Everyone talks about management, but nobody stops to explain what it is. What do we really mean when we talk about managing something? We can understand that best if we look at the opposite of management. In a business, if something isn’t under management, then it’s out of control.
When a situation is out of control, we don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know how bad it is, we don’t know what it’s going to cost us, and we don’t know what to do about it. Here are some common out-of-control situations that occur in small businesses:
- The books are not up to date.
- You can’t get the supplies or inventory you need.
- You aren’t getting the word out—advertising isn’t working.
- Your team isn’t getting the job done, and you don’t know why.
- You promised work to a customer and can’t deliver on time.
Are any of these happening in your business right now? Or is some other situation out of control? Whatever situation is out of control, that’s a problem. It’s a risk to your business. Bringing the situation under control and solving the problem is a project.
When a situation is out of control, we want to bring it under management. There are three basic steps to taking care of any project: prepare, do, and follow through. Let’s look at these in a bit more detail.
- Investigation: What’s really going on?
- Evaluation: Is it worth fixing? How big is the problem?
- Planning: What do we want to do about it?
- Getting ready: Get the people and things you need.
- Action: Doing the work and fixing the problem.
- Tracking: Making sure our work follows the plan and fixes the problem.
- Control: If tracking shows us that we’re off track, taking action to keep things under control.
- Delivery: Finishing the project, delivering the results, and making sure everyone knows it’s done.
- Maintenance: Keeping up the good results through production management—monitoring, control, and improvement.
Whether we’re bringing a situation under control, solving a problem, or making a dream come true, those three steps—prepare, do, follow through—are the essence of project management. In three steps, we get it done right!
Sid Kemp ‘’Project Management for Small Business Made Easy’’ (2006: Entrepreneur Press)