14 Quick Tips to Becoming a Better Project Manager
How to be a better project manager:
- Set goals & priorities for the projects(s)
- Write everything down
- Use a consistent estimating & scoping process
- Use helpful/supplemental PM tools
- Delegate properly
- Ensure everyone is in agreement with the plan
- Be realistic & honest
- Be as detailed & organized as possible
- Work smarter, not harder
- Hold regularly scheduled meetings
- Have a backup plan
- Communicate consequences to avoid scope creep and/or disappointment
- Be a team leader
As a delivery lead at IMPACT, I am constantly trying to educate myself and learn better, more efficient ways to execute on strategy, all while managing a couple handfuls of clients in addition to my internal team.
Being a project manager is a busy job, no doubt, but by utilizing the best tools, processes, and professional advice, it can be one of the most rewarding careers, at least in my opinion.
Now, there seem to be thousands of project management tips out there, but in this article, I’ve narrowed them down to 14 of my favorite -- and most utilized.
1. Set Goals & Priorities for the Project(s), and Re-evaluate Them Frequently
If you don’t have something to work backwards from, planning and managing become very hard. Know what you’re working towards by setting SMART goals and even project checkpoints if it makes sense. Then you can properly execute and measure your progress, making it easier to know what the success of a project looks like.
2. Write Everything Down
As a project manager, you’re constantly getting new information and juggling a bunch of tasks. Write everything down. Don’t just try to remember all the details; trust me, it will not work. Use a notebook or a digital space where you can keep your notes. Doing this gives you a great reference to go back to in case you forget something -- which you unavoidably will.
3. Use a Consistent Estimating & Scoping Process
Regardless of which project management processes you use, make sure you’re using the same process for all projects. This will help deter any confusion from yourself, your team, and the client, and it will keep things running smoothly.
4. Use Helpful/Supplemental PM Tools
Your company may already be invested in a specific project management tool for estimating, scheduling, and delegating, however, there is nothing wrong with using some smaller, supplemental tools to help keep you organized as well!
Tools like Trello, Evernote, Slack, GatherContent, and InVision can truly improve team collaboration and communication in multiple aspects of any project.
5. Delegate Properly
It’s important to remember to involve the right people in the right project. For example, if you’re working on a website project, you’ll probably want to defer to the deisgner or web developer on your team for specific parts.
Don’t think you should know everything; put your trust in the people around you and assign tasks to the right people for the job.
6. Ensure Everyone is in Agreement with the Plan
This is important for clear communication. Even though a plan or strategy is set, it’s not even close to being finalized.
Make sure all team members and clients have seen and understand it. If there is any pushback or any questions, make sure you listen carefully and deliver a clear explanation.
After presenting the strategy, make sure everyone is in agreement with what the plan is. Don’t just take their word for it; get it in writing. This will be super helpful if something changes mid-project, or the client starts to stray away from the plan.
7. Be Realistic & Honest
Honesty and transparency are important in both planning and delivering work. Don’t lie just to impress the client or embellish the work you’ve done. Give honesty to get honesty.
Be realistic when setting timelines and creating estimates. If the client absolutely wants a six-week project done in only three weeks, don’t agree to it. Instead, clearly explain the value of taking an additional three weeks to deliver a well-thought-out project versus one that was done quickly and carelessly. Chances are they hired you for your heads, not your hands, and they will appreciate you taking charge.
8. Be as Detailed & Organized as Possible
As a project manager, it’s almost a requirement that you have the ability to be detailed and organized. Your team (and client) rely on you to keep the project moving, and in order to do that, it needs to be well-thought-out and well-documented. Help everyone involved by proactively getting them what they need before they even ask for it.
9. Work Smarter, Not Harder
This one is simple. Always be improving your efficiencies and processes. Document all successful performance methods so you can use them again and again, and continue to make them better. You can never be too efficient.
It is better to know too much than to not know enough. Ask too many questions, get clarification on everything, and as I mentioned in #2, write everything down.
Knowing more information allows you to be more detailed and accurate in your execution. It will also help eliminate guesswork, which leads to fewer delays and more on-time projects.
11. Hold Regularly Scheduled Meetings
It’s important to hold meetings that benefit everyone involved. Feedback and approval from both parties help shape the final outcome, and regular communication is key to keeping everyone on the same page. If necessary, schedule meetings around specific delivery points in your project to keep things moving at the set pace.
12. Have a Backup Plan
In case something falls through or plans change (which they always seem to do), you should definitely have a backup plan.
Delivering value to your client is the most important thing on your list, so know how you can do this even if you need to make a few changes. If you have something ready to go, you can make the transition a quick and easy one.
13. Communicate Consequences to Avoid Scope Creep and/or Disappointment
If you’ve ever had a client who has delayed a project, raise your hand. (I’m totally raising both hands right now.)
One really important thing I’ve learned as a Delivery Lead is to clearly communicate everything to everyone.
Part of that is to set specific consequences for not sticking to the plan.
For example, if a client is going to be even a day late on getting you their feedback, you need to let them know the consequences of that change. How will it affect the rest of the project? What does that mean for them? For your team?
If you don’t set consequences, they won’t expect anything to change, and you’ll be working against a deadline you didn’t plan for.
14. Be a Team Leader
Support your team no matter what. If they need help, give it to them. If they have opinions that challenge yours, listen to them.
Your team doesn’t work for you; they work with you.
Without them, you couldn’t achieve the goals that are set, so make sure they know just how important they are to the success of every project.
What Do You Do to Improve?
Do you have any special tools you use to keep yourself organized and keep your projects moving forward? Or perhaps you’re subscribed to some awesome Project Management blogs that offer great advice. Whatever you do, I want to know!
Comment in the section below to help Project Managers everywhere become even better at what they do.
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