You’ve conceptualized the project ideas, put together a budget, plotted the risks, mapped out the plan, put together a team, and developed the schedule. After all your hard work, your stakeholders have approved your proposals and plans, leaving you to put your project into motion. You’ve finally reached the execution phase.
What is the execution phase of project management?
After all the talking, planning, and organizing, the execution phase is the point in the project management process where the manager and the teams finally begin cranking out deliverables.
It’s the middle phase of a project where all the magic happens and deliverables are completed one by one until the project is complete. This phase includes the bulk of the work and requires a sizable amount of collaboration, communication, and retrospection.
What priorities do project managers focus on during the project execution phase?
During the execution phase, the project manager shifts gears from project strategy to project action, which means their priorities must shift. These are the project manager’s three key priorities during the execution phase.
1. Completing the deliverables
I made this priority number one for a reason. This is the whole reason the execution phase of the project exists. As a project manager, your number one directive is producing the deliverables to the project stakeholders within the expected timeframe.
Whatever must be done to ensure this timely delivery is up to you to decide, but the strategies I offer below are a great starting point.
2. Measuring progress
As the project manager, you’ll have to work closely with your teams while using your project tools to gather progress data and put together comprehensive reports.
These reports will help measure your successes and shortcomings, guarding against project scope creep, finding ways to improve your work, and alerting your stakeholders to any issues that will impede your progress.
Your project management software ought to come with reporting tools that’ll measure all of this and hopefully more. In case you’re worried about which tools offer the best reports, here are a few recommendations:
3. Allocating resources
The project manager is the arbiter of all resource allocation. Whatever your team needs, it’s up to you to ensure they have it to complete the project on time, correctly, and on budget.
This includes personnel, materials, and tools. While the smaller dealings of these resources are handled by the team leads and team members themselves, you have to concern yourself with the high-level procurement of these resources.
5 strategies for a successful project execution
Rather than reiterate the process of the project life cycle, including the execution process, I’ve put together a list of five project management strategies and practices that’ll help guide your project execution plan to its final destination.
1. Host bi-weekly meetings
Every project requires communication and collaboration to succeed. One of the project practices I’ve ever used comes from the scrum methodology (an agile offshoot). Scrum leans heavily on sprints to break up a project into smaller, more manageable pieces.
At the end of each sprint (typically two weeks), the project team gets together for a meeting called a “retrospective.”
During this retrospective, all the team members come together to discuss everything they’ve worked on during the sprint: what went right, what went wrong, which tasks will have to carry into the next sprint, and how to improve.
This iterative project flow allows for quicker changes based on the circumstances your project is dealing with, since nothing ever goes according to plan. These bi-weekly meetings allow you to voice concerns and allow the rest of your team to be heard, which leads to a higher quality of work in the end.
2. Send regular progress updates
Not every update requires a meeting. Sometimes your regular check-ins won’t require an in-person meeting. If the project progress updates are small and uncomplicated, then a simple update email or teamwide message are all that are needed.
The point is to keep your teams up to speed about everything that is happening with the project.
These updates should include:
- Upcoming project milestones
- Completed tasks from the past two weeks
- Commendations for major success stories
- Potential barriers to tasks
- Advice for improvement
The update frequency is up to you. However, I think the perfect cadence is every other week, between your bi-weekly meetings. These updates can serve as a report on how the team is progressing before the next upcoming meeting so any issues can be dealt with beforehand.
3. Hold your teams accountable
Accountability typically has a negative connotation associated with it, because you usually only hold your team accountable when something goes wrong.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. While accountability does come into play when a problem occurs, it’s also important that you hold your team accountable for their successes as well.
There are five accountability factors that your teams must uphold while completing projects:
- Work quality
Don’t mix up “accountability” with “micromanaging.” Accountability relies on a trust-based relationship, which is why “trust” is the fifth accountability factor in this list. You trust your team to complete the project in a satisfactory manner, and you will hold them accountable for the results they produce.
The best ways to hold your teams accountable are by:
- Setting clear expectations from the beginning
- Fostering communication between team members
- Providing the resources necessary to complete the project
- Giving constructive feedback whenever necessary
- Rewarding positive outcomes
If you follow the five factors and the five methods for accountability, you’ll build solid relationships with your teams that’ll result in high-quality work and open communication.
4. Utilize SMART goals
This is not the first time I’ve talked about SMART goals. No, I’m not talking about “intelligent” goals, even though they should have some intelligence behind them. SMART is an acronym that stands for:
These are the five criteria that must be met when setting the goals that’ll drive the execution of your project. Lacking any of these criteria will lead to a number of issues, including blown deadlines, unsatisfactory deliverables, and unmet benchmarks.
These goals ought to be set during the project planning and ideation phases, but should always be open to revision as the project progresses and develops.
A SMART goal will look something like this:
Bob and Sarah will complete XX task by XX date and submit this deliverable using [insert tool here].
Make sure you keep these goals in a place where your teams can always refer back to them if need be, such as in your project management software.
5. Listen to your team leads
There’s a reason your teams have their own leaders. They’re the ones getting into the nitty-gritty with the rest of their team to complete tasks and ensure quality delivery. If something is wrong or a process needs to change, make sure you’re always open to discuss these issues with them.
While you may already have an idea about how to do something, the best leaders know how to listen first and communicate their wishes second. You may even be familiar with the issues your team leads bring up, but it’s important that you be mindful of how you communicate with them about a solution.
While you might have an immediate solution to their problem, they might have an even better long term fix for the problem, and all they want to do is keep you up to speed with everything that is happening. All you need to do is listen to their concerns.
There’s still one last step in the project process
Once you’ve completed your project execution phase, there is still work left to do, not to mention the rest of your upcoming projects just waiting to kick off.
Luckily, we at The Blueprint will help you every step of the way throughout the project life cycle, including budgeting, communication skills, timelines, and most importantly, project management software. Make sure you sign up for our newsletter below and keep an eye out for new content and software reviews.