Keeping on Track: 10 Project Management Tips
James Elliott August 9, 2018
Whether it’s a new process change, office move, or even organizing your wedding, projects are a key part of most of our professional and personal lives.
With quality, cost, and resource requirements to contend with, keeping projects on track can often be tricky.
After all, recent studies have shown only 37 percent of U.K. teams claim the majority of their projects actually hit their initial deadlines.
Despite this, being a project manager can be one of the most rewarding and exciting professions on the job market, with high salaries on offer for the highest performers.
10 project management tips
So, whether you’re new to the project management world, or you’d just like to top up your knowledge, here are some tips to help keep you on track!
1. Get the best start by identifying requirements
As the project manager, the success or failure of the project often rests on your shoulders, so it’s important you get off to the best start you can.
Often, a set of requirements, potentially in a business case, will have been the kick starter for the project being formed.
In larger projects, requirements may have been gathered by a business analyst. So, take the time to speak with them to clarify anything you are unsure of or think may need further exploring.
Once fully identified, use those requirements to fully understand and appreciate the task ahead of you. These requirements will not only give you guidelines for the resources and time-scales required for completion, but help inform the requirements of the team.
For example, with the list of resources required, you can match them up to certain trusted suppliers, putting the wheels in motion for the supply right away. You can then identify the skills and personalities required for each project role and match them with current or potential team members to maximize the overall team effectiveness.
2. Embrace taking responsibility
Within all projects, there will be various tasks that you will need to deliver and, in turn, help contribute to the overall end goal of the project.
Whether you’re new on a project team or working as a full-fledged project manager, embrace the responsibility without the overarching accountability that comes with senior positions.
Experiencing and delivering on a task that was assigned to you not only allows you to become a valued member of the team, but also hones your skills and gives you the chance to expand your learning. Especially in the early days, taking responsibility will give you the license to ask questions and try new methods until you find a style that suits you and the way you like to work.
As you progress, responsibility will become second nature, so embrace those opportunities that present themselves.
3. Create a collaborative culture
As a project manager, you will likely have a number of people alongside you on the project team, all working toward the deliverable goal – after all, you can’t do it all on your own!
The effectiveness of a team unit is often the make-or-break factor to project success. So, ensure you build a culture that allows every member to work at their best.
Ensure your team always feels comfortable asking questions and getting help when needed by creating a collaborative environment. Whilst in a management role, remember you are part of the team too. So, muck in with tasks where possible to help build a collaborative team spirit.
At the end of the day, a project is only as strong as the team members within it. Create an environment for people to flourish and boost your chances of ultimate success.
4. Organize your time
One of the most valuable skills any member of a project team can have is the ability to effectively manage their time.
With many different tasks to complete, milestones to hit, and problems to overcome, getting your schedule in shape is a must to ensure you can squeeze everything in. (Check out our 13 Strategies on How to Manage Multiple Projects in the Workplace.)
There are loads of techniques out there for making the most of your precious time, so there’s bound to be one that is just right for you. Anything from a simple to-do list, priority calendar, or something more advanced, such as Inbox Zero, may help you to be more productive and get the important things ticked off!
Plus, there's the mental and emotional boost in seeing a bunch of tasks ticked off the to-do list. (Or maybe that's just me.)
5. Pay attention to the details
We’ve all heard the common saying ‘the devil is in the detail.’ This remains true in project management.
From your requirements documentation, project plans, and even in your test cases, ensuring you have an eye for detail is a must to avoid any late surprises.
Many projects can become derailed by a simple oversight that could have easily been picked up further up on the chain. If you’re not naturally analytical, draw on the skills within your team to proof your work, check decisions, and review any documents that are made.
Incorporating a sound quality control and assurance policy should help you pick up on all those finer details. You might even find that a dedicated quality manager is a good appointment, if your project has the available resources.
6. You’re not just a project manager, you’re a team manager!
As we discussed in point three, your team can often be the make-or-break to ensuring project success.
So, while your goal is to serve your stakeholders, make sure to serve your team too.
Brush up on your people skills and learn to recognize signs of stress, disgruntlement, and unrest. With the high-pressure environment project management can often be, it’s essential to ensure your team members feel at their best.
There are many different approaches you can take here, each being different to the individual.
Team building sessions are a great way to build rapport, while flexible working hours allow your team members to manage their workload around personal commitments.
Most important of all, remember to be honest and fair in the way you manage your team. After all, if individuals on your team like you, they will work harder for you!
As a project manager, it's important you have a certain set of project management skills. Read our article to learn more about what those are and figure out how you can improve.
7. The customer is key
No matter the type, scale, or budget imposed on a project, one of the largest challenges we all face is stakeholder management.
Whether that’s your sponsors, suppliers, or the end user, keeping everyone happy throughout the entire project process can be an uphill battle.
Taking a stakeholder-focused approach to your projects will allow you to concentrate on keeping everyone on side. Ensure you are always communicating with your stakeholders, keeping them in the loop with any changes, deliverables, or hold-ups that may impact on them.
Planning your stakeholder communication effectively will enable you to identify the various needs of your stakeholders and communicate with them in a way that not only keeps them satisfied, but helps build a genuine, strong, and lasting relationship.
8. Utilize project management tools
As the business world has moved into the 21st century, technology has become a huge part of our lives.
In our professional roles, the use of information technology (IT) software allows us to streamline, automate, and better manage our day-to-day schedules. Put simply, if you’re not already using some sort of project management tool, you should be!
There are a ton of different project management software options on the market, all with varying features, services, and price points. There are even many free project management software tools available as well.
Alongside dedicated tools, you may also find that your company customer relationship management CRM software solution already has a project management module within it. This saves your organization the extra cost and admin of working across multiple systems.
(Check out our article explaining the difference in Goals vs Objectives.)
9. Project management certifications
While there is never any replacement for the experience of working on diverse projects, the project management profession is one of the best at recognizing and rewarding those with the proper certifications.
Depending on the type of projects you typically run and the time you have to dedicate, there’s bound to be a certification out there that suits you.
Alongside formal recognition, getting certified gives you the opportunity to brush up on your knowledge, as well as discovering new tools and techniques.
As a manager, encouraging and supporting your team in undertaking these certifications could be a big win not only for your team’s knowledge, but for your dynamic and staff satisfaction.
10. Stay up-to-date
Once certified, the learning journey doesn’t stop there.
With such a big community and following around the project management profession, new and exciting techniques are emerging regularly with the need for continual professional development (CPD) being a must to stay up-to-date.
Many of the certifying bodies have membership options, allowing for unlimited access to online learning resources and events, such as seminars and conferences, for project managers to meet and discuss ideas. Getting your CPD plan in place as soon as possible will help you to identify, map, and plan your learning to ensure you’re always up-to-date!
There you have it, our top 10 tips for keeping your projects on track!
With so many of us being part of projects in our personal and professional lives, it pays to get ahead of the crowd and work on your project management tools and techniques as often as you can!