign People in Charge of Projects
People do better when specific people are in charge of specific projects. Not only does this heighten the sense of accountability, but it ensures that everyone knows who is in charge and who to ask for updates. In a small business, people often wear many hats, and projects are often finished by committee. But this is not the most functional way of doing things.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
Business owners need to avoid trying to manage all their projects on their own. When this happens, a business owner becomes inundated with their projects, and isn’t able to complete any of their projects effectively. Delegate intelligently, but do delegate. Test people out at first, and see whether they are able to tackle more.
9. Reward Those Who Do Well
It’s ideal for a small business to be filled with individuals who can take a task and run with it. In small businesses, every employee is like family. This sense of loyalty can lead to employees who aren’t the best-suited for the job being promoted into roles that they won’t do well. Instead, keep track of the employees who are doing their best, and put them in positions where they can make decisions.
10. Keep Written Business Processes
Projects fall apart when people don’t have a foundation to work with. Keeping written business processes will improve the company’s internal consistency. It can be something as simple as directing employees to keep their documents in a specific folder, but it will ultimately mean that employees are less likely to get confused when they’re performing tasks.
11. Don’t Be Too Ambitious
Try to set realistic deadlines. When projects are rushed, they end up being done poorly. Set reasonable goals and reward your employees for meeting them. If employees feel that they are constantly asked to do the impossible, they aren’t going to rise to the occasion. Instead, they’re going to feel demoralized and put upon.
12. Keep Lines of Communication Open
As a business owner, it’s important to remain available to any questions, comments, and concerns. Make sure that employees know where to reach you. If you don’t have an “open door” policy for employees coming in, make sure they have hours that they can come in and talk to you. Otherwise, issues may be emerging that you aren’t aware of.
13. Follow Up on Priority Projects
If there are projects that are high priority, don’t leave them up to chance. Connect with the employee in charge of the project at intervals to see if there’s anything they need to get the project completed. At the same time, don’t micro-manage. It’s important to trust your employee to get the work done, but to offer aid if necessary. If you’re worried about the employee completing the project, you may have assigned the wrong employee.
14. Hire an Outside Consultant
If you just aren’t able to manage all your company’s projects, consider hiring someone from outside. An outside project manager or specialist can help your company complete one-off projects that are outside of your ordinary wheelhouse. Sometimes working with specialists is cheaper long-term, because you aren’t expending your own time and resources on a project that’s difficult.
Project management isn’t easy. The biggest companies in the world sink millions into finding ways to streamline and optimize their project management processes. As a small business owner, it’s easier for you to take small tasks and complete them quickly, or take control of larger projects. But as you grow, you will find yourself needing to build business processes, and surround yourself with a trustworthy staff.