Project Management 101: Tips To Be Better At Managing Your Projects And The People Involved
When it comes to Project Management, the challenge is right there in the name, and depending on your level of experience working with your colleagues, you’ll either feel nothing when you hear the words “Project Management”, or shudder in fear without much in-between.
This is because as a Project Manager, you’ll have to deal with a variety of unexpected challenges and you’ll always be the first in, last out, just like a computer stack. Project Managers often take the brunt of the responsibility and are burdened with being accountable for helming the ship. Most of the time projects may feel like they’re steering well in the shallow seas, but a few more miles starboard and it can seem like the vessel is made of thin plywood almost ready to fall apart at any second.
In a project, it’s almost always true that a billion things can go wrong and only one thing can ever go right at a time, meaning that Project managers are often on the losing end, and specialize in putting out fires and plugging up leaks in order to keep the ship on course to its destination.
Successful project management requires an in-depth knowledge of the project, good systems in managing labor, resource management like time, power, and money, and lastly, good planning. These skills are varied and if you’re a good project manager, chances are you’re very good at it.
Maybe you’ve newly been thrown a project to be in charge of, or are looking to transition from a technical/creative role into a project manager. While the skills mentioned above cannot be taught overnight, what we can do is give you tips and tricks from experienced Project Managers in order to guide you through your next few projects.
Know your stuff
As a project manager, you may not have the visual acuity of the graphic designer, the wit of the copywriter, the experience of your boss, and the key insights of the marketing team. Your specialization, you should think of it this way, is the project. Just like if you’re a clockmaker your whole life, you would know how each and every gear fits together, whatever single part is made of, and you should be able to assemble, and have it work.
The beauty of project management, experienced project managers will tell you, is that no two projects are ever the same. You will be working with so many different personalities, and devices, on different delivery platforms, and in this lies the rewarding aspect of the job. The job of the project manager rewards your dedication to the project.
Because everything is constantly shifting, it is up to you to always be one step ahead of the ship. You should know the strategy, the navigation, the setbacks up ahead, and the politics. Lay a strong foundation on what the details of your project are, know what’s in it for everyone involved, and then understand where the scope and expectations lie. Project managers that are by the book will be eaten.
Next, you need to communicate relevant information about the project, choose the right people and the right time. Your job is to hold the map and delegate, and part of your value is helping your specialized workers remember key details and plan ahead.
Set important milestones
The key failing of most new project managers is not realizing that while it is very easy to see where the project is headed from their perspective (since they have all the information), from the ground it can be difficult for your workers to understand what is at play.
Your job as a project manager will be to translate the key aims and missions of the client and the stakeholders into actionable milestones that are strategically placed to encourage the project team to be productive and motivated toward finishing the tasks at hand.
A key pointer on this note: you can read into narrative and plot theory, and use terms like “We’re still figuring out what world this journey is set in” and “once we have this key piece down, we’re in the final lap of the story” to organize the project into an adventure. This will help your project members understand where you are taking them and what is required of them at any one point.
Use Project Management Tools
While you, the project manager, might be able to easily layout the timeline of the project on your screen, you must remember that having the plan doesn’t mean the battle’s won yet, and you will have to actually communicate and make your plan available.
Junior project managers always make the mistake of coming up with elaborate spreadsheets and file systems that none of the project members have any idea how to use. This in turn results in frustration and confusion that distracts the team from the project.
Using a Project Management Tool, especially if you can use one that aligns with a similar ecosystem as the rest of the company or the industry, can help individual actors understand their limited scope of work, and allow them to self-update and modify their part of the plan. This can help transform your monolithic project plan into a morphing, flexible timeline that works with your people instead of working against them,
An effective Project Management Tool will be easy to use and have various different view modes for different kinds of workers. Lists and text-heavy spreadsheets are proven to be difficult for visual artists and thinkers to understand. Organizers have trouble with more abstract visual representations of the task at hand, just as a simple rule of thumb.
Follow our three tips — set important milestones, use Project Management tools and software, and know your stuff. With this, you will see noticeable improvements in the control you have over your team and the project requirements. Know that as a project manager, you are unique in your team and while individual members may be swapped out and replaced, most often a project manager will follow an account from the initial bidding to the final deliverable.
Have faith, be persistent, and always aim to stay on top of the pressure, and your project will sail smoothly. That’s all we have today, we hope this advice will help you in times to come.
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