Project coordination tips to unlock your team’s best work

Caeleigh MacNeil contributor headshotCaeleigh MacNeilOctober 15th, 20216 min read
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Summary

Project coordination is the day-to-day work required to keep an initiative on track. When done right, it can help streamline workflows and speed your project to the finish line. Learn how to master six essential project coordination skills, like how to stay on schedule and the best way to organize project deliverables.

When Apollo 11 launched in 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. But this epic achievement was more than just a small step for mankind—it was the culmination of nearly eight years of daily work by hundreds of NASA scientists, engineers, and project managers. And with all the moving pieces required to launch a space mission, you can bet there was someone behind the scenes coordinating it all. 

Project coordination isn’t as sexy as space travel, but it’s absolutely essential to carry an initiative through to the finish line. With effective project coordination, you can stay on schedule, streamline workflows, and speed your project to the finish line.

What is project coordination? 

Project coordination is the day-to-day work a project manager does to keep an initiative on track. This includes organizing and communicating project and assignment details to stakeholders, monitoring work progress, tracking the project budget, documenting key project workflows, and removing blockers for your project team. 

Project coordination vs. project management 

If you’ve never served in a project coordination role before, these two terms might sound similar, but they’re actually a bit different. Project coordination is focused on the daily tasks required to keep a project running smoothly, while project management involves more high-level planning—such as determining project objectives and deliverables.

Project managers are often responsible for both project management and project coordination. However, some teams may include a separate project coordinator role to handle essential day-to-day administrative tasks. For example, if a project manager creates a full project plan, a project coordinator would help execute that plan on a day-to-day basis. 

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Why project coordination matters

A project plan is only as good as its execution. Regardless of how carefully an initiative is designed, it’s the day-to-day coordination work that keeps the project running and on track. In that vein, effective project coordination can help you:  

  • Streamline communication with stakeholders and team members

  • Quickly unblock project team members and keep work moving

  • Monitor the project timeline and ensure work is completed on schedule

  • Track the project budget and manage costs

  • Ensure project information is easily accessible 

6 essential project coordination skills, plus tips to master them

The bulk of daily project coordination consists of six core skills. When mastered, these skills can help you move projects smoothly from planning through to execution and delivery. 

1. Keep work on schedule

Scheduling delays are one of the most common reasons for project failure. In fact, according to the 2021 Anatomy of Work Index knowledge workers miss 26% of deadlines each week. As such, the ability to keep work on schedule is a critical component of successful project coordination. 

How to do it:

Create a project schedule with clear deadlines for each project deliverable and sub-deliverable (the smaller steps required to complete a task). To do this, work backwards from your final deadline when you assign due dates, so you can be sure to allocate enough time for each component. As you check off each deliverable and sub-deliverable, it’ll be easy to see how work is progressing over time—plus you’ll be much less likely to miss a step.  

Read: Work breakdown structure (WBS): what it is and how to use it

2. Organize and track deliverables

Projects often contain many moving parts. Each individual task has its own unique due date, owner, and priority—and as a project progresses, tasks move through varying stages of completion. Finding a way to organize and track those moving pieces is an essential part of project coordination. 

How to do it:

Use visual tools to keep track of  project deliverables. For example, you could use a Kanban board to show work moving through different stages, a Gantt chart to see a horizontal timeline, or a project calendar to visualize a whole month’s work in one central view. Instead of trying to keep static project trackers or spreadsheets up-to-date, we recommend using a project management tool to view and manage deliverables. This allows you and your team to easily access, work from, and update project tasks in real time. 

[Board View] Sprint plans project in Asana

Read: 3 ways to visualize a project plan: Timelines, calendars, and boards

3. Monitor project costs

Money may not be able to buy you love, but it sure does help push projects across the finish line. In fact, a project’s budget is often the limiting factor that determines whether work can be completed. That means tracking and managing project costs is one of the most important tasks on a project coordinator’s to-do list. 

How to do it:

Create a detailed project budget. A clear project budget plan is the best way to plan, monitor, and control costs throughout the course of your project. Much like your project schedule, project budgets typically break down each deliverable into sub-deliverables so you can effectively estimate the resources required and cost for each. Your budget should include the costs of each resource and deliverable, a timeline of when you expect to spend funds, the person responsible for each task, and a place to track budgeted vs. actual costs. 

Read: New to cost management? Start here.

4. Communicate updates to stakeholders

It’s important to let your team know how your project is progressing and keep them informed of any unexpected changes. As such, regularly reporting on your project’s status is a critical component of successful project coordination. It’s the best way to ensure stakeholders are on the same page, proactively spot risks, and keep work on track and on budget. 

How to do it:

Master the art of project status reports. A project status report gives stakeholders at-a-glance information about your project’s progress. They typically indicate the project’s health (on track, at risk, off track), include an overview of each project area, and summarize any major highlights, blockers, or unexpected risks. Depending on the length of your project, you might circulate a project status report every week (for shorter projects) or every month (for longer projects).

Example Asana project status report for an ebook launch meeting

Instead of starting each project status report from scratch, create a reusable template. That way, you can avoid work about work and ensure you’re including key information each time. Project management software can make this process even easier. When you track deliverables in one centralized tool, you can create a report where your work lives rather than manually digging through project data across multiple tools. With the right project management tool, a task that might take hours is reduced to just a few clicks. 

Try reporting with Asana for free

5. Document project information

We’ve all been there—you’ve started a new project that seems strangely familiar, and you realize you’ve done something similar a year prior. But when you try to pinpoint what you did and how the old project went, your memory draws a blank. 

That’s why documenting project information is such a key part of project coordination. It’s much easier (and faster) to record processes and notes while you’re in the thick of work, rather than trying to recall critical details later. 

How to do it:

Create process documentation—an internal document that outlines the tasks and steps needed to launch a new project or process. For example, you might create process documentation that details all the steps needed to onboard new hires, requirements to test a new web feature, or the workflow to update and publish blog articles. Keep in mind that process documentation is meant to be a living record that you update as needed—so make sure it’s easily editable and accessible to your team. 

Read: How to capture lessons learned in project management

6. Plan and schedule meetings

Project coordination often involves planning and organizing meetings with your team and external stakeholders. But to make the best use of everyone’s time, it’s important to ensure that every meeting has a strategic purpose and concrete meeting plan. The more efficient your meetings are, the more time and brainpower your team has to tackle project objectives. 

How to do it:

Run meetings with intention. Instead of scheduling meetings automatically, consider whether you need them at all. For example, could you send a status report or an asynchronous update instead? 

If you decide a meeting is necessary, make sure it’s efficient and valuable for everyone involved. You can do this by creating an agenda and identifying pre-read items in advance, taking meeting notes and circulating them after the meeting is over, and determining clear action items to follow up with. 

Read: Do your work meetings waste time? Use these tips to improve.

4 qualities of a successful project coordinator

Whether you’re looking to improve your coordination skills or hire a project coordinator for your team, here are four essential qualities to keep an eye out for. 

  • Communication skills. Coordinating work requires you to talk to stakeholders and team members on a day-to-day basis. This includes assigning tasks, providing project updates, coordinating meetings, and being the point of contact for approvals and resource requests.  

  • Time management. Good time management is critical, especially when you’re juggling all the moving pieces of an entire project. This applies to both personal time management and the ability to manage a project’s schedule and ensure deliverables are completed on time. 

  • Problem-solving. When unexpected developments inevitably arise, it’s important to take problems in stride and solve them strategically. As such, effective problem-solving skills often come in useful for a project coordinator. 

  • Attention to detail. Details are important for a project coordinator, especially when you’re setting due dates for tasks, scheduling meetings, and creating detailed process documentation. When you get the small things right, your team can rest easy knowing they don’t have to double-check your work. 

Coordination is key

Project coordination is critical to the success of any project, throughout its lifecycle. High-level project management and a carefully crafted project plan, objectives, milestones, and project scope can only take you so far—it’s the day-to-day coordination that helps utilize these planning methodologies and move your initiative from planning to completion. 

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