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Project Manager – The Dos & Don'ts!
Project managers are the backbone of the day-to-day running of many businesses. They are at the forefront of bring out the best from the people, process and technology at their disposal. From managing organization resources, defining procedures to keeping them all relevant, a project manager must plan and organize every aspect of the project, while also motivating everyone involved. In the end, effective project management means successful projects.
Study says, "80% of high-performing projects are led by a certified project manager".
Project Managers are working harder than ever before to adopt and work with more knowledge, tools and technology available to them. The rapid changes of the business world, increased competition, technology advances have raised the bar for all project managers. Average would not cut it anymore!
With the added uncertainty, Project Management can turn out to be stressful. But then there is always scope for consistent improvisation, effectiveness and going beyond the traditional ways of running projects.
We will go through some of the proven do's and don'ts when put to good use have reaped huge benefits for all involved starting with the project managers, projects, teams, the business and most importantly the Customer!
Join 6,532 project managers to get practical and actionable insights on project management.
Things Project Managers should DO
Focus on Customer Needs
A report from 2008 says, "Price is not the main reason for customer churn; it is actually due to the overall poor quality of customer service".
Easier said than done! The single biggest success factor for a project is whether it delivers what the customers really need. Don’t get caught focusing too much on what they want or their requirements because these are often not equivalent to what they truly need.
You need the right mix of the business acumen & domain expertise to nail this one. I am more inclined towards the business acumen here because it's a tricky one. Its need adaptability, your ability to step into the customer's brain & understanding your most important stakeholder's vision.
E.g. I want a world-class data center with the top notch technology available! Well this requirement of your customer is not out of a sudden new found love for technology. A domain expert would dive straight into the best architecture and tech he can make available. But the one with the business acumen will look right at the center as why, what is it that has made your customer willing to spend millions in building a state of the art facility.
Direct your thoughts towards his business, his outcomes and you will find the answers there. Show your customer that you understand and agree what is of most value to him and you have won the most important battle of the project while sealing the success of your project right there. You built yourself the bridge that will sail you through tough times ahead!
I say this because, I haven't seen a project fail that had the full backing of the Customer! Have you?
Get the team EXCITED
The early stages of any endeavor are the stepping stones of its success. Uncertainty, anxiety, true nature & expectations of the endeavor at hand must be dealt with adequately.
Project Initiation & Planning is when you work with the team to define exactly what needs to be done. Share the vision as precisely as possible!
Set the expectations right with all involved to make that everyone understands the objectives, their roles and deliverables. There should be no beating around the bush.
It's worth phrasing all desired outcomes in terms of business value or benefits: in other words, answer the What, Why, When, Who and How of your project.
Monitor the Schedule and Budget
Be disciplined! Project Schedule & Budget Management is all about discipline and foresight!
Start small, start slow. It is very important to depute enough hours to have a 360 degrees view of the entire project. Hold stakeholder meetings with all the key stakeholders and domain experts to define as robust and realistic a schedule and budget possible.
Incorporate sufficient padding in terms of time and money for unexpected twists. They can be changing business landscape, regulatory changes, technology shifts etc
Constant Monitoring & Control of your schedule and budget is a MUST! As a project manager deploy all relevant mechanisms to have the real time picture of how your project is progressing. Is your actual implementation in sync with the allotted time and cost?
It's a given that projects rarely ever stick to the original plan, but staying as close as possible to the schedule and budget is important. Before the project veers too far away from the original plan, it's best to notify the relevant stakeholders for timely actions and adjustments.
We re-emphasize the value of meaningful timely communication from the previous chapter here. For the uninitiated, know full well that "information management" is one of the cardinal responsibilities of a project manager.
What does that mean? Well for starters, information was never meant for hiding. It is there for a purpose. Information is all about sharing. Hiding key project information directly affects the progress of the projects. It creates conflicts among the project team, distrust with the stakeholders, prevent timely resolution of issues & sow seeds for mishaps waiting to happen.
Well, we can all argue that not all information is for all the people. And rightly so! And exactly why it's all the more important for a Project Manager to define the Who, Why, When, How and What while undertaking projects. Disseminating information is a Critical Success Factor (CSF) for a project's success. Open door & transparent organization policies are there for a reason. They save and generate far more revenue than what is spent in withholding them.
Easy sharing & access to information is one of the keys to keeping everyone on the same page at all times. And a very simple reason for doing it is to have the right support at the right time. Team members would be more than willing to lend a hand when they know what they are getting into, they have the skills to help and should step up.
Isn't this enough for you to take a quick check on what policies and procedures do you have in place for communication flow for your projects?
BE supportive of THE Team
It's easy for a project manager to forget to appreciate the high performing individuals in the team. Project managers always tend to look ahead, focus on the next steps, and simply forget about the present wins and achievements, but recognizing that someone is doing well in a project team boosts morale, commitment and overall long-term project performance.
As a PM step up to take ownership of any team failures or misses. If you are quick in reprimanding the team for a lag be equally and more appreciative of their efforts. Ensure that all team members have the pre-requisite question – "What's in it for me?" well answered and follow through to deliver on that promise.
Report says, "About 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as the most important aspect".
Prevent Unnecessary Distractions
It is very important that the project team's singular focus must be to deliver with quality. This also means the project manager has to shield the project team from distractions, requests or external feedback.
Prevent direct & unhindered access of the customer to the team at all costs. It will help you in the long run. Keep in mind that not all team members are capable of understanding the language of the customer. Communication and understanding gap can wreak havoc on the project and all the good work done so far.
Study says, "44% of employees want a wider adoption of internal communication tools".
You will have an uphill task if your teams aren't habituated being exposed to changing priorities and objectives. It is best to have them discussed and agreed without involving the team until required, to keep the focus and motivation high.
Scope creep and uninitiated feedback can act as dampeners and must be prevented as much as possible. Have well-defined processes, objectives and time bound goals in place for effective planning and execution. Leave no scope for guess work as productivity is high when each member involved knows what’s required of him and when.
Stay Positive & true to the goal
A report says, "Only 64% of projects meet their goals."
As a project manager, you should learn to remain positive in all situations irrespective of the project stage, challenge or set-back you are faced with. Stay focused on the end goal: delivering value toyour client.
Maintain trust in your team and the project plan and don't lose hope at the first sight of trouble. Share the situation as transparently as possible with your team, be open to feedback and suggestions, seek help and invite them to be an integral part of the solution.
Do not ever try to be the Hercules of the project. Get the team to rally and unify their efforts in making things better together. It’s always a team effort.
We're in it together!
Collaborate, Collaborate AND Collaborate
Collaboration must be second nature to a Project Manager. He MUST always encourage and invite collaboration from all possible sources. A collaborative attitude makes you accessible and approachable thereby people find it easier to communicate with you.
97% of employees and executives believe lack of collaboration within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project.
Not only that, it also makes people shed their inhibitions and be more forth coming in sharing their ideas. People thrive when they are provided an environment of free and open communication. As a PM you must enable and propagate its benefits.
Provide the team relevant platform(s) to communicate ideate and brainstorm freely. It makes solving roadblocks easy & quick, enables faster learning, removes information silos and reduces administrative overhead.
Encouraging a collaborative environment where team members are free to work together will ultimately lead to high quality deliverables in the long run.
The team is not meant to work in silos - they're there to work together!
Things Project Manager should NOT do
Don't be the Mailman
Being a PM entails lot of communication, reports, statistics, updates and email management. Basically tying you to the desk. Don't be chained.
It is imperative that there will be lot of emails and inbox management too. And that's the trap you want to avoid. Emails kill your time, distort relevance of information at times are not an all-weather communication friend.
We all understand its utility but over-reliance is a burden. There are umpteen aspects of your project that need your attention and emails won't cut it. Nothing ever beats the Human interaction and connect.
You have to be out there, building rapport with the team, gaining the stakeholder's trust and confidence of your customer. Try to be available for your teams and customers alike to reach out to you in-person where possible. Things happen quick with less communication barriers
E.g. you don't get the true picture, view of the other person's thoughts over an email or skype chat.
We all have had our share of email fiascos and so let's keep them to the minimum if they are unavoidable
Be an active Project Manager!
Do not procrastinate
Yeah! This sounds like been there done that! We all are guilty of it at some point. But when it creeps into your profession as a PM things are bound to turn worse.
Dealing with problems and obstacles head-on is an important attribute for a project manager. You cannot close your eyes, delay or ignore a lurking issue. Instead you must have an eye for such issues and address them on priority.
Timing is essential in handling all project related issues. You delay and you drop the ball. What's worse is, the delay increases the harm manifold. Nip them in the bud by all means.
It is true for all other aspects of project management too – status updates, review meetings, UATs, PMO review etc. A delay from your end will result in reduced interest by your stakeholders or worse make them anxious and undo the trust you built so painstakingly.
Once identified, share all relevant info regarding the issue/risk on priority with the stakeholders. Clearly articulate the issue, its impact to the project, possible actions, who can action and the time & cost involved.
43% of highly engaged employees receive weekly feedback.
As you know – Prevention is always better than cure!
Micromanagement - No Thanks
My PM - You are meant to be a leader not a book keeper! Face it!
Micromanagement has never helped achieve great results. If only, it delays progress, impedes success and reduces the quality delivered.
Study says, "79% of employees have been micromanaged."
There is a significant effort and time drain when micro management is the norm of the day. Not only you propagate distrust, negativity and pessimism but also drive the team away. For a very simple reason – no one likes to work for someone who isn't appreciative of their efforts.
Productive time that could have resulted in business growth and success is spent on massaging egos, wasteful activities that do not support the concerned endeavor and the worst of all building evidences that will be of no use.
And, the result being a huge energy drain for you and all involved. Instead setup mechanisms for timely update sharing and progress reporting. Enable forums to share and solve identified problems and maintain transparency around their cause, priority and resolution.
The organization has to pay handsomely for your micromanagement. Remember that! And hence, in the greater good of the business and teams it MUST be discouraged at all times.
No Meetings without Outcomes
My PM - You are meant to be a leader not a book keeper! Face it!
Meetings are necessary, yes. But, they are also one of the biggest distractions we face as project managers. Author Jason Fried gave a very compelling presentation at a TED event titled Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work. He cites two primary causes, what he refers to as the "M & M" factor - Managers and Meetings.
Before setting up meetings, define a clear agenda for the meetings & the outcomes you wish to achieve and invite ONLY the "real" attendees of the meeting who can help you get there.
Stick to your meeting schedule and steer clear of the meetings within the meeting syndrome. Any identified points not relevant to the current meeting must be parked for another meeting if time doesn’t accommodate them.
Similarly, avoid the temptation to attend every meeting you're invited to. If the invite misses out on the 2 O's - objective and outcome decline by all means or ask the organizer what is expected of you in the meeting. Or a simple - "Why am I invited?" mail would help.
Note, the billing meter is on for every minute your resources spend on these no outcome meetings and so is your schedule clock!
Think before you schedule!
Credit is all Mine!
OK! Quiz time! How many times have you come across managers, project managers or members who are all about themselves and take credit for everything under the sun irrespective of their doing?
If you're lucky very few. But sadly that isn't the case for many others. A leader is someone who would never indulge in hogging the limelight.
PMs, you must realize that you are there to enable outstanding outcomes. Your success is not these outcomes, but enabling and replicating these outcomes over and over again. Possibly very frequently!
Imposing yourself on every good outcome harms the team's morale and sets a vicious chain of unproductive actions. You shine when the teams believe in the cause and go beyond what is required to achieve more than optimal project success.
Demotivated troops do not win wars and you taking credit for other people's work does just that. Rather celebrate small wins, highlight your team's strengths, appreciate their efforts and encourage them to push boundaries - mentally and physically.
Allocate some part of your project budget for a rewards and recognition program.Encourage healthy competition within the team to outdo themselves which will motivate them to help each other and in turn the greater cause - Customer Success, Increased Revenue and Productive Employees that are not easy to come.
Note: if you are one of those people who shine by diving into other's success very soon you will have only failures around you!
Rise above your pettiness and let others shine!
So what do you think?
It is very clear that a project manager has to juggle between numerous stakeholder priorities and wear different hats throughout the day, every day!
Difficult as it may be, but it is the truth of the day and it is this diverse demand that makes Project Managers an integral part of all organizations. We all have the right intentions at heart, are motivated but it is the chaos around us that blurs the vision we set to realize in the first place.
Thus, before a PM takes on a project, he must organize himself, start with the end goal and never lose sight of it till achieved. We must understand that it's the PMs that hold the entire initiative together. A PM connects and drives budgeting, resource allocation, resource utilization, time management & tracking, stakeholder expectations, business continuity, organization priorities, technology, polices and processes to be used, team productivity and customer success. All of them simultaneously
The sheer responsibility involved here makes it crucial for a Project Manager to have high business acumen, some level of domain expertise, knowledge of technology he is dealing with to high emotional intelligence and the whole gamut of soft skills.
Moreover, a PM is under constant watch and it doesn't make things easier for him either. Thus it is all the more important for him to build a high performing ecosystem around him.
Our effort with this chapter is just to give all PMs a little more ammunition and incentive to build that dream team that can turn those collective dreams into reality!
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My team (Hailstorm-Development) and I LOVE Orangescrum! We are a flexi-time remote business solution specialist agency, and this tool has enabled us to actually create this company. Without you all, we wouldn't even exist!