7 Steps for Managing a Big Project

Tips to take you from project planning through celebrating success.

Project management

Taking the initiative to learn and practice new workplace skills will help you be better prepared when challenging assignments are dropped in your lap. Following these seven project management steps can help you take a big job from beginning to a successful conclusion.

1. Make sure everyone involved agrees on the desired outcome and completion date.

For example, say you've been asked to reconfigure an area of your office to house a new tele-sales team. Confirm the date that the workspace needs to be ready not only with your boss, but also with the new team's supervisor. Find out if that sales manager has a preference for how to lay out the workstations.

2. Identify the team — who will be involved, and what can you count on from each of them?

To set up that new workspace, you'd likely include someone from IT to set up computers and phones. Asking the sales manager's assistant to sit in on meetings could help you quickly resolve questions that come up.

3. Know your budget, then track all expenses on a spreadsheet.

If you're just given a total amount to spend, list all expense categories and ask your boss or team to double-check that nothing is missing. For example, the annual company picnic might include venue rental, food and the party bus — don't be the person who forgets to budget for the bounce house!

4. Create a plan that breaks all the big actions required into manageable tasks.

Keep tasks in sequence when one task is dependent on another, but also note if there are things that can be done in parallel. For example, you can't design and print the menu for a dinner event until you've chosen food options with the restaurant. But you can start designing invitations as soon as you've booked the venue.

5. Set a schedule with deadlines for all tasks.

Ask the people responsible for different tasks to provide a realistic time estimate for each. When you have a hard deadline such as an office move date, work backwards from there. If everything needs to be on a truck by the end of the day on the 31st, you might aim to distribute reusable crates to employees on the 25th — so ask the moving company to drop them off by the 24th.

6. Communicate early and often with everyone involved.

Have a kickoff team meeting to discuss the project goal and schedule. Ask if anyone sees potential problems, especially if equipment or systems will be taken offline during the project. Plan to meet with the team weekly, and send regular progress reports to your boss.

7. Celebrate a job well done.

When the project is done, thank everyone who pitched in. If you were under budget, solved a tough problem, or pulled off the most successful customer event ever, be sure your boss knows. Then add any new accomplishments or skills gained to your resume.