If you’ve ever worked on a project that took a long time to complete and cost way more than it should, then you know the havoc that bad project management can wreak. You are not alone in this.
Within today’s market environment, where as opposed to in the workplace, an growing number of workers work remotely, project management is even more important for companies that prioritize providing outstanding customer value.
The rapid evolution of technologies, trends, and the broader economic landscape requires business leaders and managers to proactively and continuously update their abilities and project management effectiveness. This helps them stay ahead of the game and continue to meet the organization’s goals and milestones.
Project management is the task of keeping any given project on target to meet its goals within optimal parameters. It involves all the organizational duties that keep the work pipeline clear of roadblocks, bottlenecks and other challenges so that the rest of the team can execute their own duties as effectively as possible.
Sometimes this also means figuring out how to optimize the workflows already in place and devising more efficient ways of completing various stages of the project. In other words, when a business seeks to minimize waste and maximize output, project management is essential for that process.
Depending on the industry, project management is generally accomplished through:
- An established set of processes, best practices and workflows
- A suite of project management tools, such as a task manager (Trello, Asana), a database manager (Airtable), a calendar (Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook Calendar), or some combination of the three (Kyber)
- An outstanding degree of organizational expertise
While individual organizations might follow their own unique internal processes, project management generally involves the following four major phases.
1. Initiation, planning and kickoff
A team member with effective project management skills establishes and clarifies details of the assignment with higher-ups and clients, starts building a timeline based on deadlines and allotted budget, then organizes an introductory meeting to start the process off on the right foot. The employee adjusts calendars and costs as needed following feedback from various teams.
2. Development, review and approval
While the rest of the team is brainstorming, pitching and mocking potential avenues for project execution, the team member acting as project manager is requesting and sharing feedback from necessary parties, ensuring that communication channels are clear and constructive. The project manager also guarantees whatever explicit approvals are required to proceed with the agreed-upon execution.
3. Production, execution and delivery
As teams get to work setting the project in motion, a key stakeholder will use project management skills to keep track of deliverables—the actual items being created or worked on that need to change hands in a clear, uniform fashion. If the project is digital, it might mean working with a quality assurance (QA) team to test those deliverables (or with an editorial team to copy edit them) before the official launch.
4. Financial closing, postmortem and archiving
When the project is completed officially, an successful project manager ensures that all necessary invoices are paid out and calculates the project’s final cost. The project manager organizes a wrap-up meeting to discuss the project’s progress and highlight how similar projects in the future might be strengthened. Finally, the employee ensures that the project is properly documented and its deliverables stored for future reference.
So how could you be better? Here are some tips.
1. Be a proactive project manager
If you’ve been granted a front-row ticket to observe the project management field for very long, you’ve probably identified 3 main types of project managers.
a) Accidental project manager: The “accidental” project manager is someone who comes through the ranks and may have been selected to lead a project because of their extensive technological skills but not their skill in managing people. A strong network technician, for example, might be asked to head up the network upgrade because he understands the system better than anyone else.These people may fall into the role with a lot of specific project knowledge, but they may struggle with branching into the team-building, management category of the work.
b) Good project manager: The “good” project manager is someone who handles the business’ knowledge as well as its management portions well, but they tend to be more reactive than proactive in approach. They do the planned stuff, but no more. They follow the rules, but they stop short of creating something better.
c) Proactive project manager: A “proactive” project manager has plans to deal with issues before they occur, and is one step ahead of the needs of the client. They have put together ways of communicating with everyone involved and holding each member accountable for their share of the overall picture. A great way to do this is to integrate resources for team communication this answer in real time.Proactive project managers do all they can to ensure no time is lost due to miscommunication, misunderstanding expectations, or putting productive energies into the wrong venues. (Basically this type of professional knows that being a project manager is their one true calling.)
2. Begin with the end in mind
In project management, as with anything, it’s easy to go into analysis paralysis. When multiple people take a project, and break it down into pieces of their own real estate, sometimes it can get difficult to stay focused on the final picture. Everyone’s work must come together in the end. Egos must be set aside for the greater congruency of the overall picture. It’s much easier to work together when everyone is focused on the final team outcome, not on stealing the spotlight and looking like a rock star.
3. Put first things first
Tackle your most impactful, important things first. This means you don’t allow little distractions and rabbit trails to take your focus away from the main areas in your project.
For instance, if you have to complete very important things during the day, you will eliminate distractions before you have completed your most important tasks. This could mean turning off your morning email alerts and text pings so you can carry out your most urgent project assignments.You can still get to other less urgent items later after you’ve finished your biggest daily goals. Save time for more important items by learning to automate tedious, draining tasks with gantt chart software.
4. Think win/win
Working together with people on a project is a great way to improve your team-building skills. It may mean compromising certain strategies for the greater good of all. If you win, and everyone else doesn’t, you don’t have a team but a dictatorship. In order to create the best possible outcome for your coworkers, clients, and superiors, you have to think about how your actions will impact the “wins” of others as well as yourself.
Finding a win / win scenario is often more challenging. It takes more creativity, more thought and more communication than some people want to invest in. However, when you make the effort to come up with a solution that benefits everyone, you open up additional doors to increased productivity, team confidence and overall project synergy.
Try out the tips and translate them specifically to your project management process. You’ll see great benefits in the final end product, gain more respect from your peers, and enjoy the adventure of reaching your greatest success surrounded by a cohesive team.
Check out my related post: Do you need the consultant’s handbook?