Many employees work hard at their allotted roles, getting lost in the minutiae of their assigned tasks without getting a real feel for how they are contributing to their projects as a whole. This is why the role of a project manager is so crucial. Effective project management helps to make the most of the collective knowledge and capabilities of a team.
Things can and do go wrong, as anyone who has had to manage projects knows. However, having an organised, systematic and specific project management plan and using the right tools to keep your team on track are the keys to keeping your project on the road to success and leading your team—like a boss!
Here are some of the most important steps you should have in your project management plan, as well as some tips on how to be an even more effective leader.
1. Prepare to manage the project
Before you can effectively manage a project, you will first have to equip yourself with all the tools you will need to be a successful project manager. If you don’t already have an efficient project management system in place, it is crucial that you devise one at this point.
Reading a guide to project management can be a great help, especially if you haven’t already read something similar. You will then need to procure tools such as templates for your methodology, project charter, risk management and reports.
2. Decide what you need to successfully complete the project
While it might seem as if nobody in their right mind would plunge head first into a project without first determining what was needed for successful completion, in reality this happens painfully often.
Before beginning work on a project, you need to first determine what the main goals of the project are, what needs to be done and who or what is needed. It is also a good idea to hold a meeting at this stage to determine which team members will be brought on board and to get a better idea of the capacity of each to take on their assigned roles.
3. Devise a game plan
When you have ascertained the resources you will need to successfully complete a project, you will then need to devise a detailed plan charting the steps you will take from the start of the project to completion. While your plan can and probably will change, and in fact it is a good idea to allow for some flexibility, it is crucial to have an end goal, no matter how nebulous, in sight.
You will also have to ensure your plan is realistic given the limitations of your organisation and its capabilities. Having thorough planning processes in place can also help you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation and capitalise on or rectify them in future.
Other factors you will want to consider are the scope and cost of the project, the communications, human resources and risk burdens that will be imposed on your organisation and the quality of work that is expected by the client.
4. Check in often
Once the project is in progress, that doesn’t mean your job is done and that you can just coast all the way to completion. Good project management requires you to check in often and always be apprised of what is going on at any one time. You also need to have a sound methodology for monitoring and evaluating the progress of the project.
5. Meet often
While part of a project manager’s job is indeed to pore over and analyse data, it is also important to hear from your team members on the ground. Call for meetings regularly. Some project managers might prefer to schedule weekly meetings, while in other situations it might be more appropriate to peg meetings to stages of the project.
In any event, team members should never leave a meeting without knowing when the next one will be. For best results, have a clear agenda before commencing the meeting, follow it scrupulously and conclude the meeting as soon as possible. Meetings should enable you to assess how the project is going, let your team members know how to proceed post-meeting and if necessary identify where things have gone wrong and what needs to change.
6. Make adjustments where needed
Checking in on the progress of your project is only helpful if you are willing to make adjustments to your plan as and when they are needed. The need for adjustments can come in many forms. Perhaps you realise after some time that your team does not have sufficient capacity or capability and that you need to outsource some tasks. Perhaps one of the steps in your original plan has proved ineffective. Perhaps the requirements of the client have changed and you need to make changes to achieve the new goals. Whatever the reason, making adjustments should be done in consultation with your team.
Project management tips
Once you’ve gotten all the tools you need and fixed all the steps for project management firmly in your mind, half the battle is won. To help you even further, here are some tips that can help you successfully manage a project with finesse.
Encourage feedback from team members
While managing a project imbues you with a certain degree of authority, it is always wise to take feedback from your team members seriously. As they are the ones doing much of the work on the ground, they are in a great position to help you identify what’s working and what’s not worth the effort. Be approachable and encourage your team members to provide feedback. When trying to devise plans or decide how to move forward, encourage team members to brainstorm. Doing so not only helps your project to flourish but also gives your team members a sense of ownership that will encourage them to do their best work.
Manage the project, don’t do the work
Managing a project is a full-time job, and while your team members may ask you for help, resist the temptation to get sucked in by work on the ground. It is exceedingly difficult to effectively manage a project if you’re getting lost in the minutiae of particular tasks. If your organisation is experiencing a manpower shortage and you’re swamped with work that impedes your project management capabilities, it might be time to consider outsourcing, hiring or contracting.
Select your team members with care
Choosing the people in your organisation to include on your team and allocating tasks is easier said than done and requires intimate knowledge of the people you work with and the dynamics between then.
Assigning an arduous role to a team member who looks good on paper but is considering a career change or retirement can result in lacklustre performance. Assigning tasks that are beyond the scope and capability of a team member can lead to frustration and tears. Making two team members whose working styles are at odds with each other work closely together can be a recipe for disaster.
Project management is a complex task, but with enough experience and the right tools, you will with time find yourself doing much better. There is a huge array of instructional material and tools available to aspiring project managers and they can go a long way towards systematising and simplifying the seemingly arduous job of ensuring a project runs smoothly from start to finish.
If you still can’t quite get a handle on how to manage a team with poise and efficiency, know that effective project management is most certainly not out of reach. Equip yourself with all that is necessary to successfully see a project through to completion.