In honor of National Superhero Day on April 28th, this article gives tips on how we can rise to “superhero status” as project managers. Successful projects can make you feel extraordinary, while failed ones can leave you feeling like the villain. At times, it can seem like projects are doomed from the start, and the outcome is completely outside of your control. But that’s not a superhero mindset, even the most difficult projects can be turned around with courage and some trusty best practices. There are many ways to swoop in and save the day – even if you don’t have super strength, extraordinary speed, or telepathy.
First, let’s define what project success really means. In order to hit the mark, here are the three things a hero project manager must do:
- Execute with speed (Deliver the project on time)
- Protect all assets (Stay on budget)
- Lead to a great outcome (Ensure stakeholder satisfaction)
These are all common goals of project managers in any organization. But oftentimes, it’s a difficult task to accomplish for the average civilian. Here are some quick tips for positioning yourself to be the superhero project manager:
1. Execute with speed
Did you know that only 16% of people say they always hit their deadlines? There are so many moving parts to projects that oftentimes, project managers can feel like they don’t have control over the delivery date. In most cases, project managers aren’t the functional manager of project team members, and it isn’t always clear what priorities have been set. Those project team members and resources, in general, can often be pulled in different directions causing the team to miss important milestones for that project.
And according to McKinsey, only 52% of executives cite that their employees’ time allocation matches company priorities. A great way to swoop in as the hero is to ensure the project team is working on the right priorities for the company. When in doubt about project priority and what is most important, be the fearless leader and ask your executives!
Speed and efficiency come when the most important work is prioritized and not interrupted for lower priority work. Using Project Management software can help alleviate the burden of micromanaging off the project manager’s plate, particularly if it offers a priority system for projects in the portfolio and keeps everyone aligned on target deadlines. If you use LiquidPlanner’s priority-based software, you can estimate when projects will be completed with 90% confidence so that you can be the superhero project manager with minimal effort.
2. Protect all assets
One of the biggest missteps a project manager can make is delivering the project over budget. Coming in over budget can happen when you underestimate a team member’s time to complete tasks or the amount of resources needed to complete the project. When a project ends up costing significantly more than estimated, the project manager is sometimes made to be the villain. The way to avoid this is to estimate costs upfront before the project starts. Using a project management tool helps to ensure the project will be within budget before it even starts. When teams input their estimates in ranges for how long each task will take and reserve the resources needed to complete the project, good things come your way, and your chances of running over go down. Using a solution that builds ranged estimates into the schedule like LiquidPlanner helps project managers wrangle uncertainty with the power of planning intelligence and helps give you superhero status.
3. Lead to a great outcome
Your project could be delivered on time and within budget, but your teammates and leadership may not be satisfied with the outcome for a few different reasons. One example is that the team may need to work overtime for months to meet unreasonable deadlines. This causes an undue amount of stress on workers, leading to burnout and churn. It’s critical to ensure your team has a balanced workload throughout the entire project to combat these stressors. Ensuring your resources are being utilized correctly is a great way to position yourself as a superhero to your peers. You can get credit for maintaining a healthy workload and delivering the project with ease.
Another reason a project may be unsatisfactory to leadership may be missing key components that leadership or the client was expecting. A great way to ensure you are aligned with leadership’s goals is to set KPIs upfront. Make sure you understand the main requirements of the project and communicate when you may need to cut corners before you do so. Regular check-in’s with stakeholders through the project life cycle to ensure alignment is key to achieving that superhero status. Project Management software can more easily position you to be the project’s hero to senior leadership through dynamic high-level dashboards. LiquidPlanner provides intelligent insights to highlight problems before they arise so you can be proactive about potential problems rather than triaging them at the last minute.
When you’re asked to manage a strategic project or come in and save one that’s gone sideways, there’s always a bit of an adrenaline rush. You realize that you’re being deemed an expert to some degree, and management needs you badly. Some superhero project managers are outside consultants, coming in as the savior to a failing project. And often, project managers are internal employees managing a project from any stage of its lifecycle. Everyone wants to save the day and be perceived as the hero of the project.These three best practices will help position you as the hero if you are an outside consultant or an internal employee. Superheroes have never done their job for its glory; they do it to make the world a better place. Readers – what are your experiences when coming in to save projects? What are some times when you have felt like a hero for a difficult project?
About the Author
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. He has been named the #1 blog to follow in 2022 and the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, eBooks, white papers, and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.