Everyone has experience managing projects in some capacity, and everyone has different viewpoints and preferences concerning how those projects should best be accomplished. But project management goes much further than ensuring deliverables arrive on scope, on time and on budget. Your team may be preparing to, or has already begun to, implement project management methods like Agile, Scrum or Waterfall. Regardless of the methodology, project management fundamentals run across the board. Here are 10 project management tips that anyone, no matter their position on a team, can use.
1. Set the tone: Calm is contagious
This is first because it IS the number one priority. Navy SEALs use the mantra "calm is contagious" as a reminder that cool heads prevail in stressful situations. Lead by instilling calm in even the most stressful situations. It's catching.
2. Know your basics: Who, what, when, where, why
Before getting started on any project, make sure you know (and have agreement on) the basics. WHO is this for and WHO needs to approve? WHAT are we doing or making? WHEN does this need to be finished? WHERE is this going to be seen, stored, sent, displayed, etc.? WHY are we doing this? These details will help streamline the path from concept to deliverable, so get everyone involved and on the same page from the start.
3. Time management: There's almost always enough time if you make it
Even when the timeline is tight the most important work can still be done if unnecessary tasks are eliminated and other priorities are reordered. Realistically plan for how much time the tasks will take and for the time both you and your team have available to accomplish the work. Something always comes up and things always take longer than expected, so budget time to allow for those contingencies. Also, be sure the activities being performed add value to the end deliverable.
4. Risk management: Thinking backwards to think ahead
Plan, plan, plan -- and plan on the unexpected. Take a moment to imagine you just finished a project. What does that look like, and how did you get there? Now - think about all of the road blocks and surprises that happened along the way. What were they? How could they have been avoided? What couldn't have been avoided and how could you have been better prepared? Give attention to those areas of risk now to avoid having to deal with them down the line. Future you will thank the present you.
5. Emotional intelligence: Read the room
Understanding how your team interacts is key so pay close attention when the group or a team member seems to be off their game. Take note if there's a heightened sense of tension, more snarky comments than usual or if energy has begun to dip. No matter which industry you're in, you are in the business of people. You have the ability to influence the outcome of a situation, project or interaction by how you choose to handle it.
6. Organization: Making tools and systems work for you
You get out of systems what you put into them, and tools only work if you use them. Take a good look at the project or process you manage, and consider where you excel and where you need some help. Create an organizational system that caters to those strengths and weaknesses and use tools that will serve you best in any areas of need. Whether you turn to your iCal to set reminders, use Boomerang for Gmail as an accountability tool, or simply create a paper-and-pen to-do list, set up a system with whichever tools work best at helping you handle everything coming in and going out. Think of them as a safety net to catch every detail for you.
7. Communication: Do it well, do it often
Communicating on a project is all a balancing act. Communicate frequently, but not too often. Give as many details as possible, within reason. Err on the side of over communication, but make sure you are sending information in the most digestible form possible. Cover all of the "must knows", some of the "nice to knows" and remember -- bullet points are your friend.
8. Prioritization: Work on what's closest to the dollar
Time equals money. Sometimes this may mean working on the most urgent deliverable first. Or the one with the most money riding on it. Or the one someone's expecting by COB today. Evaluate what tasks have to be done when--and why. Prioritize your to-do list by what is connected to the most money or what has the most pressing deadline and needs immediate attention. Even though it feels good to check the "low-hanging fruit" items off your list, get what matters most done first.
9. Budget: Show me the money
Run your project's budget as if you were spending your own money. Pad the total with some extra dollars and then be excited when you come in under budget. Vendors, materials, tools, services, etc. will always cost more than you expect. Just like your own personal expenses, you don't want to go over budget and need to ask for more money.
10. Documentation: Pic or it didn't happen
Document everything so you can reference it in real time and down the road. This isn't just a "CYA" tactic. Having documentation to reference will boost your efficiency in the present, and save you valuable time on projects in the future. Remember, knowledge is power, so arm yourself with thorough, manageable and easy-to-access information.
Consider how you manage your work and collaborate with your team in a holistic way. Remember that staying calm in the midst of stress is key to leading any project to success. Plan ahead for both your time outlay and potential project downfalls. Work regularly to foster your emotional intelligence skills and make organization a top prerogative. Communicate succinctly to be clearly understood, and follow the money when it comes to prioritizing work and managing your project's budget. Throughout the process, and at the end of it all, document, document, DOCUMENT.
Connect with Sarah Beck Hill on LinkedIn.
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