A Project Management Framework

You can spend days or even months on a project management course. However many people in smaller organisations don’t have the time, funds or complexity of project to make that worthwhile. So this is a simple project management framework that fits the culture of a small charity:

  • A model that isn’t just a theory and can easily be applied in real situations.

  • A model where principles are more important than a detailed methodology.

If everyone in the organisation uses the same framework it helps promote efficiency as the principles and method are commonly understood. It also means that time isn’t wasted interpreting different project management approaches for different projects.

 

The key tools are

  • A set of project management principles which can be tailored for your organisation.

  • A project filter checklist (which can be tailored for your organisation) to help determine whether the proposed project is really a priority for your organisation.

  • A short project document that summarises and brings together in one place the key aspects of the project. There is a sample as a pdf appendix that can be tailored for your organisation.

  • A project plan.

 

Project Management Principles

  1. Check the project is in line with the strategic goals of the organisation using a checklist such as the project filter below.

  2. Allocate a project manager (in a small organisation they will probably have other projects and responsibilities too).

  3. Use a project document (see pdf appendix).

  4. Be clear about the expected end result and the related outcomes.

  5. Identify the likely risks and plan for mitigating actions.

  6. Prepare a simple project plan with key milestones and share with all those involved.

  7. Identify all the stakeholders within and beyond the organisation: tell them what you are doing and why, then update them on progress as appropriate.

  8. Check progress regularly against the plan and revise the plan as necessary.

  9. Be flexible to change tasks, timings and people as needed and communicate the changes with all the interested parties.

  10. Double check you’ve got everything covered by asking: What? When? Why? Who? Where? How? and How much?

  11. In an organisation with a Christian ethos find ways to pray for the project and those involved in it.

  12. Review and apply lessons during and at the end of the project.

 

Project Filter

In attempting to prioritise activities (recognising it is easy to take on too many initiatives) the following checklist (or a version customised for your organisation) may help guides decision making:

  1. Does the project reflect the organisation’s values and serve its vision?

  2. Does the project fit well within the strategic plan?

  3. Could other organisations do this as or more effectively?

  4. Are there appropriately experienced people (staff, contractors or volunteers) with sufficient capacity to undertake the project?

  5. How will the project be funded?

  6. Will this project make the organisation more effective?

  7. Is there a group of stakeholders enthusiastically supporting this project?

  8. Is there an exit strategy if, for any reason, the project needs to be curtailed?

A valid project may not fulfil all these criteria and the relevance of each will need to be judged in your context.

 

Project Document

A project document is a working document to:

  1. Ensure a project contributes to the organisation’s vision, strategy and goals.

  2. Obtain leadership team or board approval for the project, either during the budget cycle or during the financial year.

  3. Record the key information about the project in one place.

  4. Help manage the project, including monitoring progress, together with the project plan.

  5. Provide input for a fundraising case for support where appropriate.

Ideally the project document should be stored online so that all members of the project team can view the latest version. There’s a sample in the pdf below.

 

Project Plan

Prepare a simple project plan with:

  1. Tasks to be undertaken.

  2. Who is responsible for each task.

  3. Timeline (include intermediate deadlines and the final deadline). For each task include start and end date, the number of days (actual and elapsed) that each task will take (which may be less than the number of days between the start and end date)

  4. Milestones (what you hope to achieve by certain points; they may also be times to review progress)

  5. Dependencies: where one task is dependant on another task being completed. This enables you to identify the critical path ie what needs to happen next for the project to move forward.

A simple format for a project pan is included in the Project Document pdf.

There are a variety of free and simple project planning tools available online (see signposts below.)

 

Other Helpful Tips

  1. Ensure all your stakeholders support the project, including the leadership team of the organisation.

  2. Link the project plan with the project document.

  3. Encourage the project team to help each other stick to the same timeline.

  4. Regularly review if and how you are reaching your intended beneficiaries and/or audience through this project.

  5. Communicate regularly with the project team members and other stakeholders regarding any important changes in the project.

  6. Consider what changes will need to be managed.

  7. Review the project so that you learn lessons for future projects and share best practice once the project is completed.

 

Signposts

 

Author and copyright: Helen Calder 2019