As you develop your skills for project management, you will find that some things work for managing all projects, from house construction, software development, or even the most complex projects like interstate highways or the space program. As a Project Manager you are expected to be optimistic, to look for the best case, and to focus on what can be done rather than what should not be done.
1. Get All The Facts
Don’t take the first answer you receive as a fact. When managing a project, project managers are constantly negotiating project details with a group of stakeholders. Every day consists of negotiating dates, prices, deliverables, and even deadlines.
The more you drill into the details, the more questions you ask, and the more experience you gain the easier the fact gathering will become. You will quickly find that the task at hand might be done in a fraction of the original time quoted. Resources sometimes are trained to spread the work out over as long a time period as possible. Project Managers must be trained to recognize when this is happening and quickly put an end to that behavior.
2. Track The Details
Don’t get so busy tracking the project that you forget the details that make up the project. It’s easy to get caught in the mindset of managing a project as just being a series of activities related to making sure checklists are updated, processes are followed, and procedures are implemented. Meanwhile, the project you are responsible for managing is out of control. You job is to manage the details of the project, not just plug facts into a document and present it at a meeting. Your job is to make decisions and use innovative and creative thinking to get the project done. When it’s all said and done you will end up with a project that is complete and bringing value to the organization, and not just a piece of paper with a bunch of checkmarks on it.
3. Realistic Timelines
Backing in to a project schedule entails trying to determine the time and resources you feel would enable you to achieve project success while ignoring the question of how likely it is that you will be able to get the required amounts of time and resources. Instead of backing in, consider the time and resources that you realistically feel you would be able to secure and to explore different ways of using them to increase your chances of being able to successfully complete your project.
4. Remain Calm
Managing a project is stressful and difficult at times. It’s your job to be unflappable when chaos and confusion is thrown your way. You are in the front of your team taking the brunt of the politics, shifting priorities, indecision, and limited resources. Your job is to remain calm and shield your team from these areas of concern, process what needs to be done next, and then bring clarity and focused direction for others to follow. Don’t overreact to what is thrown your way. When possible, sweat the details in private, and announce your decision and new directions using a calm voice and steady appearance. When it comes to managing a project team, people want to follow and respect someone who is in control, not someone who is panicked by chaos and indecision.
5. Expect Team Members To Work
Your background might someone who has come up through the ranks in a particular technical area (perhaps an Engineer, Developer, Business Analyst, etc.) and something that needs to get done is something you can do yourself. You need to fight that urge and don’t allow yourself to do the work assigned to someone else. Get it back to the person that was responsible for the deliverable being right and have them correct the issue. It’s about everyone respecting each other’s functions, not you trying to be mean to the person or the team.. Your function on this project is that of a Project Manager and all the responsibility that entails. Your function is not that of an Engineer, Developer, or Business Analyst.
6. Escalate When Required
Escalation is an art when managing a project timeline. When you escalate too early, people will think you are someone that cries wolf all the time and begin to tune you out. If you escalate too late, you will quickly lose credibility and effectiveness as a project manager and find your career heading toward trouble. As a rule of thumb, always identify those areas that have the greatest risk for blowing up on a project and impacting a number of other departments and organizations.
7. Focus on Results
Project Managers love the details. They like to know how things work, we like to understand what drives people to make the decisions they make, and why people act the way they do every day. This fascination with details could also get you distracted from the overall project. Stay away from focusing too much attention on the small details, and track the overall project. The the job of the experts on your teams is to figure out all the technical details. Your job is to continue to drive success for the entire project.
8. Wait for Success
As you see the end of the project quickly approaching, you might be tempted to ease up on the project plan, let some target dates slip, or just declare the project over. The project isn’t finished until you reach the 100% mark. The reality is that you can’t assume a problem or unexpected issue won’t sneak up on you and you’ll you need every possible minute to work through them. Don’t declare the project over, and don’t quit managing the project, until every task is complete.