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Managing Projects - A Guide For Social Entrepreneurs


Overview of the key things you should know about managing projects. The content essentially applies to any type of enterprise, but the presentation is slightly tweaked for projects that have a social …

Overview of the key things you should know about managing projects. The content essentially applies to any type of enterprise, but the presentation is slightly tweaked for projects that have a social impact.

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  • Presentation delivered to UnLtd Social Enterprise Award Winners at the UnLtd Network Plus event on 22 nd September 2009.
  • Project Management is a huge area of almost infinite complexity depending on scale of project. I’m guessing for some of you project management is about running the primary service your enterprise provides, and for others it is about actually delivering multiple projects to different clients. For this session I’m going to try and cover everything with a broad brush stroke and keep it short and simple. It won’t cover scaling projects / running multiple projects or sharing resource between projects .
  • Here’s a quick look at all the different aspects of project management There are a number of different ways of managing projects, but broadly the approaches fall into two categories.
  • Waterfall – Step by step. Good for fixed goals and clearly defined deliverables, and easier to control from the point of a central resource / decision maker. Also often easier to sell to teams and clients. However it is a bit rigid and poor for adapting to change. The long term planning approach also means that you’re more likely to get your time and cost estimation wrong on long and complex projects.
  • Agile – Iterative approach. Better for evolving goals, and more responsive to changing needs/environments, but requires more mature forms of team working and stakeholder management. Break project into chunks and then prioritise those chunks and then deliver to those priorities in iterative time-cycles. This means that the most valuable bits of projects always get done first, and you are in much better position to adapt your estimations and outputs on a running basis.
  • Here’s a quick look at the different stages of a project, just to provide some idea of how the different elements fit into a process. In reality it is never step by step like this, and many of these things run in parallel, so this is just a way of writing it down to give you a perspective of what this presentation covers.
  • If we pull the key bits out of that, you can now see the different elements I’m going to explore a bit more in this presentation.
  • The first step in any client facing project is typically to win the project, either by applying to a funder or competing against other providers. In the social space this is usually called bid or proposal writing.
  • Pitching / Winning Work. Be selective. Avoid generic or blanket applications. Understand the target and create bespoke applications. A few of these stand much better chances of winning contracts than lots of applications using the same content. Works out to about the same effort but with better results.
  • Even if your project does not involve pitching to win contracts or funding, you should still produce a brief. The brief acts as an overview to provide direction. Essentially a brief is just a summary of the key bits of information behind the project. Find out whatever you can that will help you a) make a sensible decision around whether it is the right project for your organisation b) design and create the right delivery plan. Questions you could ask… Why is the project being undertaken? What is the background of the problem or situation that has prompted the organization to go ahead with the project? What is required of the project? What are the aims, objectives, and budget available for the project? Who is involved in the project? When is the project to start and finish? What are the dates of each phase of the project? Where is the project to be carried out? What is the scale and scope of the project? Where are the key geographic locations involved? How will the project be carried out? What methodology is required to collect and analyze the information? What performance indicators will help to monitor and evaluate the project? Who will manage the project and its reporting requirements? Who will retain ownership and copyright of outputs?
  • This is particularly relevant for social projects, because as you get bigger and need larger funding, the quality of your outcomes will begin to play a more crucial role. Doing lots of random projects simply because they provide income reduces focus, distracts resources, and results in weaker social outcomes. Your mission is why you set up and your goals fall into two categories. Mission oriented (social outcomes) and organisational (i.e. what you want your organisation to become).
  • Deliverables are just a fancy word for the various outputs you either have to or agree to produce. They are usually defined in your brief, but can evolve over time. Make sure you’ve understood what your stakeholder wants, and be clear about what you are going to deliver. Make sure the terms cover any assumptions that were made while agreeing outputs, and that contracts allows you maximum value from the project e.g. future control of IP, use of outputs in marketing etc. Perfectionism is a good quality, but it can lead to a lot of problems. Stick to what you can realistically do within the timeframe and funding/cost.
  • If you haven’t done this type of project many times before, or if the team is new to each other, or if you don’t know the client, it can throw your estimations upto 40% out.
  • Reasonably efficient teams get about 4 hours of real focused work in a 7.5hr day. We lose time for conversations, teas, lunch, phone calls, emails, browsing, discussions, and general ability to concentrate. If your outputs are based on the full 7.5 of dedicated working a day, you will all end up working overtime. Start this way to identify realistic outputs within given timeframes, and then if you can’t meet client expectation make calculated decisions to reduce buffers, depending on whether the project is strategically important to your organisation.
  • Essentially you must define both roles and responsibilities. If every member knows exactly what they are accountable for as individuals as well as a team, it makes it easier for everyone to stay clear and focused under pressure. When it comes to hierarchy, what I’m really talking about is escalation channels i.e. how do issues get dealt with. One tip: Avoid having the project manager take on any role in the actual delivery of outputs. As deadlines approach this distracts focus from managing the overall outputs and can result in both responsibilities going unfulfilled.
  • Avoid over-burdening staff. Recognise risks when the team is new to the work or each other. Build in additional contingency if you’re all new to the task. Look outside for skills or resource you don’t have. It doesn’t always have to be contractors or temporary staff. It can be partnerships, or even volunteers.
  • Don’t over-reach. Make sure you have the cash flow to absorb losses if the project fails. Involve an accountant to ensure that your project costing covers overheads, or work out true day rates for each team member.
  • Don’t waste time micro-managing. Help team members grow and develop.
  • What is a stakeholder? From a practical perspective, a stakeholder is any group or individual that is related to the project, either because they impact on it, or are impacted by it. They represent the entire human interface along the route from kick-off, to delivery and end use. What’s the real point of the Analysis? If you are doing this for more than just a formality or high level representation, the real point is to identify and manage the human goals and needs of the project. In other words figure out who’s involved, which group’s goals take precedence, who you need to worry about, and what you need to do about it. It is worth noting that sometimes completely contrary to user-centric ideals, the end-user is not always the primary concern in the short term, with delivery success more likely assured by ticking off the primary stakeholder’s key goals. However this is a highly short-termist view, because in the end if users don’t take to the system, it will eventually adversely affect the key stakeholder, who of course will pass the blame onto design failures for the change in fortune. Longer term credibility can therefore only be ensured through end-user satisfaction, so if you have to choose only one group to satisfy, try and pick them, or at least convince the key stakeholder of their importance. Here’s an article on the components of Stakeholder Analyses - http://consultingblogs.emc.com/rizwantayabali/archive/2008/10/19/4614.aspx Here’s a template you can use for larger projects - http://consultingblogs.emc.com/rizwantayabali/attachment/4614.ashx
  • A communications plan lays out what messages and information you’re going to provide your stakeholders and when you’re going to engage with them, for the duration of the project. This is very useful for all parties involved because it means that everyone can plan to make time rather than communicate ad-hoc or at short notice. Since building and managing relationships is a key element of success for any project, communications planning should not be forgotten.
  • Small milestones can be internal deadlines. Large ones are typically client deadlines. Monitor these through regular communication with team members. Build in regular update and feedback cycles – in Agile methodologies, this is done every day through a 15 minute team catch up session. Make sure that you all react early to changes or problems.
  • Invoice on time and chase these up if they aren’t paid. It isn’t always fun to keep asking for money, but having good cash flow is critical to the survival of your organisation especially at the small and medium sized stage. Keep track of real profit margins. Organisations often work these out at one point and then keep using the same margins even after time has passed and costs have changed. What this means is that even though they are adding the same percentage onto their pricing, the actual profit margin is not the same. Finally. Don’t just take on new deliverables or increases in complexity just because you want to please your client. If you aren’t building in extra time or cost, your project will either fail or your teams will end up working overtime to deliver. Where possible, learn to say NO!
  • Identify success indicators (sometime called KPIs i.e. Key Performance Indicators). Targets can be qualititative (numbers) or quantitative (opinions and perceptions). Remember to focus on targets that fit your social mission. In the long run it is the social outcomes that will save you if you’re ever struggling for funds, or need to raise large scale investment.
  • Be critical in team reviews, but don’t point fingers. You win or lose as a team. For project reviews try and include the client. Document the learning in a way that makes it a useful reference for the next project, and also from a perspective that allows you to gain marketing value from successes.
  • In summary, here are the key things to remember for each element of project delivery.


  • 1. Managing Projects: An Outline for Social Entrepreneurs Rizwan Tayabali. 2009. http://www.socialeffect.org | [email_address] | http://twitter.com/rizwantayabali London +44 7932 884788
  • 2. This session covers a broad view of the different aspects of managing projects
  • 3. There are 2 basic approaches Waterfall & Agile
  • 4. Waterfall = Step by step to create one final delivery
  • 5. Agile = Short cycles with lots of deliveries
  • 6. You might find it easier to start with the Waterfall approach
  • 7. The Project Life-Cycle
  • 8. Project Elements
  • 9. Project Elements
  • 10. Winning Pitches = Be selective. Don’t mass apply. Do your research. Provide what’s asked for and not just what you have.
  • 11. Project Brief = Summary of Key Information Aims | Budget | Timeframe | Deliverables
  • 12. Project Elements
  • 13. Deciding to Proceed = Be strategic. Don’t just chase money. Use your mission and goals to see if the project fits.
  • 14. Project Elements
  • 15. Deliverables = Agree outputs. Set expectations. Produce sensible contracts. Be realistic. Impress but don’t over-commit.
  • 16. Project Elements
  • 17. Estimation = Figure out the tasks, roles, materials, and timeframes. Estimation is guesswork. Plan to be wrong.
  • 18. Contingency = Build in buffers Estimate in real working hours i.e. 5 a day. & add 20% to your overall timeframe.
  • 19. Project Elements
  • 20. Structure = Assign the right team. Define the roles needed, and clarify the hierarchy.
  • 21. Resourcing = Involve the right people. Avoid taking on projects you can’t deliver. Outsource for skills you don’t have.
  • 22. Project Elements
  • 23. Costing & Budgeting = Estimation + Expenses + Overheads. Involve an accountant to ensure you’re getting it right.
  • 24. Project Elements
  • 25. Managing Teams = Have faith in others’ abilities. Inspire. Communicate. Collaborate. There are 4 types of teams, and each needs different forms of leadership.
  • 26.
    • Novice Teams need direction and telling
    • Experienced Teams can manage themselves
  • 27. Project Elements
  • 28. Stakeholders = Any individual or group that impacts or is impacted by your project. For each one, identify 1) what you need from them 2) how important they are, and 3) what they need from you.
  • 29. Create a schedule (communications plan) for engaging with your stakeholders. It will help you manage expectations.
  • 30. Finally, take time to build strong relationships with clients and funders. Trust and goodwill make all the difference when things go wrong
  • 31. Project Elements
  • 32. Managing Time = Break activity into tasks, and projects into small milestones. You can manage time through Gantt charts , but Microsoft Excel is probably the easiest option.
  • 33. Try and capture actual time spent on a task vs. the budgeted time for it. It will help you get better at estimation.
  • 34. Project Elements
  • 35. Managing Profits = Track profit & loss on an ongoing basis. Compare against estimated profits. Avoid accommodating new outputs and activities without costing or charging for them.
  • 36. Project Elements
  • 37. Monitoring Outcomes = Set targets (KPIs). Track them faithfully. Target outcomes that achieve both the client’s aims and also your long term social strategy.
  • 38. In the long run it is the overall social outcomes that will define the success of your venture.
  • 39. Project Elements
  • 40. Evaluating Projects = Run team and project reviews. Be critical, but don’t point fingers. Document what you’ve learnt and write up case studies. Get references if you can.
  • 41. So to summarise …
  • 42.  
  • 43. For more info… Download this at http://www.slideshare.net/rizwantayabali Visit my blog at http://www.socialeffect.org or Mail me at [email_address] or Connect with me at http://twitter.com/rizwantayabali
  • 44. Managing Projects: An Outline for Social Entrepreneurs Rizwan Tayabali. 2009. http://www.socialeffect.org | [email_address] | http://twitter.com/rizwantayabali London +44 7932 884788