Some software developers would have you beloved that programmes and plans alone will manage a project. NOT TRUE!

Project management – or should I say really good project management, is all about managing people in relation to a specific task.

Project managers don’t have direct responsibility for all the people in their team, and face pressure from numerous stakeholders to deliver a project. I reckon this is Branson's position on project Virgin Galactic

Bottom line, balancing the needs of everyone involved AND delivering results on time and on budget can be difficult.

Here are 5 top tips to help you achieve this:-

1. Manage expectations It’s a fine line between convincing someone you can do something giving them confidence in your ability and not raising expectations to an unrealistic level. Identifying ‘best case’ scenario and ‘minimum level’ is useful when engaging stakeholders and getting their buy-in.

Be clear about what is in-scope, what is out of scope and what relies on external factors.

2. Communicate frequently

Good project managers don’t rely on spreadsheets and project plans to keep them informed about progress. Having regular, one-to-one conversations with individuals provides a great opportunity to provide support and identify potential problems (and so handle them) before they occur.

Holding team meetings or conference calls is most important to keep everyone focused on the ‘bigger picture’ and also to encourage team working.

3. Set clear expectations

Never leave tasks unallocated to a person, or without a deadline.

A good project manager is prepared to negotiate and discuss options, but at the end of the discussion there should be absolute clarity about who will do what, when.

4. Listen

Often, people who are closest to the work have the best ideas about how things should be done.

But whilst the ultimate decisions about what to do and how to do it, rest with the manager, that doesn’t mean they need to have all the ideas.

Good project managers ask for input from all the team members and harness the talent that is around them.

Not only will this improve the project’s overall outcomes but it also improves team engagement and commitment.

5. Be flexible

Even the best thought-out plans sometimes have unexpected issues (just like Virgin Galactic).

A good project manager isn’t so fixed in their approach that they aren’t prepared to adapt, the trick is to recognise the point when the original plan will no longer be the best and have the confidence to call a halt, re-think and set out again in a different direction.

In Branson’s case, he is said to be determined to help authorities find out what caused the crash but likened the incident to the early days of flight.

“In the early days of aviation there were incidents and then aviation became very safe,” he said. “In the early days of commercial space travel there have been incidents and then, we hope, that one day the tests pilots will enable people to go into space safely and that is our wish and desire.”

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