7 Top Tips to Glide You Through Your Project Management
Project management is the art of bringing all the colours together to create a beautiful outcome.
Each artist has his or her own taste, methods and tactics, but overall, everyone is looking to achieve that final masterpiece.
There is more to project management than just deadlines and project budget, and sometimes paying attention to just a few tiny details can make a big difference.
Research your client
Many PMs research the project at hand but forget to study the client. You need to know your client inside and out to be able to communicate with them and have a successful project-long relationship.
One simple reason for researching your client’s needs and expectations is communication. You need to find out what your client expects. Some clients need frequent updates, while others are too busy and only care about the headlines. While trying to always keep a balance for both, it is important to implement different communication systems to be able to apply each where necessary. For example, the former type might need weekly calls and meetings while a monthly report or an update on milestones is enough for the latter.
Another reason for researching your client is to resolve who gets to call the shots. Some clients prefer to be involved in every detail of the project, while others will leave it up to you and only want to be involved in matters that have a big impact on end results.
Remember, efficient communication is the key!
Be open and honest, and communicate regularly
Make the client feel like a team member rather than just a client. It’s about more than simply role-playing a waitress serving food to a customer! Instead, become an all-encompassing team working through a challenge to achieve success. All stakeholders have contributions – your contribution is knowledge, and the client’s is money.
Set the expectations from day one. Based on your “client research”, you should know how well your client understands the project requirements, scope and risks, and as such, they should have realistic expectations. If not, you’re headed for disaster.
Don’t be negative, but also don’t be a YES man
Your job is to control and direct the project. Just like being a parent, if your child wants ice-cream before bed, you don’t just agree because they really really want it! You know the problems and consequences of doing so and you have to explain it to them.
Likewise, you need to inform the client how the change will affect the project in all aspects that apply (i.e. time, money, quality, risks, etc.). By implementing this strategy, you are empowering the client to make an educated decision and ensuring they are aware of the consequences.
Don’t be afraid to turn the project into phases if a big request comes up that will significantly impact the project scope. In most situations, clients are fine to have the first agreed-upon scope delivered as phase one, with the next requests added as phase two.
Don’t forget, not every question is a request for change. Sometimes a question is simply just a question.
Don’t delay delivering the bad news
Project managers sometimes avoid delivering bad news as much as possible because they feel it is their job to prevent problems from happening in the first place, and now that something has cropped up, they are letting the client down. Even if this thought is completely true, remember that no one is perfect and neither are you. Clients are human, they understand that not everything runs smoothly and they can be reasonable as long as you communicate well and don’t sit on bad news. After all, it’s going to come out sooner or later, so better sooner while there still might be other options to explore. Delaying will usually exhaust other options, which is when client’s trust shatters because you haven’t managed both the risk and the crisis. Damage control, and then recover.
Speaking of finding alternative options, try to keep an open mind – don’t see a roadblock as a stopping point, simply change your direction or find a way around the roadblock and continue on your project’s journey.
Furthermore, it’s important that you refrain from guarding up for clients who are hard to deal with. This only confirms any doubt or insecure feelings they have towards the project and, well, you. Educate them and make them understand that you have enough information and that you have it under control. Additionally, make it your mission to make them feel they’re still a part of it all and not being taken advantage of.
Even if it only comes gradually, it’s important to create a workflow and systemise and train your team. After working on a few projects, you should become familiar with what works well based on your team performance, your clientele base and the projects that you run. You are the captain in the field and everyone looks up to you to manage everything.
Keep your meetings short
There’s nothing worse than a three-hour meeting where half of the attendees have dozed off after the first half hour. Keep your meetings short and productive. Prepare well, send the agenda to the attendees so they can also prepare and participate accordingly, and then drive the meeting to stay on topic as much as possible.
Gather your team after the project has been completed and acknowledge everyone’s hard work. Don’t start with negatives and failures, even if the project has gone terribly wrong. List all the positive achievements within the project and let your team feel valued for their efforts.
When it comes to addressing those failures or negative points, refer to them as “project lessons” or “lessons learned”, and let your team feel like they are gaining valuable experience from them. The more they feel like an experienced member of the team, the more responsible they will act in the next project.
It’s also important that you don’t point fingers, as this only creates a sense of blameworthiness which is not conducive to the work environment at all. Instead, make sure you review process workflow/systems in project retrospectives to address any issues caused by potential gaps or loopholes in the system. Remember, systems aren’t just a luxury, systems are there to help minimise errors! Even an absolute failure of a team member might – and usually does – suggest a loophole in the system.
In conclusion, just keep a positive attitude and let the project take its course. Don’t stress about every tiny detail and make sure you communicate with your clients and your team effectively.