The best project managers are those who deliver results on time, within budget and exceed expectations. In reality, getting the balance of these is often far easier said than done, particularly when you’re under pressure from your director and you’re juggling several things on the go. Improved productivity and better communication are key goals for many organisations in 2013. Here are my five top tips to chart a course for project success this year:
1. Know your project inside out
Make sure you have identified all the deliverables of a project and understand what is needed to reach a successful conclusion. A plan with timings should be drawn up and must be communicated to your team clearly. Ideally everyone should be able to refer to it at any time – this will increase visibility of priorities and help others to see how their contribution fits into the bigger picture. Having a clear understanding of what needs to be done will help you assign tasks to team members according to their strengths as well.
2. Clear communication and leadership
Without good communication things can fall apart very quickly. Teams should make it a priority to meet regularly and communicate feedback often. Using tools such as Mindjet can help with remote communication, facilitating an environment for feedback which everyone can feed into regardless of time or location. Good leadership is very important too. A good leader should motivate and coach team members, inspiring confidence in their management of the project. People need to feel the dynamics of the team they are in are positive too so managing various staff is also vital. This can mean making sure people know what to do, acknowledging when they accomplish something good and instilling a sense of purpose in their actions as part of the project lifecycle.
Often, the reason projects fail is because several dependencies were just not made clear and the consequences were not identified in the early stages of the project – I cannot emphasise enough how important clear communication is.
3. Play to your team’s strengths
A team leader may be working with a predetermined team, or have the ability and responsibility of assembling a team. In either scenario, team leaders must understand the talents, the strengths, and the weaknesses of each of their individual team members. Assigning the right task to the best team member is critical for project success. You can imagine what happens when leaders make incorrect pairings. Even the best of teams can run aground if the team leader fails to match up the tasks according to teammate’s strengths.
4. Think about how you display different pieces of information
Hierarchical information is generally easy to understand without the need for too much explanation. The relationships that are implicitly given by a hierarchy seem to be obvious and do not need explicit explanations. In contrast to this are graph based representations (as given in concept mapping). In such presentations, the user first tries to find starting points and a certain kind of ordering in order to understand the information. Often our brain seems to try to map the graph to a hierarchy for better understanding, so making sure you’re sharing information in a way that can be easily processed is important, especially if you want your project to get off to a good start!
5. Assess and reflect
A project manager’s role doesn’t end when a project is delivered. Reflection on what could be improved, what worked and what didn’t is very important. Get feedback from all team members to see if they can add anything else. Once all insights have been gathered make sure they are actionable for next time. Making the right decisions has an enormous impact on business success and on your teams. By compiling relevant internal and external information to formulate this feedback in one overview, you can quickly identify strengths and weaknesses in processes, and drill down into detail to make decisions on where improvements can be made for future projects.