The success of any project relies on a project manager’s ability to design a tailored, project-specific methodical approach to project execution. The approach must align with the needs of the client and the strengths of their team. Creating an effective work structure requires a great deal of consideration and is not a role that just anyone can shoulder.
Of course, most project managers know that workflow management—or any other measure of project management success—is important, but how to do it right is often obtuse. For any experienced project manager, you know that figuring out the best project management tips and tricks come with time and experience.
And advice from seasoned project managers.
Project management success
Demonstrating these skills sets you apart from other project managers and boosts your employability and efficiency. Use this list to brush up on the seven steps for project management success in 2017, and learn how you can make this the best year of your career.
1. Plan your day using time management techniques
As a project manager, time management skills are essential because you are dealing with a wide range of tasks that demand a quick turnaround time. Planning your day will go a long way in keeping you organized and increasing your productivity. Assist your task planning by using project management software which helps you track the work of you and your team.
If you are not very tech savvy, a simple to-do list can also be a great organizational tool. Prioritize your most important tasks by putting them at the top of the list and less important ones at the bottom. Having a visual plan of your daily tasks helps to keep you on track and aware of time.
2. Include stakeholders in important project conversations
While you will have plenty of responsibilities regarding the project, don’t neglect your clients.
Good communication is essential is keeping both parties informed of project progression, curtailing scope creep, and apprised of changing requirements. Some clients may have different expectations when it comes to communication, so make sure to establish the frequency and type of communication (like emails, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations) at the beginning of your project.
Establishing communication expectations early helps alleviate stakeholder uncertainty about communication frequency and delivery. Plus, it can help you establish boundaries for when you are free to talk about the project, and when you’re too busy to have a conversation (unless, of course, it’s an emergency).
3. Regularly communicate with your team
“I think that all the important tips could be summarized with a metaphor: You should be like an Orchestra Director for your team, with a detailed project plan as score.” Jose Ignacio Bernaldo de Quiros Ochoa
Daily team communication helps keep misunderstandings and unclear requirements under control. Keeping your team informed in every step of the project is essential to project management success.
For example, a study published by Procedia Technology found that good communication skills were the cornerstone of project management. The study examined over 300 “construction project managers, architects, construction managers, engineers and quantity surveyors” and their successes and failures on various construction projects. Some of the study’s conclusions were as follows:
Respondents ranked the impact of the construction project mangers’ skill of communicating on the success of the project management the highest for leadership. The impact of the construction project managers’ skill to communicate on the success of the areas time, quality, cost and communication management is ranked second. Scope and risk management are ranked third, fourth is financial management… The construction project manager has to communicate effectively regarding cost, time and quality as three of the four cornerstone factors on which the success of a project depends, followed by scope. Time influences cost, and cost is communicated to the client, functionaries and stakeholders to execute the project within the approved budget and in time, according to the request of the client—the scope. The project manager needs to be a leader to communicate effectively with all parties. The successful execution of a construction project depends heavily on the construction project manager’s abilities as communicator to lead the team and manage a construction project successfully…Communication is the function that integrates cost, scope and time to achieve a quality product and may be seen as having a cornerstone function [in project management].
In other words, frequent clear communication positively influences how team members view their project manager as a leader, helps control product quality and project duration, and adds to successful risk and scope management.
Furthermore, the study found that some communication methods are more effective at communicating in a comprehensive, actionable way than others. The researchers found that communication works best in the following order, from most to least effective:
- Electronic communication (with the use of appropriate project tools)
- Written communication
- Oral communication
- Visual communication
- Nonverbal communication
My own experiences as a project manager reflect this study’s findings.
After noticing one of my colleagues was having a difficult time meeting deadlines, I confronted the situation and tried to find a solution that would benefit my whole team. We started using an online task manager called Asana, which improved not only my colleague’s productivity, but the entire team by helping them track their daily tasks.
I was able to tackle this minor issue before it affected the project because I had a steady flow of communication between myself and my team.
4. Anticipate project setbacks
Even the best-laid plans often go awry.
Remember that even with a high amount of planning and attention to detail, your project may still encounter some challenges. Pay attention to complaints from stakeholders or colleagues, and other warning signs, like a missed deadline or cost overrun, that there may be a problem.
Preventing a crisis will keep your project running smoothly, save you a lot of time, and keep you, your team, and your stakeholders confident in progressing with the project.
Unfortunately not every complication can be avoided. Crisis management skills are essential for dealing with the unexpected. Project managers need to be flexible and pragmatic. Improvise and make sharp decisions when needed.
The obstacles you encounter will give you a chance to excel as a project manager, so long as you learn from your solutions.
5. Know your limitations as a project manager
Too many projects are doomed to fail from the beginning because of unrealistic expectations. Setting impossible deadlines and assigning too much work to your colleagues will surely result in sloppy work and often missed deadlines.
Mistakes and late work can throw your project off course, necessitating patch-up work, timeline extensions, eroded stakeholder trust, and a frustrated team .
Taking the time to get to know your team will help you understand their strengths and weaknesses. This can assist you in assigning tasks based on each colleague’s skillset. Delegating tasks to the right person is very important because success relies on how well team members can execute on their tasks.
6. Stay focused on the details
A common problem project managers encounter is having the project aims not aligned with the organization’s objectives. A great project manager will strategize a plan for the project to lead back to the overall success of the business.
Know your project’s scope by heart and avoid wandering outside of the project’s requirements. It’s too easy to get lost in minor details and forget what your focus is, so a well-planned project scope is essential for success.
Having a predetermined timeline and budget will assist you in keeping a good foundation for your project, along with project milestones, check-ins, and a written list of requirements.
7. Keep current with the latest project management trends
Upskilling is important and highly beneficial to project management. Unfortunately, with the high workload and stress of working full-time, it can be difficult to find the time to expand your skill-set. Luckily it is quite easy to learn project management online, and some companies will even reimburse you for the cost of short courses.
Professional development should never stop. The workforce is constantly changing, adding in new productivity tools and project management roles that didn’t exist just five years prior.
Ensuring project management success
Essentially, a project manager must be an expert in leadership, communication, and organizational skills. With the high workload and stress, it is essential to have the skills required to bring you to the finish line. Staying accountable and aware of all aspects of your project will guide you to project management success.