Project management is not easy at all.

Project management is not easy at all. Some people get sick at the moment they hear this word, but we have to admit that we all work in small or big batches called projects. After we put the sarcasm aside, projects are not so bad because they give you a frame and work-tracking possibilities. However, many projects fail because of issues with communication, lack of clarity in work breakdown, work handover, responsibilities and no means of tracking related tasks or resources. Plus it is always difficult to manage teams that consist of people with different backgrounds such as developers, marketing pros and etc.

Actually, statistics are a bit shocking in terms of project success rate. According to Standish Group Chaos Report, only 29% of projects are considered as successful. Which means that 71% of all projects were challenged or they failed.

According to a research conducted by Project Management Institute, some of the top reasons for a project failure are inaccurate requirements, change in project objectives, poor communication, undefined opportunities and inaccurate task time estimate. See, among the top ones, nothing is related to limited resources or employees experience. This comes to notice that most of the issues are closely related to the level of managerial flexibility and clear communication. Most of them could be easily prevented with a few simple measures.

Well, it is not easy to deal with all the issues which are accompanying every project, but it doesn't matter that you have to give up.

In the next few paragraphs, we will go on a journey where you can find some good advice that will help you manage your projects much easier. Or at least a bit easier.

1. Visualize and organize workflow. Use a project management solution in order to put all of your tasks, work processes, and progress for any project in one place. There are so many. One of the ways to do this is to use a kanban board, either digital or physical. Make sure the solution you choose also lets you see task assignees and any context of the task like related resources or dependent work units. Some of the tools you can use are Asana, Kanbanize, Basecamp, Citrix and so on.

2. Monitor the right metrics and develop an early warning system. Start measuring truly meaningful metrics that reflect your team’s health. Then, develop an early warning system that would notify you when the metrics reveal dangerous trends. In our team, we track total cycle time for tasks as well as efficiency score. These indicators let us know if anything gets stuck or if our processes have become inefficient.

3. Limit work-in-progress. One of the biggest mistakes is to push your team as much as possible. Don't do this. Don't make your team multitask. Multitasking is nothing more than task-switching. Human's brain cannot perform two tasks simultaneously, especially when we talk about complexity. Switching between tasks only slows your brain activity and you lose focus. Have you had these moments when you are focused on something, you are in a flow and then from nowhere a colleague just asks you that she needs something from you? And at this very moment, you completely forget what were you doing.

4. Emergency reaction plan. No matter how perfect your plan is, things can still go wrong. Actually, they will anyway. At least to some extent. So you must have a procedure for those times too. If something goes wrong and a task or a project gets stuck, there has to be a team-wide action plan, which everyone knows about and needs no additional instructions to apply. In our teams, we use an Expedite task lane and whenever a task gets there, every relevant team member stops what they are doing and help this ticket get resolved with the highest priority.

All mentioned above is not just blah blah talks. Visualization will help you acquire a better understanding of your work process and you will be able to see each stage clearly and locate bottlenecks.

Of course, there is a reason for this. Human brain process visuals much faster than text. And there is a lot of scientific evidence. For example, according to the Social Science Research Network 65% of people are visual learners. Furthermore, according to HubSpot’s social media scientist Dan Zarrella found tweets with images are 94% more likely to be retweeted than tweets without. Last but not least, according to 3M, the company behind Post-it Notes, visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text.

It is kind of ironic that after all these arguments about visualization I put only one image here, but I guess self-irony is a sign of intelligence and you will forgive me.

After all, everything seems pretty clear - visualize your work, track, measure and improve.