Beth Slaninka

Project management often gets a bad rap; people associate it with cumbersome processes and lengthy, complicated documents, which can make them avoid taking the time to plan out the project and to ensure its success. I would argue that the core of project management is less about process and documentation and more about communication.

I have found that the following tools can help ensure that the people involved in a project—clients, internal team members, external stakeholders—have the information they need to make the project a success without requiring too much time and effort:

Tool 1: The Project Charter

Let’s start with a project charter. As described in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), a project charter authorizes the existence of a project and provides the project manager with authority needed to assign resources and begin work on the effort. It sounds very formal, but in reality, “the charter is a project’s best marketing tool.”

A charter helps the team articulate the project goals, approach, and requirements both internally and externally by answering the following questions:  

  • Why are we doing this project? What problem is it trying to solve? 
  • How are we going to accomplish this? How will we determine if the project is successful?
  • What assumptions we are making that will influence how we do this work?

The project charter may sound complex, but there is no need for a formal document. It could be as simple as an email or memo. The charter captures key information that can help new team members or external stakeholders learn quickly about the project. It also acts as a tool to validate your path with the client and helps you communicate the purpose of the project throughout its life.

Tool 2: Project Status Meetings

Next up is the status meeting. The status meeting keeps the team informed of the project progress and schedule and is also a great way to stay up-to-date on the information you want or need to share with your client.

Yes, I know—who wants another meeting on their calendar? Wouldn’t this time be better spent doing the project work? These meetings don’t have to be long and formal; depending on the size of the project, they could be as simple as a 15-minute meeting once every two weeks. They create the opportunity for team members who may be hesitant to proactively bring up challenges or risks to share this information. Even better, status meetings allow team members to leverage their collective expertise and collaboratively identify ways to address risks and challenges before they become problems that can derail a project.   

Tool 3: The Project Close-Out Meeting

Finally, let’s talk about project close-out meetings. These meetings are often skipped due to time or budget constraints as the project ends, but this prevents the project team from capturing lessons learned, celebrating project success, and highlighting/acknowledging individual contributions.

As with the other tools, these meetings do not need to be long or formal. Their main purpose is to discuss the following questions:

  • What did the team learn from this project?
  • What would they do differently next time?
  • Have internal/external requirements for filing project materials been met?
  • Did the project meet its objectives?

It’s important to capture and share this information with the rest of the company so your coworkers can apply the lessons learned to similar challenges they face on their projects.

Communication is crucial for project success, and project management tools can help you better communicate with your team, clients, and external stakeholders without spending a lot of time and energy

This blog post covers just a few project management tools. If you’re interested in learning about other project management methods you can apply to your work, check out some of our other blog posts: