How To Be A Better Project Manager: Advice From PM Experts
Efficiency, quality, and stability are the core values of every well-devised project.
However, these features depend on the knowledge and experience of the person behind the entire enterprise. What makes a PM’s job even more difficult is the fact that often the teams and individuals that participate in the development of a certain business project are hired and picked by the business owner.
It takes a series of personality traits, as well as a profound understanding of the task to be a good project manager, however, to get even better you should read these several pieces of advice we gathered from some of the best people in the business.
Keep project stakeholders in the loop
The people that hired you for a certain project are not into surprises, especially if those surprises carry bad news. It might sound like a good idea to keep a setback under the radar and try to fix the problem on your own, but what if things get out of hand and there’s nowhere else to go but straight to your boss?
It’s best if you organize a talk with the stakeholders and explain the situation at hand as soon as there’s an indication things might go sideways and present your plan of action to deal with the issue. This way you’ll have the consent of the board and you might even receive help to speed up the process.
Ben Snyder, the CEO of Systemation, advises timely updates of senior management and stakeholders before doing anything beyond the previously determined course of action.
Keep constant communication with your team
No matter how well we plan a certain project, it’s virtually not possible to develop a plan that’s not going to hit a bump on the road. A member of the team could quit when you need all hands on deck, a social or political event might cause a setback, suppliers could run late, and there’s nothing we could do to stop these kinds of things from happening.
According to Liz Helbock, a senior director at Events.com, it’s imperative to understand that project plans and priorities could, would, and should change, which means you have to be prepared to deal with these situations. Her advice is to learn how to keep uninterrupted communication with your team so these changes won’t catch anyone unprepared.
Liz argues that the best method is to keep all team members up to date with any changes though regular meetings, emailing, and team status reports. This way, no matter which aspect of the project gets changed, the entire team would be aware of the situation and capable to respond properly.
Keep action items under control
Cindy Calvin, an experienced marketing project manager, believes that controlling action items gives you the ability to stay in control of your project. This way you’ll always know which activities are taking place and who’s accountable for their progress.
In Cindy’s experience, it’s never a good practice to leave a team meeting without a set of action items, teams accountable for every item of each project task, as well as their specifics. It’s also important to plan actions according to priorities of the business owner, so make sure you plan deadlines for each action item so that project milestones are not endangered.
However, you should know how to filter out what’s irrelevant for the success of your project or its current status. No matter if the information comes from your boss or a member of your team, there’s bound to be a set of requests and inputs that simply have no immediate value to your project goals.
Win the support of senior management
Without strong support from “upstairs” projects often crash and burn or simply don’t come out as well as planned. This is why Paul Naybour from Parallel Project Training suggests that a good PM should know how to communicate with senior management and gain their support.
More experienced project managers know that executives don’t care much about your struggle to reach a certain milestone, especially if your issue demands more funds or any change that influences their plans. To win these people over, you should present your demands supported by benefits for the company such as profit grows, market positioning, and opportunities. You should make your demands about the company, not about your project.
Being a better project manager means learning from your and other people’s experience every day. It’s also a path that leads to personal and professional setbacks from which you should absorb and generate practical value. These pieces of advice are just a few road signs that you should be aware of, however, it’s up to you to improve and become the best version of yourself. So take notes, and meet every curve prepared and ready to face whatever comes after.