So, you’ve applied for and secured funding for your project, hurrah! Hopefully this means you are clear on your project objectives, timeline, stakeholders and desired outcome.
From here, the success of the project will rely on implementing effective structures to manage the process. It’s important to establish and apply reporting and record-keeping structures early on in your project. It’s worth spending some time ‘designing’ these systems and ensuring your team understand the systems you’ll use.
Identify reporting deadlines and lock them in
Most funding bodies will want incremental updates on progress. It’s a good idea to keep stakeholders regularly updated too. Lock reporting dates into calendars, along with time allotted to meet, compile and edit the report. While you’re at it, ensure that relevant team members are doing this too. This might mean requesting that people lock in dates and block time out in their calendars, and then confirm that they have done so.
Have you ever hesitated to send such a request? You might feel it is too demanding, especially to people who may be very experienced or qualified. But as a project manager or team leader, such a request is perfectly acceptable and serves your team by helping them to achieve their goals. Booking time early in people’s busy schedules will result in reflective and useful reporting that satisfies the funding body and stakeholder requirements and refocusses the team, as opposed to reactive and time-pressured reporting.
Instead of seeing them as a burden, consider your reporting milestones as opportunities to evaluate, reflect, check, and correct. Are you meeting your own objectives? Are the team and stakeholders still engaged with the project outcome?
Using structures to manage or avoid problems
If a project is feeling like ‘hard work’, it could be because structures are missing, for instance, there isn’t the time allowance in calendars to focus on the project, or the team has lost touch with the outcome of the project.
If it’s the former, you may need to revisit the time allotted to work on the project. If it’s the latter, it might help to seek out ways for you and your team to reconnect – with each other and with the project. Something as simple as regular, informal lunch meetings can help a team to stay focussed and on target. It could also be useful to schedule one-on-one time with key team members to stay connected.
Life ‘stuff’ can come up for anyone and through regular communication, extra support or time off can be managed effectively so nobody feels they have to ‘push through’ or start avoiding the project. Relatedness to each other and to the outcome is key for a team to deliver a good outcome.
The importance of record-keeping
Reporting to a funding body and stakeholders should be an objective, clear, concise overview of what has been achieved at particular milestones. To do this effectively, it’s important that record keeping is carried out consistently and thoroughly for the full lifespan of the project. Distinguish what must be recorded for your project. Are receipts, invoices and proof of quote requests required to be documented? Will you have a naming convention for files and ensure everyone is aware of it? It might be helpful to allocate responsibility to keep track of this to a team member and have them report to you, or another, at regular intervals.
You may have existing record-keeping platforms (such as cloud or database) used by the team or it may be more effective to create new ones. If so, consult people with knowledge in this field. It’s worth allocating time to have a chat with a few different people to get a sense of what will serve the team. Give yourself a deadline for making a decision, setting it up and communicating it to the team.
If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of managing the record-keeping for an upcoming project, we can help you develop a strategy to stay on top of your obligations, as well as maximising the effectiveness of your project by having a strong management approach.