As we progress in our careers and gain valuable experiences, we often find ourselves thrust into roles we knew little about, tasked with delivering value to our companies, clients, and even ourselves. Regardless of our current positions, the need to plan and oversee projects frequently arises. We strive to excel in our responsibilities, usually learning through the challenges we face. In our pursuit of professional growth, knowledge, guidance, and support become our allies.
In this series, I’ll guide you through the world of project management, breaking it down into five essential parts to make the journey more manageable. This will follow closely Richard Newton’s ‘Project Management Step by Step: How to Plan and Manage a Highly Successful Project’  which provides a clear and concise step-by-step process on how to structure, monitor and finish a project. I will use the book as a guide, coupled with my own personal experience in project management.
- Part 1: Starting a Project: Discover the core concepts of project management, including what defines a project, the role of a project manager, and the dimensions that shape your projects.
- Part 2: The Project Plan: Learn how to create a comprehensive project plan that serves as your roadmap to success, ensuring your projects stay on track.
- Part 3: Project Execution: Explore strategies for effectively executing your projects, managing teams, and overcoming unexpected challenges.
- Part 4: Project Delivery: Navigate the final stages of project management, ensuring that your projects are successfully delivered and meet all objectives.
- Part 5: Templates: Access a valuable resource in the form of templates and tools, simplifying your project management tasks and saving you time and effort.
Let’s continue on this journey of project management together with Part 3: Project Execution. Click on the links above to navigate to the specific part you’re interested in, or follow the series sequentially to gain a comprehensive understanding of project management best practices.
Once the project plan is signed off, the hard work of the project manager begins. You know what needs to be done in the project, you are in an excellent position to deliver it and now it’s the time to initiate the delivery of the project and keep an oversight of how the project is going.
During the delivery of the project, your task as the project manager is:
- To ensure that the project starts properly and that each project member understands their role and the tasks they need to do.
- Monitor the progress of the project and make sure that the day to day work is moving as per your project plan.
- Identify and resolve any problems that prevent the project from progressing.
- Identify and resolve any potential problems that may arise and prevent the project from progressing.
- Ensure that the project objectives remain relevant to the customer and where they do not introduce any changes that may be required in a controlled way.
To be effective as a project manager requires that you keep yourself immersed in the day-to-day work of the project and understand what is happening. You also need to keep talking all the time to the project team, telling them what needs to be done and finding out how they are progressing. Project management is not a hands-off activity, it requires focus, attention and ongoing interaction with everyone involved in the project.
When managing the delivery of the project you can use the below actionable steps as a guideline:
Step 1 Start the project
Before starting the project it’s useful to have one final conversation with your project customer to verify that there are no last-minute changes to the project definition, that they are on-board with the project plan and that you will start the project and start using the necessary resources to complete it.
Afterwards you need to follow with a conversation with the project team to verify that each person in the team is aware of their role on the project, the tasks they need to do, the order of the tasks, the resources at their disposal to complete their work as well as how to keep you updated on their progress. With everyone on-board the project goes live.
Step 2 Plan your day
A project slips away a day at a day. It is the job of the project manager to make sure that the project is progressing as planned and to resolve any issues that may arise. The project manager should start their day by answering the following questions:
- What things are causing most difficulty to the project now?
- What are the things that are most likely to cause problems to the project in the future?
- What actions are my responsibility to undertake?
- Which are the most important things that I need to resolve now?
Even though typically the project manager isn’t responsible for doing the tasks of the project team, they are responsible to ensure that everything happens.
Step 3 Collect information and reports
As the project progresses and depending on the size of the project team you would need to establish a way to collect information from your team members as the work progresses. Information may come verbally on day-to-day interactions with the team, but you should also setup more formal, short, weekly meetings with your project team to keep track of the process, keep the team updated and to resolve any issues that may arise. A useful guideline for these meetings is for every team member to address the following:
- What they did in the last week. Was it as planned, and what was produced?
- What they plan to do in the next week. Does that match the project plan?
- Are there any new issues, risks or changes they need to raise?
- What is the progress on any issues, risks or changes they are working on?
Following these meetings, you are in a position to update your customer regarding the current status of the project. You would need to consolidate all the information you received from the project team and provide the key information back to the customer. A useful guideline for the update to the customer is to provide answers to the below questions. This could be done either verbally or in a progress update report, depending on the needs of the project and client.
- What is the current overall project status. Are things on track? If not, what will be done in order to bring the project back on track.
- An overview of what was done last week and what will be done next week.
- Any decisions required to be made by the customer
Step 4 Monitor and manage progress
It is the project manager’s responsibility to monitor and manage the progress of the project. The main process of monitoring and managing the progress is to check the completed tasks against the tasks that should have been completed up to this point in the project plan and answer the following questions:
- Are you on schedule relative to the plan? Are there any trends you are worried about?
- If there is any slippage, what is the impact? Are the late tasks on the critical path or not?
- How much time are you late? How much do you need to recover to bring yourself back on track? Are you likely to slip beyond your contingency time?
- What options are there for recovering this time? Which option is best?
When slippage occurs, there are various actions you can take to get the project back on track. These should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis but potential solutions might be:
- Getting your team to do subsequent tasks more quickly
- Accepting the slippage and using some contingency
- Adding more resources
- Looking at alternative ways to do what you are trying to do
- Changing the project in some way
- Doing nothing
If everything went according to plan you would not need a project manager in place. You must be able to face such challenges with the attitude that there is always a solution and actively seeking ways to find and implement it.
Step 5 Identify and resolve issues
As the project progresses, issues arise that if not dealt correctly have the potential to hinder the success of a project. It is the project managers responsibility to be able to deal with them and navigate smoothly in their presence.
The communication venues established from the previous steps must ensure that all the members of the project team report any issues that may arise. These should be documented and addressed in an “issues log” to ensure that they are handled correctly. An issue log should contain the below information:
- What the issue is.
- When it was identified.
- What impact it is having on the project.
- Who is going to resolve the issue? This person is usually called the issue owner.
- What the action to resolve the issue is.
- When it needs to be resolved by.
- When the next update on progress to fix the issue is due.
- Whether it is open or closed
The project manager should review this log daily and during the weekly review meetings check with the issue owners to ensure that these are being resolved. A growing list of issues not getting resolved is a sign that a project is in trouble.
Step 6 Identify and manage risks
During the initial planning session of the project we identified potential risks that could hinder the success of our project. These risks should be reviewed and monitored weekly to ensure that they do not become issues that need to be dealt with. You can find a non-exhaustive list with potential project risks here. 
Project risks should be documented in a ‘Risk Log’ and for every risk provide the below information.
- What the risk is.
- What is the likelihood of it occurring.
- What the impact will be, if it occurs.
- What its overall priority is.
- Who is responsible for managing this risk.
- What the next action to resolve this risk is.
- When any actions need to be completed.
- What the current status of the risk is.
Step 7 Manage changes
During the life-cycle of a project it is not uncommon for variables in the original project scope to change. When changes do not happen in a controlled way, they threaten the time-line and budget of a project or even divert the deliverables from the project scope resulting in an end goal that does not meet the requirements of a client. You control changes by incorporating a change management process.
Once changes are identified they should be documented by capturing the below information:
- Document what the change is.
- Describe why the change is being proposed.
- Identify when the change needs to be accepted by, if it is to work.
- Identify the impact of the change – will it change the length of the project, or the cost? Does it change the level of quality or risk?
- What the proposed action with regard to this change is.
- Keep track of the current status of the change: it can either be ‘in review’; it can be ‘accepted’ or ‘rejected’
- Sign off from the customer to the change.
It is crucial for the customer to understand the changes being made and the impact they would have on the project. It is up to the customer to accept or reject the change and afterwards the responsibility of the project manager to update the project plan and budget accordingly.
Step 8 Take action to ensure the project’s success
By following the previous steps you monitor the project’s process, understand issues and risks and any requested changes. You have a process that collects all the required information to manage the project, however managing a project is not simply about understanding the various flows but also about taking action when issues arise. You will need to use your experience, common sense to come up with solutions are issues arise in order to steer the project back on track when it gets side-tracked.
Step 9 Keep your customer informed
During step 3 we covered the fact that the customer would need to be updated on the current status of the project, this needs to happen both when things go right but also when things go wrong. It’s far better for the customer to be aware of any issues in the beginning than reach the deadline of the project and inform him that the project will be either late or over-budged. Customers do not mind if a project is late or over-budget if they have been kept informed, and understand why a project is late and more expensive.
Step 10 Update the Project Plan or Project Budget
When the project plan and budget were originally prepared, they were predictions on how the project would progress. They offer the guideline to manage and track the project. However, as the project progresses potential risks become issues, other issues arise and changes are introduced which deviate the original plans from the current state of the project. The project plan and budget should be monitored and updated accordingly as these occur.
In Part 3, we ventured into the critical phase of project execution. As a project manager, your responsibilities are multifaceted. You initiate the project, oversee daily progress, troubleshoot issues, manage changes, mitigate risks, and maintain transparent communication. Each step ensures the project aligns with the meticulously crafted plan. Your adaptability and problem-solving skills shine as you steer the project towards success.
In Part 4, we’ll delve into the culmination of project management—project delivery. Here, we’ll navigate the final stages, ensuring that your projects are not only completed but also delivered successfully, meeting all objectives. Your journey through project management continues to evolve.
 Richard Newton – Project Management Step By Step How to Plan and Manage a Highly Successful Project Pearson Education Limited
 Project Management Institute – A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)
 Anna Mar – 130 Project Risks
 Wrike Inc – Project Management Guide: Glossary