A project manager plays many a role –they are facilitators, managers, problem-solvers and even interpreters – translating business needs into actionable plans for teams and aligning resources. To say their role, especially in the digital age, is an indispensable one would be an understatement; project managers are critical to the success of a business, especially in the fast-moving world of IT and software. With so much on their plate, project managers are always pushed to strive towards improvement, which can be quite taxing, but if you follow these steps, you will be able to bring your project management game to a whole new level.
The key to success
It all starts with communication. Great communication is the key to success in any area of life and business is no exception. Be sure to always be in tune and in touch with all the members of your team – C-level executives, technical project team members, the finance department, human resources external customers – in one word – everyone. Without constant flow and exchange of information regarding everything from goals, current progress, present and hypothetical obstacles to workarounds and expectations, you run a great risk of your project failing. Stay informed and keep others informed in every step and stage of the project. Emails, meetings, status reports, project plans; each of these present powerful and effective tools for fostering and achieving effective communication, so make sure you use every tool at your disposal.
Timing is everything
The digital era has brought many benefits and perks, but it also serves as one of the great distractors in every modern workplace. A great project manager has to be particularly savvy and skillful when it comes to time management and keeping their team focused and on track. According to Mike McRitchie, career and small business strategist one of the best strategies is to note the tasks that must happen in a particular order, the project’s “critical path”, making sure to tightly manage those handoff points, as these particular points are those where projects can be delayed and where the end result is a missed project deadline. Timing your team is also a vital part of timely goal achievement. By tracking your team’s time for the project, you will be able to obtain a solid estimate on the average time specific tasks take. Therefore, when you look and analyze the time needed to complete a past project, you will have a good picture of the average speed of each team member’s performance and hence have information on how much time you need to allocate to each member for any future project.
For the sake of doing your job as effectively as possible, use all the digital tools available – that is what they are here for. There are management tools designed to cater a variety of needs, ranging from task managements, team collaboration, time tracking, to invoicing and client permission, so conduct a best project management tools comparison and find a tool that includes the features you deem essential to your company and project needs. Once you have found the right solution it is easy to keep a close watch on projects to make sure they are on track, as you will be able to use those tools to monitor timing, open discussions with your team members, check whether any of them has too much on their plate and much more. You can also adopt a few protocols to help keep those chronically late team members alert and more efficient by building in extra time for approvals.
In order for your team members to be happy and therefore more productive, it is your job to create a positive working environment. That starts by ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard; make your members feel like they have a say, that their input matters – in short, make them feel appreciated. Their efforts should be acknowledged and recognized, and their contributions valued on your part. A good leader knows how to praise his team when things are working well, but the mark of a great leader is being able to show appreciation and provide encouragement when things are not running smoothly. It is of the utmost importance to recognize people’s efforts even when things are not going according to time and plan. As Thomas Wooldridge, IT project manager at Relamark.com states: “This is probably the most important part which often gets overlooked. Many people feel they have thankless jobs, and compliments can make a person feel really good. Go out of your way and thank them.” It may seem like a small thing, saying thank you, but in the eyes of your members, this counts as a huge gesture and it has an immense impact on moral boost.
For a project manager it is easy to get sucked into stressing over matters such as time, budget, and scope management – those are PM’s primary obligations after all. However, a great PM knows that another highly important part of their job is to be there for people and lend a helping hand when they need one – help them stay on track and prevent them from getting overwhelmed. The best way to do that is by actually knowing your team members, particularly being in the know about their strengths and weaknesses. By being familiar with these, the PM can better predict what challenges may arise and how to overcome them, as well as which assignments are or are not suitable for a particular member. Leadership is about more than adhering to standards – it is about listening, pitching in and helping your team overcome obstacles, and as a PM you are well-aware that obstacles will always be an integral part of a project’s cycle, so your role as a helper and motivator is a permanent one.