Getting a project off on the right foot can be a challenge. There is so much to figure out you can feel like you’re drowning right from the very beginning.
These 5 best practices can help – implement them early and they’ll become like second nature. Then your brain can be free to focus on the project details. They’ll also make you look like you know what you’re doing in front of your client, and they’ll help your project go more smoothly too.
- Assign yourself as the single point of contact with the client. Have the client assign a single point of contact on his side too.
This doesn’t mean that other people can’t be involved or that other people don’t communicate with the client. It means that as the PM, you are the one person who is ultimately responsible, the one person the client can call to answer a question or deal with a problem. The same should be true on the client side – make sure that you have one person to contact to strategize, arrange meetings, gather feedback on deliverables, and determine next steps. Neither you or the client should be running around trying to get in touch with team members on the other side. That’s what the single point of contact is for.
- Send out a weekly status report.
This may be the simplest thing you can do to make sure everyone is informed about the project. It can be a 1 page word document or even an email that outlines these 4 key things: what was done last week, what needs to be done next week, risks, and upcoming milestones. Not only will you be keeping all team members and stakeholders informed of the project progress, you’re also creating a paper trail you can use if you ever need it (e.g., change order).
- Set up a weekly status call. Have the call even if you think there is nothing to talk about.
This weekly touchpoint is critical to keep the lines of communication open and to discuss project progress, issues, or problems. If your project is delayed and there are no deliverables to discuss – have the meeting so you can discuss the delay and how to mitigate it. Its not hard, and it doesn’t take much time, but it does wonders for keeping your project moving and for maintaining your relationship with the client.
- Document all decisions and next steps.
After each meeting or important conversation, send out an email to everyone involved with a brief summary and a list of next steps. Include action items with due dates and the names of the people who will complete them. Not only is this a good reminder which your client and team will appreciate, its also a paper trail (see #2 above).
- Make sure deadlines are clear to everyone.
Share the timeline details with everyone. When it changes, share the changes. Don’t expect everyone on your team to read the 32 page project plan, but share it anyway, then talk to your team members directly about the deadlines specific to them. If you communicate clearly and often, you have a better chance of noticing when something starts to go off the rails.
We know that all projects have the potential to go bad. The quicker you can identify potential problems, the better chance you’ll have to fix them before they become major issues for the project.
I think these 5 best practices can help – they don’t call them best practices for nothing after all. What do you think?