Imagine you’re working hard on a project you believe in, and you are really enjoying the work. But the project reaches a critical inflection point, and you realize that it’s completely over budget, off schedule, and in danger of being branded a failure. Most of us have been there, and it is often unclear exactly what went wrong. That project was likely suffering from bad-project-management-itis, a very common phenomenon.
The need for project managers has grown across all industries, but effective PMs are not a dime a dozen. Successful project management requires continuous skill development, practice, and discipline. The following seven tips can help lay the foundation for project management success.
1. Be a Leader
As the head of a project, the project manager must be a strong leader. Leadership requires a wide range of skills, including planning and organization, problem solving, communication, time management, and delegation. Projects are formed with multiple team members, and a PM should be able to delegate responsibilities to the appropriate parties and provide the right amount of support and encouragement. PMs must set clear goals at the start of the project and keep the project moving forward, even in the face of setbacks. As leaders, they must be available to their team members throughout the course of the project.
2. Be Realistic
While meeting a project’s main objective is going to be your priority as PM, being realistic throughout all stages of the project is equally important. If a company thinks a project should only take a certain amount of time, and you know that deadline is not attainable, then speak up. When you set clear expectations and are transparent with your projections, companies will respect your professional expertise. And when you set realistic goals, you’re not only being honest with the stakeholders, but you’re also setting your team up for success. While optimism and lofty goals can be beneficial in certain situations, a realistic mindset will help you stay the course.
3. Be Organized
As a PM, your focus will be taken in many different directions; therefore, organization and time management are crucial to your success. Projects include multiple layers, and creating schedules and identifying both short-term and long-term goals will help you and your team stay focused. If you need help with time management and could use the additional accountability, then you may want to consider using some type of project management software program that can help you stay organized. These programs will allow you to create schedules, update project documents, and check the status of tasks without feeling like you are drowning under piles of paperwork. If your budget is tight, there are plenty of free tools available, such as Google Calendar and Drive.
4. Be a Strong Communicator
When managing a project, communication is essential for keeping all the moving parts in order. As PM, you are the main point of contact, and everyone involved in the project will expect regular updates and feedback from you. Establishing a clear communication plan from the start will help you manage and tailor those conversations for optimum productivity. Communication is also a key ingredient in teamwork. If team members don’t know how you feel, then they can’t gauge their progress and won’t know if they need to make any changes. You must also be diligent in communicating project delays or other issues to all stakeholders, in order to avoid misunderstandings and disappointments.
5. Be a Listener
Along with being an effective communicator, being a good listener is a key component to a PM’s success. Essentially, PMs receive and send information, and they must practice active listening, which includes being engaged, asking questions, and gathering feedback. Even before the project begins, a PM needs to listen carefully to all of the intricate details that the project will require, ensuring that nothing will be missed during the project’s life cycle. In the end, being an active listener can save the project both time and money.
6. Be a Problem Solver
When is the last time you heard of someone creating the perfect project plan and nothing going wrong? We all know that is rarely the case. Issues will arise, and the PM is required to successfully troubleshoot those problems. Creating an action plan before problems arise will help alleviate the stress of coming up with solutions on the spot. Using problem-solving strategies, successful PMs can be ready to respond when something goes wrong, and they can be even more ready to deliver the appropriate solution.
7. Be a Forward Thinker
In this ever-changing digital landscape, PMs cannot employ the same old strategies to each new project. Successful PMs must be forward thinkers, constantly learning new processes and improving upon existing ones. For instance, a PM might find himself or herself working with remote teams from all over the world or be asked to create a project plan based on social and sustainable practices. These situations may be unfamiliar at first, but the PM can gain the necessary knowledge and skills through online project management courses or by obtaining different project management certifications. By investing in continual career development and training, you can be a project manager that leads by example.