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How to do a project

Updated April 19, 2021 Updated April 19, 2021

How to do a project

How to do a project

A year ago I had this crazy idea of experimenting with the final semester of my two-year course. Being an international student in Australia, doing two postgraduate degrees and working at the same time was apparently not enough for me. So instead of choosing to do a professional project and finishing my degree, I decided to do a research project.

If you must know, I literally had no idea of how to do a research project or how to write a thesis. So I went to my professor and told him about my plans to complete a research project for my final semester. “If students imagine completing a research project in three months, I ask them to come and see me. And they later un-imagine it,” came my professor’s reply.

I was then given special permission to take two semesters to finish this research project – and hopefully in a few weeks’ time I will submit my first completed piece of research. In the past few months I have learned a lot of lessons that I want to share, in case you also decide to follow this route without any prior knowledge of how to do a research project!

1. Find the right supervisor

My professor asked a faculty member to become my supervisor. I floated an idea about what area I was interested in working on, and she agreed to keep an eye on me. In terms of a supervisor I couldn’t have asked for anything better. She is patient with me, she knows my shortcomings and she always motivates me even if I am unable to see myself progressing. Having such a supervisor makes this journey very comfortable and easy.

2. Don’t be shy, ask!

I told you earlier that I did not have any clue about how to do a research project. That was my reality and I didn’t try to hide it. I communicated my weakness openly to my supervisor and warned her in advance that I would be asking stupid questions throughout the duration of my project just so I could get an idea of what I was doing. “No question is stupid,” she assured me. The credit indeed goes to her, but it is ultimately your responsibility to communicate with your supervisor and ask as many questions as you need to.

3. Select the right topic

Your topic will determine your project. It should be interesting and it should be something that you really want to investigate. So never rely on others for recommendations about what should be your topic of research. Try to read and think a lot and you will find an area of interest. Explore your inner self, even if it takes time. In a few weeks you will start gathering your thoughts and realize what you actually are interested in researching.

4. Keep your plan realistic

Your topic could be the best in the field, but do you have enough resources to finish the project? Suppose your research project involves travelling halfway around the world to conduct a field investigation. The question you must be asking yourself is: can I afford that much time and money? If not, then no matter how brilliant your idea is, you need to think of something else. Save this one for when you receive a healthy research grant.

5. Prepare a project timeline

Having a project timeline is everything. It keeps you on track all the time. You should have a timeline set out in the first week, stating targets that you must achieve throughout the duration of your research project. Things could go wrong here and there, and you can always adjust dates, but it is very important to have a schedule, ideally broken down further into weekly targets. Ask your supervisor about what kind of targets you should set and try to achieve these on a weekly basis. Doing this should help you avoid becoming overwhelmed.

6. Write, write and write

If you’re unsure how to write a thesis, the best advice I can give is not to leave the writing stage until last. Start writing from day one. This is something I learned the hard way. My supervisor always suggests writing, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that unless I have all the information in hand. However, I’ve learned how important it is to write down whatever you do, and make notes of whatever you read. Documenting the whole process as you go will help you finalize the project in a very effective way. So don’t worry about writing things that are “wrong” or that don’t make sense. Remember, it only has to make sense once the whole project is finished. So even if it seems raw, keep on writing and get regular feedback from your supervisor.

These are some general rules that apply to every research project. You will definitely have to alter a few things here and there depending on your area of interest and your topic. I wish you good luck for this. And if you need to talk to me, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Finally, remember that persistence is the key. You may feel like giving up when things go off track, but stick with it and you’ll not only emerge with a completed project, you’ll also gain lots of invaluable skills along the way.

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The start-up of a project is similar to the start-up of a new organization called the initiation phase of the project. The project initiation phase is the first phase within the project management life cycle, as it involves starting up a new project. In this phase, the idea for the project is explored and elaborated. The goal of this phase is to examine the feasibility of the project. Within the initiation phase, the business problem is identified, a solution is defined, a project is formed, and in addition, decisions are made concerning who is to carry out the project, which stakeholders will be involved and whether the project has an adequate base of support among those who are involved. Questions to be answered in the initiation phase include the following:

  • Why this project?
  • Is the project feasible?
  • Who are possible the stakeholders involved in this project?
  • What is the expected outcome and value for the business?
  • What is the scope within this project (or what is outside the scope of the project)?

In this phase, the prospective project leader writes a proposal, which contains a description of the above-mentioned matters. The prospective sponsors of the project evaluate the proposal and, upon approval, provide the necessary financing. The project officially begins at the time of approval. The project leader is responsible to manage the following project startup process:

  1. Stakeholder Alignment: The project management team must develop alignment among the major stakeholders for those who have a share or interest on the project during the early phases or definition phases of the project. The management of powerful and influencing project stakeholders is crucial for a project’s success.
  2. Kickoff Meetings: The project manager will conduct one or more kickoff meetings or alignment sessions to bring the various parties of the project together and begin the project team building required to operate efficiently during the project.
  3. Scope of Work: During project start-up, the project management team refines the scope of work (SOW) and develops a preliminary schedule, conceptual budget, high-level scope, high-level risks, business need, project manager information, etc.
  4. Project Plan: The project team builds a plan for executing the project based on the project profile. The plan for developing and tracking the detailed schedule, the procurement plan, and the plan for building the budget and estimating and tracking costs are developed during the start-up. The plans for information technology, communication, and tracking client satisfaction are all developed during the start-up phase of the project.
  5. Work Processes: Flowcharts, diagrams, and responsibility matrices are tools to capture the work processes associated with executing the project plan. The first draft of the project procedures manual captures the historic and intuitional knowledge that team members bring to the project. The development and review of these procedures and work processes contribute to the development of the organizational structure of the project.
  6. Project Approval: This is typically an exciting time on a project where all things are possible. The project management team is working many hours developing the initial plan, staffing the project, and building relationships with the client.
  7. Task Assignment: The project manager creates an environment that encourages team members to fully engage in the project and encourages innovative approaches to developing the project plan. The project manager sets the tone of the project and sets expectations for each of the project team members. The project start-up phase on complex projects can be chaotic, and until plans are developed, the project manager becomes the source of information and direction.

Affiliations

  • 1 Division of Nephrology, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; [email protected]
  • 2 Division of Nephrology, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Keenan Research Center, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
  • 3 Division of Nephrology, University Health Network, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
  • 4 Division of Nephrology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California; and.
  • 5 Division of Nephrology, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
  • 6 Keenan Research Center, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Department of Nephrology, Humber River Regional Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • 7 Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
  • PMID: 27016497
  • PMCID: PMC4858490
  • DOI: 10.2215/CJN.11491015

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Authors

Affiliations

  • 1 Division of Nephrology, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; [email protected]
  • 2 Division of Nephrology, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Keenan Research Center, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
  • 3 Division of Nephrology, University Health Network, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
  • 4 Division of Nephrology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California; and.
  • 5 Division of Nephrology, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
  • 6 Keenan Research Center, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Department of Nephrology, Humber River Regional Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • 7 Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;
  • PMID: 27016497
  • PMCID: PMC4858490
  • DOI: 10.2215/CJN.11491015

Abstract

Quality improvement involves a combined effort among health care staff and stakeholders to diagnose and treat problems in the health care system. However, health care professionals often lack training in quality improvement methods, which makes it challenging to participate in improvement efforts. This article familiarizes health care professionals with how to begin a quality improvement project. The initial steps involve forming an improvement team that possesses expertise in the quality of care problem, leadership, and change management. Stakeholder mapping and analysis are useful tools at this stage, and these are reviewed to help identify individuals who might have a vested interest in the project. Physician engagement is a particularly important component of project success, and the knowledge that patients/caregivers can offer as members of a quality improvement team should not be overlooked. After a team is formed, an improvement framework helps to organize the scientific process of system change. Common quality improvement frameworks include Six Sigma, Lean, and the Model for Improvement. These models are contrasted, with a focus on the Model for Improvement, because it is widely used and applicable to a variety of quality of care problems without advanced training. It involves three steps: setting aims to focus improvement, choosing a balanced set of measures to determine if improvement occurs, and testing new ideas to change the current process. These new ideas are evaluated using Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles, where knowledge is gained by testing changes and reflecting on their effect. To show the real world utility of the quality improvement methods discussed, they are applied to a hypothetical quality improvement initiative that aims to promote home dialysis (home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis). This provides an example that kidney health care professionals can use to begin their own quality improvement projects.

Keywords: Delivery of Health Care; Hemodialysis; Home; Humans; Leadership; Quality Improvement; Total Quality Management; chronic kidney disease; clinical nephrology; end stage kidney disease; renal dialysis.

How to do a project

  • 12 May 2020

Understanding how to calculate the potential return on investment (ROI) of a project is an essential financial skill for all professionals to develop.

If you’re an employee, knowing how to calculate ROI can help you make the case for a project you’re interested in pursuing and have taken the lead on proposing. If you’re a manager, understanding ROI can give you greater insight into your team’s performance. If you’re an executive, working knowledge of ROI can make it easier for you to identify which projects should be greenlit and which should be passed over. Once ROI is proven, it may be possible to replicate success by applying lessons learned from the first project to other segments of the business.

If you’re unfamiliar with accounting and finance, the prospect of determining the ROI of a project may seem beyond your abilities. However, it’s not an overly complicated process. By understanding the basics of financial valuation, which can enable you to put a monetary value on companies, projects, or anything that produces cash flows, anyone can learn to calculate the ROI of a project.

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What Is Return on Investment?

Return on investment (ROI) is a metric used to denote how much profit has been generated from an investment that’s been made. In the case of a business, return on investment comes in two primary forms, depending on when it’s calculated: anticipated ROI and actual ROI.

Anticipated vs. Actual ROI

Anticipated ROI, or expected ROI, is calculated before a project kicks off, and is often used to determine if that project makes sense to pursue. Anticipated ROI uses estimated costs, revenues, and other assumptions to determine how much profit a project is likely to generate.

Often, this figure will be run under a number of different scenarios to determine the range of possible outcomes. These numbers are then used to understand risk and, ultimately, decide whether an initiative should move forward.

Actual ROI is the true return on investment generated from a project. This number is typically calculated after a project has concluded, and uses final costs and revenues to determine how much profit a project produced compared to what was estimated.

Positive vs. Negative ROI

When a project yields a positive return on investment, it can be considered profitable, because it yielded more in revenue than it cost to pursue. If, on the other hand, the project yields a negative return on investment, it means the project cost more to pursue than it generated in revenue. If the project breaks even, then it means the total revenue generated by the project matched the expenses.

Return on Investment Formula

Return on investment is typically calculated by taking the actual or estimated income from a project and subtracting the actual or estimated costs. That number is the total profit that a project has generated, or is expected to generate. That number is then divided by the costs.

The formula for ROI is typically written as:

ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100

In project management, the formula is written similarly, but with slightly different terms:

ROI = [(Financial Value – Project Cost) / Project Cost] x 100

Calculating the ROI of a Project: An Example

Imagine that you have the opportunity to purchase 1,000 bars of chocolate for $2 apiece. You would then sell the chocolate to a grocery store for $3 per piece. In addition to the cost of purchasing the chocolate, you need to pay $100 in transportation costs.

To decide whether this would be profitable, you would first tally your total expenses and your total expected revenues.

Expected Revenues = 1,000 x $3 = $3,000

Total Expenses = (1,000 x $2) + $100 = $2,100

You would then subtract the expenses from your expected revenue to determine the net profit.

Net Profit = $3,000 – $2,100 = $900

To calculate the expected return on investment, you would divide the net profit by the cost of the investment, and multiply that number by 100.

ROI = ($900 / $2,100) x 100 = 42.9%

By running this calculation, you can see the project will yield a positive return on investment, so long as factors remain as predicted. Therefore, it’s a sound financial decision. If the endeavor yielded a negative ROI, or an ROI that was so low it didn’t justify the amount of work involved, you would know to avoid it moving forward.

It’s important to note that this example calculates an anticipated ROI for your project. If any of the factors affecting expenses or revenue were to change during implementation, your actual ROI could be different.

For example, imagine that you have already purchased your chocolate bars for the agreed-upon $2 apiece and paid $100 to transport them. If the most that the store will pay you is $2.25 per chocolate bar, then your actual revenues drop substantially compared to your projected revenues. The result is a reduced net profit and a reduced actual ROI.

Actual Revenues = 1,000 x $2.25 = $2,250

Total Expenses = (1,000 x $2) + $100 = $2,100

Net Profit = $2,250 – $2,100 = $150

ROI = ($150 / $2,100) x 100 = 7.14%

Circumstances are rarely as straightforward as this example. There are typically additional costs that should be accounted for, such as overhead and taxes. In addition, there’s always the possibility that an anticipated ROI will not be met due to unforeseen circumstances, but the same general principles hold true.

How to do a project

How to Use Finance to Pitch Your Project

Have you ever pitched a project to senior management, only to have the idea shot down under the guise of “not making financial sense?” It happens more often than you might think. By learning how to calculate ROI for projects you’re interested in pursuing, you can self-evaluate them before they’re raised up to decision-makers within your organization and defend them as they’re being considered.

Similarly, by understanding how to calculate ROI after a project you’ve spearhead is done, you can better speak to the contributions that you and your team have made toward shared company goals.

High-performing businesses are successful because they make smart decisions about when and where they allocate available resources. Calculating the ROI of a project before it moves forward can help ensure that you’re making the best possible use of the resources you have available.

Want to learn more ways that you can use financial concepts to improve your efficacy and advance in your career? Explore our six-week course Leading with Finance, eight-week course Financial Accounting, or our other finance and accounting courses. Each is entirely online and can help you develop your toolkit for making and understanding financial decisions.

How to do a project

When I quit my 9-to-5 job and started my own independent writing and communication consultancy, I thought my days of having to deal with boring, annoying projects were over. As an entrepreneur, I got to pick and choose my own clients, design my own workdays, select my own self-directed goals.

Total freedom and sovereignty, right?

As I’ve learned, four years into the game, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got one boss in the corner office or 1,000 online customers—occasionally, a project you really don’t want to deal with is going to plop into your inbox.

It might be a client asking you to drop everything to help him hit an urgent deadline. (When you explicitly told him you don’t work on weekends.)

It might be a colleague asking you to review a grant proposal she’s about to submit, just to give her your two cents. (“Just 40 pages. Shouldn’t take you long, right?”)

Or it might be a distant relative pleading for your help with a resume, a cover letter, or research for the job hunt.

And when that unwanted project arrives?

It’s imperative that you learn how to say “no”—respectfully, but firmly.

Because without clear communication in place, those kinds of projects will just keep coming, draining your time and energy, wobbling the boundaries around you.

But, as we all know, saying “Um, I don’t want to do that” can be tricky. So, to help you find the right words, here are three scripts to help you say “no” (nicely, of course) for three common scenarios at work.

When the Unwanted Project is Part of Your Job, But You’re Already Overwhelmed With Other Projects

Thanks for the details and clear instructions. Much appreciated.

Here’s what’s on my to-do list right now:

[Briefly list the top 3-5 projects you’re currently working on, to reiterate your value—and busyness.]

Based on our last conversation, it feels like the projects I just listed are top priority.

Shall I keep moving forward with those, and shelve [new project] for later? That would be my preference, because I’d love to ride the momentum and get those done first.

Or is [new project] my new top priority?

Thanks for clarifying.

When the Unwanted Project is Part of Your Job, but Seems Kind of Pointless, Redundant, or Unnecessary

Just got your note.

At our last meeting, we decided that our goals for the next few months are to [describe a few goals here], with an overall focus on [big focus here].

This project seems like a great way to [describe possible benefit here], but I’m wondering if it aligns with our bigger goals right now.

Just playing devil’s advocate here. Your thoughts?

I want to make sure I’m investing my time where it’s most needed, in the best possible order.

When the Unwanted Project is Not Part of Your Job, Period

Thanks for your note.

This project looks like a fun challenge, but—unless I’m misunderstanding your instructions—it definitely falls outside of my skill set.

It sounds like an ideal assignment for [name of other person, position, role, or team]. They generally handle projects like the one you described.

Shall I forward your instructions onto them, or would you like to take it from here?

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway:

You may need to modify these scripts to suit your personality, your company’s communication policies, your position, and your relationship with whomever is making the request (a boss, a friend, a parent, a peer).

But these scripts ought to give you some basic bone structure.

Tuck them in the “drafts” folder of your inbox (or set them up as a Gmail canned response), so they’re handy when you need to grab one and go.

Here’s to sane workloads—and humane, respectful “no’s.”

Being a project manager is like being a juggler who spins several plates in the air at once—not easy. There are constant demands on your time, people to keep on track, pressure to do a certain amount of work in what often seems like an impossibly short amount of time and much more.

But it’s also a necessary role that can bring extraordinary value to your company. In fact, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 60 percent of project failures are linked to internal issues such as insufficient resources or missed deadlines—i.e., situations a project manager can help avoid.

In addition, it’s a growing industry, as more and more companies realize the importance of solid project management. Specifically, a separate Project Management Institute study estimated nearly 16 million new project management positions will be created around the world between 2010 and 2020, and the industry will grow by $6.61 trillion.

All that said, managing projects is a huge responsibility, no matter who your employer is. Whether you’re an official project manager or simply leading a project, the following seven tips should help you get your bearings and set your project up for success.

Establish clear goals for the project

Take a look at the big picture and determine what you want to accomplish with this project. If a client or outside stakeholder is involved in the project, external sources will obviously help determine your goals. Overarching goals you should consider include:

  • Preventing scope creep, which means keeping the scope of the project from growing
  • Staying within a given budget
  • Completing all aspects of the project
  • Providing quality work
  • Completing work on time
  • Securing the right resources in advance

Simple project management.

Everyone manages projects. Microsoft Project gives you the power and simplicity to take on any project successfully.

Set expectations upfront

Outline potential risks and how you’ll manage them if hazards arise

Minimize the number of meetings

Plan the perfect kickoff meeting

Pull reports throughout the project

Get the right tools

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