6 Steps to Managing a Successful Project - Start at the Beginning!


Whether you are an experienced and skilled project manager, or you've just got a job to do, the ultimate success of a project is usually determined at the project initiation stage. A project set up correctly at the beginning stands a much better chance of being stress and hassle free, and ultimately delivering successfully.

Here are 6 Steps to get your project in shape at the beginning:

1.       Clear Objectives

Have a clear objective for the project – what is the end goal?  Ensure your project is understood, worthwhile, achievable, supported, prioritised, and fits in with the overall strategy of the organisation.  You should be able to describe what your project is about in a 30 second ‘elevator pitch’.

2.       Clear Scope

Define your scope clearly and write it down.  It is important to specify and communicate what your project will deliver, and more importantly, what it will not.  This is about managing stakeholder expectations up front and ensuring there are no nasty misunderstandings later.  Once the project is running ensure there is no unintentional change to scope.  If the scope does change, fully document and agree the change, including the impact to budget and schedule.

3.       Tasks Identified

Define all the tasks to complete the project, their dependencies, and their ordering to complete the project.  Ideally no task should last more than 5 (at the very most 10) days or it becomes unmanageable.  Ensure you have identified any specific skills required to complete the tasks and available resource is assigned to each task.  All tasks needs to be fully costed to form your agreed budget and schedule.

4.       Know your risks and issues

Identify risks and have a plan to deal with them.  Think about what could go wrong with your project – can you potentially avoid a risk prior to starting the project?  A seemingly minor risk can have a major impact if it eventuates.  It is far better to cover this off at the outset rather than when the project is in full swing.  Are there any significant project issues that you are not 100% certain of how to resolve?  The issues don’t usually resolve themselves and you need to ensure you know how to successfully manage them before commencing.

5.       Add Contingency

It is far better to under promise and over deliver.  Projects rarely go strictly according to plan and things change along the way.  Ensure you have padded out your budget and extended your schedule before setting expectations with the stakeholders.  It is better to be considered a legend by delivering under budget and ahead of schedule, than the other way round.

6.       Effective Communications

Project management is 90% communication.  Ensure everyone who has anything to do with your project – the stakeholders  – have been appropriately engaged, and that you are clear about how you are going to communicate with them on the progress of your project and how often.  If in doubt, ask the stakeholders what they would like to receive.  Many a smooth running project has derailed due to perception, rumour, and uninformed guesswork.  Ensure everyone gets the right story up front.

Hopefully you are now ready to get started.  Be confident and trust your instincts!!!


By Andrew Marr



Andrew is a professional consultant specialising in programme/project management and general senior management consulting.

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