Project managers are working harder than ever before, even as we continue to have more knowledge, tools and technology available to us. The business world changes rapidly, competition increases, technology advances, and a project manager’s game is always changing. Here are 10 practices to focus on in order to hone your skills, deliver triumphant projects, and have a great experience doing your job.
1. Focus on customer needs.
The single biggest success factor for a project is whether it delivers what the customers really need. Don’t get caught focusing too much on what they want or their requirements because these are often not equivalent to what they truly need.
2. Challenge the status quo.
It’s no longer enough to turn up for work and deliver a project by following rules and protocols. The business world moves far too fast these days; and so, you have to stay alert and always challenge the status quo. This means being on the lookout for how teams can work smarter; knowing which new technologies can be employed; identifying how a project management process can be improved, and delivering extra benefits to set you apart from the competition.
3. Meet people face-to-face.
Projects are all about people. It’s important that you stay close to your team members and your stakeholders. Make a point to set up on-on-ones on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly). This improves communication, and builds trust and commitment for the project. If you work in a global or virtual organization, make use of all the great communication technology available.
4. Complete an accurate project plan
An accurate and detailed project plan is mandatory for success. Teams that come up with a well thought-out plan have a project success rate of 71 percent. Make sure that your plan clearly explains what the project will deliver, all the steps and tasks that are part of the project lifecycle and the estimated end-dates.
5. Assess project progress on a weekly basis.
Spend time with your team, or your project plan, to evaluate progress and keep your project schedule updated. These can be weekly triage meetings, status meetings, or spending time with your project scheduling software to see if you’re on track. If the project’s off-course, a regular check-in lets you take corrective actions right away – and to communicate any important information to you clients.
6. Review project risks in collaboration with your team.
Set up a regular meeting to review and update the project’s risks with your entire team. Open up the discussion to concerns and road blocks. Each team member sees the project in a different light, and can help identify risks, and provide solutions, that are particular to their field of expertise.
7. Be proactive – and resist fighting fires.
The key to success for any project manager is to be proactive. This means consistently focusing your attention on the project’s big picture and not over-reacting to small details and mini-crises. When you’re proactive you plan for a variety of scenarios, and are ready if they occur; you also know where to put your energy to deliver a successful project.
8. Learn to delegate.
We’ve all heard the value of delegating. To add maximum value to you team, organization and project you have to learn to delegate. Spreading the project wealth creates space to concentrate on the strategic aspects of the project, and the big picture. Get a project administrator on board and train your team leads to take on a more senior role. Or, step up and give team members more responsibility. People do great work when they feel more engaged and take on ownership – a good thing for everyone.
9. Keep your promises.
As a project manager it’s essential that what you say and do is credible, and that your clients and stakeholders trust you. Don’t make promises that make you sweat. When you take on an action or commit to a deadline, however big or small, you want to be able to follow through. Great project leads are reliable and trustworthy. Have the courage to tell your stakeholders the truth about what you can realistically do.
10. Support and challenge in equal measure.
To build a great team you have to support individuals to be successful and deliver; you also have to challenge your team members to stretch and grow. This combination of support and challenge motivates people to do their best work and feel part of a cohesive powerful team.
And we have more “dos” for you. Hone those skills and develop industry-leading project management habits. Download our eBook, 5 Practical Habits for Today’s Project Manager.