Making notes for myself before I fell asleep of things I needed to be sure I took care of in the morning – only now I was putting notes into my smartphone. It is the same old dog with just a few new tricks. After hitting high school, my life became fun, and I worried less because I got smarter about a lot of things.
So, let's just say I finally hit high school in terms of project management. Or better yet college (now that was more fun than everything combined, and I made it out alive, with good grades, successful...and best of all...in just four years!). There are some tips I've learned and mastered to make this whole PM mess of a world easier to live in and succeed in. Consider...
Manage Projects in 60 Seconds a Day
This is one of those things that is definitely from my personal category of “work smarter, not harder.” I even have a video about it as part of my “60 Second PM” video series, and it's called “Manage Projects in 60 Minutes a Day”. The basic premise is you can get most of what you need to get done on each project you manage each and every day in just 60 minutes. Don't bother multi-tasking. Most of us are bad at it. Set aside an hour and knock out everything you need to do that day on a given project. If you're managing five or six projects at a time, like I often am, it may be the only way to keep your head above water. Don't procrastinate and stay away from Facebook for that hour and focus on revising the project schedule, checking your project financial health, revising and sending out the status report, prepping for upcoming meetings, sending2 out a quick daily status email to all key stakeholders and you're basically done. I know I've simplified it a bit here, but for many projects, this will be enough on many days of the week.
Worry Less About What You Can't Control
Surprise! Project management is just like the real world. Much of what happens and affects us is beyond our control. Worry more about what you can control and less about what you can't control. The budget is getting out of hand. You may be able to control it by talking to your team members about the tasks they are working on and where they are charging their time for all their work on your project and on all the other projects they are working on. But if a vendor is going to be late delivering a key material or service for the project, roll with it. There isn't much you can do. Adjust the schedule and tell the client. Create an action plan to manage the vendor more directly if possible. Be aware you just may be stuck with the vendor being late. If the vendor is managed by your purchasing or contracting office, inform them of the delay and move on.
Rock the Meetings and Other Things Just Flow Better
Communication is possibly the most important ingredient to project success. So are good requirements and meetings with a key communication focal point. Have good meetings, go into them organized and know what you need to get out of them. Take good notes and follow up to ensure everyone understood what was discussed and assigned. That will make the rest of the project goes much more smoothly. Use meetings to get a lot of work decided and done. Then stick to the 60 minutes a day concept.
Delegate Well and Get More Sleep
You can't do it all yourself. And guess what? No one wants you to because you aren't that good at everything. Let go and delegate. That's what you're supposed to do, and that's why you have teams and stakeholders who you are responsible for and who are supposed to care about the project. Use them – wisely and as much as possible.
Make the Project Client Your Ally
By definition the all-important and always correct inter-web definition of ally states, “To unite formally, as by treaty, league, marriage, or the like. To associate or connect by some mutual relationship, as resemblance or friendship. A person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose.” It may feel like the project customer is breathing down your back all the time, but in reality, they do want you to succeed. So use them as a means to that end. Assign them tasks, force key decisions and info gathering on them, keep them involved and accountable. You won't be sorry.
Senior Management Is Important, But So Is the Customer.
What your senior management wants and needs directs you to do what is important. They do after all sign your paycheck. But your customer is extremely important, and I've succeeded better by putting their needs and wishes first. When I've allowed myself to go against my better judgment and follow management's directions in those tough situations it is more often than not I later realize that I should have stayed focused on my customer's needs and wishes instead. Hindsight is 20/20. Plus, not following senior management direction – even in those tough spots when they are asking you to withhold info from the customer or do something you know is going to harm the project – can lead to you being out of work. That isn't the end of the world but be mentally prepared if you ever have to take a firm stand.
Let the Bad Clients Go
I'm a consultant and I'm here to say, there are bad project clients out there, and they can make your life miserable. So, if you have a chance, let them go because you will never turn a bad or difficult client into a good or easier or compliant customer. It just won't happen. But be prepared for the backlash – just like with senior management – if you take an unpopular stand. However, you will probably sleep better for it.
At the end of the day, project management isn't rocket science. Project management is hard enough. We need to be looking for real world ways to streamline the work more, get more things off the project manager's plate and on to a team member or stakeholder's plate, and focus on success rather than pleasing everyone all the time. Then, you'll find happiness.
Readers – what are your thoughts on my list? Do you agree – what do you have to add? Please share your thoughts and discuss.