The Ten Commandments of a Successful Project Manager
Successful project management doesn’t have to be rocket science. Check out this article to find out the ten commandments you should follow you want to lead your team on the path to success.
In a perfect world, every project would be finished before the deadline, within budget. Everybody involved would be extremely satisfied and not at all exhausted by the amount of stress they endured while trying to get the project to the finish line. Stakeholders would be overly pleased. And you, the project manager, would only receive kind words, warm handshakes, and a big raise to go nicely with the title of “Employee of the Month.” Yeah, when’s the last time that happened?
Things may not always go as perfectly as this scenario, but with a little diligence and planning they can surely go your way; just follow these ten best practices in project management, or commandments, if you wish.
Assemble the perfect team
Building an effective team to handle the project is the first step you must take to ensure a good outcome. When selecting team members, look beyond their main skills. They need to also be able to function well in a team environment and have above average communication skills. If possible, bring together people that have already proven they play well with others, to avoid any unpleasant surprises along the way.
Understand the requirements
Before starting to plan everyone’s workload, make sure that both you and your team fully understand what the outcome should look like. Clients or stakeholders should make their expectations as clear as possible, to avoid any confusion. Updates and change requests may come along, as they usually do, but you should understand the core requirements of the job before getting on with the actual work.
Set clear goals for everyone
Now that you know what your ultimate goal as a group should look like, sit down with each member of the team and define the role they must play in the big picture. Agree on certain milestones they need to reach along the way and clarify their roles and responsibilities.
Bad communication within the team can quickly turn to conflict, or even worse. Focus on establishing an open line of communication between team members from the beginning. Be sure everyone is as transparent as possible and can easily find out what someone else is working on. Also, encourage them to speak up whenever they have new ideas about how to improve the project and to voice their concerns if they believe something isn’t right. Holding regular meetings to track your progress and keep everyone focused on the end goal is a good idea.
Offer constructive feedback
A great way to keep your team motivated is to offer them feedback on their work on a regular basis. Let them know you appreciate their effort and contribution when they get something right, and give them some useful advice on how to perform better in case they under-deliver. Make a point to not simply criticize their work, but to offer some helpful suggestions about what they could have done differently to achieve a better result.
Deal with conflict
Unfortunately, conflict can rear its ugly head at any moment. Even the most effective team has to manage conflict every once in a while – people are different, and it can get tough to keep things going smoothly, especially for a long period of time. If conflict occurs, it’s important to manage it as soon as possible. Talk about the issue at hand with all parties involved and don’t give up until you reach an amicable agreement. For more on how to deal with conflict, take a look here.
Prepare for bumps along the road
Not everything can go smoothly, so prepare for the unexpected. You know what they say – hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Even from the early stages, make it a priority to come up with a project risk management plan to resort to if things suddenly go sour. Assess the possible risks you’re dealing with and create contingency plans in case they actually materialize. What would you do if a key member of your team suddenly became unavailable? Or if you lost access to an important resource? Think about all possible risks and brainstorm strategies to overcome them.
It’s a temptation every project manager is up against sometime in their career, and for some it can be particularly difficult not to give in. Micromanaging, however, doesn’t bring anything good to the table – you’ll feel stressed and overwhelmed, while the members of your team will feel undervalued. Accept that you can’t be on top of everything at all times and learn to delegate and trust the experience of those around you. You’ve assembled this team for a reason, right?
Track your project…
Project managers often tend to prefer the best case scenario over reality. If you ask them about how the project is going, they’ll calmly say something like ‘we’ll get it done in time,’ even if they’re way behind schedule. Don’t fall into this trap. Clearly set milestones that need to be achieved in a certain time-frame and stick to them. If you fall behind, figure out a way to make up for the lost time. Don’t simply hope that things will fall back on track – make it happen!
…but be flexible
Stakeholders and clients have their own priorities and requirements, and they often tend to change their minds at the last minute. That’s OK. Never budget your time to the minute – instead, make sure to leave some wiggle room so that you’ll be able to deal with change requests or last-minute demands.
Projects sometimes wind up taking longer than planned and costing more than budgeted. It’s not pretty, but it happens. If you don’t want it to happen to you, follow the commandments above. You’ll significantly increase your chances of a successful outcome.