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5 Project Management Tips for Operations Teams

December 21, 2022

Operations teams are infamous for making the impossible, possible. As the guiding hand behind countless projects, operations professionals work tirelessly to bring burgeoning ideas to life. However, it’s not easy work. Between supporting teams, collating resources, and appeasing stakeholders, operations teams grapple with the unwieldy world of project management on a daily basis. But what are some of the hallmark tactics for successful project management? In this article, we tackle our top 5 tips for next-level project management.

Set clear goals

Operations teams are renowned for their ability to juggle a million things at once. However, that can be a problem when it comes to managing multiple projects. As the business pulls you left to right, it can be a challenge to keep clear on the needs, desires, and ambitions of the teams you’re supporting. Perhaps the CEO has set a new strategy and wants to launch a new product or service into the market. You'll need to pull on various teams to see this come to life: from your product teams to marketing and sales teams, in addition to taking a close look at the terms and conditions of your offerings. However, as the weeks roll by, the project has grown legs and it quickly feels as though you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.  

Yikes.  

How did we get here?  

Without clear goal setting at the start of the process, you can quickly stumble into hot water. When supporting teams with ongoing projects, it can be hugely helpful to discuss the ins and outs of the project. It helps to ask a few questions:

  • What is the end goal?  
  • What do we need to do to get there?  
  • What do they need from you?  
  • What is the deadline?  
  • What happens if this project isn’t completed?

This will help you better understand the time and resource this project is going to demand, in addition to setting expectations with the teams that you support.    

Define and measure success

Once goals have been set for a project, it’s important to address what success looks like, and how that success is going to be measured. Without this, you run into two core issues. Firstly, the project can become unwieldy, without an objective “end” in sight. You need to know when to draw a line in the sand. Secondly, it becomes impossible to know the success rate of the project, when you don’t have a clear system in place to measure success. Without this, you won’t be able to measure what needs improving, and what needs to be left alone.

For example, let’s say you have a project coming up related to your employee onboarding system. It’s become outdated, it’s riddled with inefficiencies, and it has received negative feedback from new hires. You’ve been given the green light to overhaul the process and you’re about to start. But how can you make sure that the project is a success once it’s finished?

Before kicking things off, you need to decide what success looks like in this scenario. An example might be that success would be reducing the onboarding process from 2 weeks to 2 days. You have a flurry of new hires coming in January, and you’ll use that time to measure the length of time it takes to onboard hires. January comes, your hires experience next-level onboarding, and the success of your project has been measured. Nifty.  

Here you’ve given the project sufficient parameters to strive for, in addition to setting in place systems that allow you to define its success.

Pull together resources

For your project to soar, you’ll need to ensure it has all the ingredients it needs to succeed. From the right people for the job to time-saving tools, it’s important you think carefully about the resources you’ll need, prior to starting. Aside from it being a project management disaster, it can be phenomenally frustrating to realise mid-project you're lacking a resource that can make or break the project.  

Take the time to ask,

  • What type of skills does this project need?
  • Am I pulling resources from more important areas of the business? How do I prioritise that?
  • Are there any external skills we need to bring in?
  • Are there tools we can use to automate certain tasks?
  • Are there systems we can use to speed up the process?  

From here you can assemble your team, implement tools, and start with your best foot forward.

Communication

Crystal-clear communication is the bedrock of any successful project, however, while it may seem simple, it’s something many teams miss the mark on. Against the backdrop of hybrid working, an endless stream of projects, and the chaotic day-to-day, it’s easy for clear communication to deteriorate. However, without clear communication, projects can go off course, beyond budget, or over deadlines. So what can you do?

  • Schedule the project. Firstly, it helps to set a schedule for the project that breaks the campaign into sections. At the end of each section, components of the project are reviewed, feedback is given, and teams communicate clearly what is and isn’t working. Learnings from each stage are taken to the next, so the project becomes streamlined as it goes on. It’s important each of these stages has an agreed-upon deadline, which allows the project to maintain momentum.

  • Define stakeholders. While it’s important to keep communication at the forefront, it’s also important to not have “too many chefs in the kitchen”. Address who the key stakeholders are in a project, and include them in the review stages for the campaign. This ensures the project stays close to the vision of its stakeholders while limiting back-and-forth conversations with the wider business.

  • Define who is accountable. It’s important that you address accountability for this project. Who drives its progress? Who scales issues? Who raises the alarm if a deadline isn’t going to be hit? When the responsibility for a project is less than clear, it’s very easy for things to slip through the cracks, under the guise of “well, it’s not my job”. Be clear from the outset on who owns what, and you’ll not only better the project, you’ll empower your team to move forward.  

Delegate

No man (or woman) is an island, and, when it comes to successfully navigating projects, the same is true. While it can be tempting to hoard tasks for yourself, it’s crucial that you learn to delegate. You’re only human, and you’re limited by the number of things you can achieve in a day. By looping others into the fold, and appropriately guiding them, you allow the project to develop beyond your own resource. Get comfortable with sharing the load, be clear about expectations, and make sure you check in with your team to ensure they’re properly supported. The likelihood is that amongst ongoing projects, you’ll be expected to continue your day-to-day, so get smart with delegating, whether that’s within your team or by using an external resource.

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