Project management is an art which has to be understood both in terms of theory and practical application to be utilised in a successful way. There are dozens (sometimes thousands) of things that can go wrong on any project, from small integration processes to the biggest engineering projects in the world. It is the project manager’s responsibility to ensure that they are dealt with as quickly as possible with as little disruption caused to the project as possible.
There are a lot of good project managers, but not many great ones – how can you elevate what you do to ensure that you’re a level above everyone else working in the project management field?
Be proactive, not reactive
Good project managers plan for problems before they occur, rather than waiting for them to happen and then dealing with them. Coming up with solutions ahead of time helps keep the project to its deadlines.
It’s important to remember that certain tasks within the project will need to be completed before further work can be started. Proper scheduling of the different parts of the project will avoid any dependency-based delays.
Remember that people are human
While you’ll be working with project management systems and other pieces of software, remember that people do the work and circumstances might affect their performance. Accommodate them where possible – they’re not machines – but remember that they may not be giving 100% all of the time, which may affect the project as a whole. Support them, don’t berate them.
Say what you mean
It wavers into micromanagement a tad, but it’s important that no instruction you give is left open to interpretation. This increases the chances of mistakes occurring because you weren’t clear, which can lead to resentment from your team.
Take a step back
Even while ensuring that the tasks to be completed are clear in terms of what you require from them, you shouldn’t be breathing over your team’s collective shoulders and supervising everything they do. You need to stay focused on the big picture rather than getting lost in the details.
Push against those above to protect those below
A great project manager isn’t afraid to take on those above them (the project stakeholders, board members and so on) in order to avoid putting undue pressure on the people actually doing the work. Unreasonable levels of pressure will affect the morale, productivity and quality of work completed, so if too much demand is being placed on employees, you’re the one who has to say something.
Forge strong relationships with your team
As project manager, it’s your job to foster commitment and engagement with the project among the team members below you. The whole team has to be motivated to complete the job to the highest level possible, so you all need to agree on deadlines and communicate openly to ensure that the work gets done on time.
Utilise team members’ strengths
Everyone has strengths, but it can be difficult to focus on utilising them when everyone has weaknesses that have to be dealt with as well. A great project manager will focus on giving people the tasks that play to their strengths and work around their weaknesses.
Stick to deadlines
It should go without saying, but it’s still an issue for a lot of people – if you don’t stick to the deadlines that you may well have had a hand in setting, the project will be off the rails before you know it.