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Tips for Novice Project Managers

Recently I was asked to present 30-45 minutes on the topic of “project management tips” to an IT operational department within my organization.

Most of the analysts in this department already practice some level of project management but are not well-versed in the traditional Project Management Professional (PMP) methods.

After reaching out to the PM community on for guidance and ideas on how to tailor the presentation, I received many excellent responses from colleagues.

Having reviewed my colleague’s guidance and feedback, I thought about starting the presentation with basic PM concepts: What is a project, Project work versus Operational work, What is a program, Introduction to PM process groups, etc. But given the time constraints, I decided to dive in and start with my “tips and lessons learned”, and to allow more time for Q&A from the group.

Here is a summary of my presentation to the operational department:

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  • Spend time up front to identify your stakeholders.
  • Understand who the project champion (or sponsor) is. Typically he/she is not the project requester, but someone whose business will benefit from or be impacted by the project.
  • Use a Scope Document to ensure everyone has a clear definition of the project. Review the Scope Document with your stakeholders.
  • Have your project champion sign off the Scope Document at the start of the project results.
  • Create a Communication Plan to manage stakeholder interactions.
  • Take time to do project planning – do not rush into execution.
  • Stay focused on dependencies and their impacts on milestones. Set milestones for your team to rally around.
  • Empathy and listening are key. Listen to your team and your stakeholders while managing the project.
  • Teams do not communicate well. It is the job of the project manager to ensure communication is working and everyone is kept informed.
  • Scalation is a powerful tool. Escalate issues and risks, in a timely manner and be sure to escalate the right things.
  • Remain vigilant of scope creep. Be prepared to conduct what Project Managers call “Scope Change Management”: Assess the request and communicate impacts of the change to the project sponsor. If the request or change is quite different or larger than the original project scope, recommend a new project be set up to manage fulfillment of the request.
  • Lastly, make sure everything on your project plan has an owner. Do not end meetings without action items and clearly defined owner.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to share my project management skills with the operational department. In the end, feedback from the group was positive and I am hopeful that I contributed in some way to their professional growth.

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