A Great Project Isn’t One Big Thing, It’s a Million Little Things

A Great Project Isn’t One Big Thing, It’s a Million Little Things

Project Management Best Practices

Great projects that run smoothly from beginning to end are a rarity. They do happen, but nearly every project hits a few bumps along the way. Our hope as project managers is that they are relatively small issues – some that are fixable even before the customer needs to know about them.

That said, a great project isn’t really hitting a grand slam or even driving home the winning run. A big win is pulling off that big fix or managing to install a new technology requested by the project client against all odds when you…or maybe nobody…has done it in the way it needs to be done on your current project. That’s the big win, that’s the one big thing. And that’s great, but that thing doesn’t make a great project.

So what does makes a great project? From my experience, it’s consistency of delivery. So, how do you ensure that?

Through ongoing best practices such as:

Consistent customer engagement. Keeping the project customer fully engaged and available from start to finish on the project means they are always there when you need them for decisions, input, approvals/signoffs, and maybe even a requirements interpretation. The project manager must consistently communicate with the project customer to help ensure this consistent customer engagement is happening.

Weekly team meetings. Your project team is doing the real work on the project every day., and you need to know what they are doing. You assign the tasks, but that’s not where it ends. Weekly team meetings are critical project touch points to keep everyone informed and engaged and to get up-to-the-minute project statuses on the tasks you’ve assigned. Don’t skip having these meetings every week.

Weekly status reporting. Distributing a weekly status meeting is your chance as the project manager to inform all key stakeholders of the same information at the same time. And this is usually – and should always be – the driver for a weekly status call with the customer. Don’t just go through the motions on the status report either. Make it meaningful so your time spent on a weekly status call is not really just to confirm that the status report is accurate. That keeps everything running efficiently and effectively.

Constant budget reviews. Weekly reviews of actuals vs. forecasted budgets followed by a reforecasting of the budget will keep the project budget from ever getting too far out of hand. It will always allow you significant time to reach out for help or raise a flag so proper corrective action can be taken. The last thing you want is to skip this step for a few weeks and find out that your project is a financial disaster that can’t be fixed.

Senior management involvement in the project. This may not be applicable on all projects, especially very small projects, but getting senior management involved in the project can send a very good message to the project customer that they are important. I don’t mean a call from the customer to your CEO expressing a concern. That, of course, is very bad. Just getting them to sit in on a status call and participate will help your project and the customer’s perception of you how you are handling the engagement more than you can imagine. Try it and see.


It’s not one thing that makes a project successful. There is no 11th hour fix that will turn a bad project into a good project. That 11th hour fix may save a project, but it doesn’t mean everyone will be happy or satisfied or that it has fully met the scope laid out at the beginning of the engagement or that it made it on time and on budget. Little things like the things listed above make projects successful. A common thread through all of these is consistent communication from the project manager. That has to happen – that has to be the foundation for the project.

What do you consider to be those little things that make your projects successful or even great? Let’s discuss…

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