Site icon Dumb Little Man

7 Steps to Completing Your Projects on Time

Written on 7/02/2008 by Aaron Stannard, editor of Working Smarter.

My background is in software development, a field infamous for delivering the vast majority of its projects over budget. This problem is not limited to just software projects; in fact, most projects are delivered late and over budget. Why does this happen?

The answer is simple: poor project planning.

So how can you ensure that your projects, both personal and business are delivered on time and on budget? How do you learn to anticipate the obstacles, identify the exact goals, and plan for success?

Well, here are 7 simple steps I take to help properly plan my projects. Which have you tried, which do you use, and what can you improve upon?



Making a better accounting system” is not a clear objective; what does that even mean?

Develop specific, measurable objectives instead, such as “develop an accounting system which will automate payroll and reduce our payroll processing overhead by 30%.” Your project won’t have a prayer of being successful or on budget if you don’t have clear, measurable expectations and goals.



Find answers to these questions before you do anything. If you’re designing a new car, don’t start by reinventing the wheel; incorporate existing solutions into your project where applicable.



Determine each of the steps in your build process and then establish clear deliverables that must be produced before you proceed from one step to another. I use mind maps and Gantt charts to decompose my projects into smaller, more manageable deliverables; I also find that Gantt charts are quite helpful for scheduling my projects in addition to helping me budget them.



Think of a golf game as a project – rather than try to win the entire game at once, golfers break down the game into 18 holes and break each hole down into a number of strokes. Each hole is a step in the project and each stroke is a deliverable. Tiger Woods doesn’t play each of his strokes thinking about how his current stroke might affect his overall score – he concentrates on making his current stoke the best stroke possible.

When you go about planning your project, you should establish a number of clear, material deliverables for each step. “Complete project research” is not a clear deliverable – its intangible, meaningless fluff. A clear, material deliverable is “produce a report detailing the competitive environment for our target market.”





It’s better to give yourself some wiggle room ahead of time than to apologize to your boss later for going over budget. Identify key areas of your project that are particularly vulnerable to error and make a reasonable assessment for how much extra time and money you are going to need in case an error occurs. Once you’ve done that, simply factor the amount into your budget.

There are millions of articles about managing better projects, but in my experience I’ve found that these seven simple steps offer the best ROI.

If you have other opinions about basic project management concepts then feel free to leave comments below.


Exit mobile version