As a project manager you do need to set up and follow some rules, but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t ever have to be constrained by them. Rules can be bent, and not every rule will work for every project, or indeed every person.
There are some rules though that should be followed on every project. For example, creating a project plan and communicating effectively throughout will give a project more chance of being successful.
Being a good project manager is about understanding the rules, having the confidence to know when to apply them, or bend them if you need to. Below are a selection of my most important tips to ensuring a successful project.
First and foremost understand the scope of the project and what you need to deliver. You can’t successfully manage a project that you don’t fully understand. If you don’t understand it, make it your business to.
Create, share and manage a plan – take your time to create it and sit on it for a while before sharing it others. Don’t share it to a wider audience until everyone involved understands their role in keeping to it. Let key stakeholders know if the plan changes and keep it updated.
In order to break your project down into manageable chunks look at the milestones of the project and then break these down further into tasks. Add these to a visual plan. Keep it simple, but remember no matter how complicated the project might seem, you do need to break it down.
Assign time to tasks in your project and make sure you track that time. Keeping track of time against a projects tasks is a great indicator of where you are with the budget and what you have completed.
Every project that has a beginning, middle and an end needs a schedule. Make sure you schedule every task, and update your schedule for every change that occurs. Don’t forget holidays etc.
The project stakeholders will have confidence in you if you deliver what you say you’re going to deliver when you say you are going to deliver it. If you are unable to meet a deadline for whatever reason then you need to let the client know.
As a project manager you are only as good as your team. You’re not expected to carry out the work, your team members are, so you will need to look after them and help them where you can. Get them involved in planning the project as this will help ensure their buy in. Work with your team as working together will mean the project runs smoothly.
Monitor progress carefully against the schedule and any time tracked. Help them manage feedback as this could slow the project down. Keep your team on track and hold meetings/briefings if there are any issues or important project information that needs to be discussed.
When work on a project slows down it’s often because your team has lost focus. Lead by example and keep them interested and motivated, show them that their work is valued and make sure they are as invested in it as possible.
Something as simple as keeping on top of marking tasks as complete will move your project forward.
Keep your team and stakeholders up to date on the projects’ progress, but make sure any updates you give are useful, easy to understand and not too lengthy. Ask for feedback and answers to any outstanding questions.
Look out for problems and recognise them as such. If you are tracking your projects progress you should be able to spot quite quickly whether there’s a problem or not. Often your gut feeling is enough. Don’t just highlight the problems, deal with them, find solutions and communicate them to the stakeholders. They will be less bothered about any issues if you’ve found a solution.
Decisions will need to be made during your project and all key decisions should be recorded and plans altered accordingly. Remember, if the plan changes you will need to update the team and the stakeholders. If the client has changed a priority or the scope has changed you will need to be able to tell them what impact this will have on the project.
Many stakeholders don’t know what they need to do as their part of the project, so tell them, help them along. Hold their hand through the process and tell them what you need and when you need it. Make it easy for them to make decisions about the project – you are the expert after all. As long as you have done due diligence you are unlikely to give them the wrong advice.
The vast majority of project management is communication. You are constantly communicating with your team and the stakeholders. Spend time on making sure everyone is updated and that they understand what is expected of them.
It’s ok to make mistakes, but if you do not learn from them then it’s not ok. Don’t make the same mistakes over and over again.
A tidy, or indeed empty inbox is usually a sign that you have your project under control, either that or you have decided to take leave of your senses and ignore all your messages!
Where possible simplify your processes and always reassess what you are doing. Ask yourself could this be simpler?
Pay close attention to the detail because if you don’t you’ll know about it later. There is a difference between doing something and doing it well.
Last, but by no means least, you won’t deliver a successful project unless you can get a least some enjoyment out of it, so do try and enjoy it!