There is a "must-have" list for nearly anything these days. Any fashion show will call out must-have colors, textures, accessories for the upcoming season. Wired Magazine has must-have gadgets, mobile applications and tech-tools. Shopping for a new car comes with a must-have list of things like satellite radio and great gas mileage.
As a manager and business owner, I have my own must-haves to keep me on top of my game and found a short, but powerful, list I think can help any professional. These are the tools that, no matter where you are, you could still manage your business and slip back into your well-run practice.
1. Blackberry, or other smartphone. A Blackberry, iPhone or other smartphone allows you to stay in touch with the business side of your practice while away from the office. If you're traveling and you want to check your messages or check in with employees, having such a phone will allow you to keep your business on track.
2. E-mail guidelines. It's hard to imagine management of a business without e-mail because communication is so critical to the success of any project. However, when it's not managed effectively, e-mail can become a time drain. It's important to create e-mail guidelines in your business. Depending on the culture of your practice, develop e-mail rules that ensure that the communication is saving time and not wasting it.
A great guideline to set in place is to put the action items in the beginning. This sets the tone of the e-mail and offers the most important information upfront. As they say in journalism, don't bury the lead. Make sure that what's most important is in the first paragraph. Also, your communication should be something short, sweet and to the point, or else your message will not be received.
3. A collaborative space. Good project management (especially if you manage employees) is about collaboration and communication. We use a wiki, which is an online collaborative workspace. There are many implementations of wiki software--and most are both open source and free. Our wiki is a central hub for our work, where we coordinate our projects and processes, providing a central place to remain in touch with one another's duties and status.
There is also Twitter and other social media platforms that can be used well for work purposes.
4. Project agreement. A project agreement will always keep projects from running amuck and to keep things running flawlessly in anyone's absence from the business. Without a project agreement, other people might not be on board or know what their objectives are, or their roles, responsibilities and timelines. Defining a project at the beginning is critical. It's okay if things change, and they often do, but when you have a project agreement, you have a foundation to build on and work from.
5. Project management scorecard. We use an online project management scorecard that looks at three kinds of performance: business, project and project team. The scorecard gives you a comprehensive look at all three dimensions, so you know where and how to improve within your business. Accountability and the ability to measure ensure that you will know when you've arrived at the destination called success.
Other than yearly reviews, people often forget to take a moment to think about what did and did not work so that future business projects have a better chance of succeeding. It's imperative for personal and professional growth and to continue succeeding.