When I am teaching project management courses, I often get asked if some of the competencies that project managers possess can be used for non-project work. Yes, I think they can. So, here’s my top 5 tips that business owners can learn from project management.

1. Plan properly.

It’s the old adage (well, slightly adapted): “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. A good plan (and I emphasise the word ‘good’ here) is invaluable to understand what needs to be done, how targets can be achieved and by when. A plan documents the scope of what you want to achieve – and knowing what you want at the outset is always a bonus in my book!

2. Always consider quality.

In his seminal book: “A Systems Approach to Planning Scheduling and Controlling”, Harold Kerzner discusses the ‘Cost of Quality’. He says that the cost of quality can be split into: planning costs, appraisal (testing) costs and failure costs. Furthermore, failure costs are attributed to 50%+ of the cost of quality. This is an astonishing statistic to me! Consider product recalls as an extreme failure cost. There is a direct cost to recalling products and replacing/fixing them, but how do you measure the cost of loss in customer confidence? With better quality consideration, could a lot of failure costs be avoided? Integral to project management is quality control.

3. Manage your risks.

How’s your risk management strategy? Along the lines of: “Cross your fingers and hope nothing goes wrong”? If you can proactively manage risks, you can plan for the ‘worst eventuality’ and be ready for it should it occur. This has got to be better than hoping nothing goes wrong and then finding that is has – and who knows what the cost would be then. Not to mention you will be thinking, “if only I had…”! Projects by definition are inherently risky, so risk management can never be safely left out of a project. Ah…hindsight is a wonderful thing!

4. Resource correctly.

In project management, we are not just talking about ‘anyone will do”. Resourcing in project management is about having the ‘right people with the right skills at the right time’. Having enough capacity and capability to do the job sounds obvious but is a challenge for lots of businesses.

5. Learn Lessons.

Sounds clichéd, but nothing is further from the truth. Project management is a means for better (project) delivery and with better (project) delivery we should (!) avoid the (traditional) cost overruns. Successful projects learn from the experience of others to improve performance next time. A good lesson to learn, if you ask me!

Dr Ian Clarkson is Head of Project and Programme Management Product Development a QA -leading providers of Prince2 training. His role provides business direction and ownership of QA’s portfolio, programme, project and risk management curriculum. Ian is an experienced lecturer, author, speaker and consultant, having delivered programmes and projects in all industry sectors.