Managing projects can be unpredictable. Good project management tips can make even the most challenging, time-consuming projects run smoothly.
Even minor changes that happen during your project’s lifecycle can have wide-reaching effects on the work being done. And it’s your job to communicate those changes to teams so your project runs smoothly – all while staying on top of your own tasks and responsibilities.
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Whether you’re managing a project for the first time or an experienced project manager, planning and executing projects is tough – but it doesn’t have to feel like an uphill battle. Here are some project management tips to help you complete projects more efficiently and effectively.
Project Management Tips
1. Start with a clear goal in mind
Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
For project managers, Yogi’s words are more than your run-of-the-mill motivation quote. They touch on the very essence of project planning, which is to map where you’re going and determine how you’re going to get there. A major part of good project management is being able to conceptualize your goals.
Ask yourself the following question: What is the goal of my project?
Once you have the answer to that question, you can start planning how to accomplish the objectives to reach that goal. Having a clear vision of what you intend to accomplish (and sticking to that vision) will help you keep the project on course, making it easier to deliver work on time and within budget.
2. Keep an open channel of communication
Good communication is arguably one of the most important project management tips. How you communicate with teams and stakeholders can make or break a project, especially as the demand for remote work continues to increase.
Keeping an open channel of communication isn’t the same as overcommunicating. Bombarding teams with excessive messages can overwhelm them and cause important project information to be lost in the stream of messages. You can streamline your communication by sticking to one medium of correspondence, and the best way to do this is by using project management software.
“Minimize complexity and keep communication open by trading in your toolset for a purpose-built solution to manage work and enable collaboration.” – Zach McDowell, Director of Product Marketing at Planview
Project management tools make it easier for project managers to streamline communication. Instead of cycling between emails and other messaging tools, all correspondence is maintained on the same platform, so conversations are easier to track.
Look for project management software that enables teams to communicate and share files through features like:
- Direct messaging
- Group chats
- Comments on work assigned on Kanban boards and Gantt charts
This enables you to correspond with relevant parties, like teams assigned to specific tasks, instead of flooding everyone with feedback and status updates.
3. Create a culture that encourages growth
One of the most important project management tips you can take to heart is finding value in failure. Turning mistakes into learning experiences is a core part of Lean methodology, but it can apply to virtually any type of project management approach.
Instead of focusing exclusively on teams delivering perfect work, create an environment that values knowledge and growth. Turn setbacks caused by human error into teachable moments, looking at what went wrong and how teams can avoid making the same mistake in the future.
“When things go wrong, the question is not, ‘Whose fault is this?’ but ‘What did we learn from this, and how can we prevent it in the future?’” – Rachaelle Lynn, Certified SAFe Agilist and senior marketing manager at Planview
This approach is great for creating well-rounded teams and is especially useful if you’re managing semi-fixed teams that work together for extended periods of time.
4. Empower your teams
Following the previous project management tips is the first step towards empowering your teams by:
- Establishing your project goals
- Widening the channel of communication between you and your teams
- Allowing team members to learn from their mistakes
Now it’s time to give your teams more autonomy with their decision-making. If you’re an Agile project manager, you may already know the importance of autonomous teams. But you don’t have to follow a specific project management methodology to give your teams more responsibilities.
As the project manager, your role is to lead – not micromanage. Leave some of the decision-making to your teams.
As the ones completing tasks, team members have the functional knowledge to solve problems and plan how to execute work. Not only will this make teams feel more empowered, it can also help them foster a sense of ownership in their work that motivates them to continue hitting milestones and achieving organizational objectives.
Who Benefits from These Project Management Tips?
All project managers stand to benefit from following these project management tips. But what is a project manager, exactly?
The term “project manager” can describe anyone who is responsible for a deadline, a budget, resources (systems / services), or people. Consequently, anyone who has managed a project is familiar with some of the complexities that come with the role, including the ability to:
- Effectively communicate
- Manage resources
- Manage stakeholders and executive sponsorship
Some project managers are dedicated to only managing projects. Large organizations hire dedicated project managers to properly scope, estimate, plan, and execute projects on time and on budget.
Other project managers may help manage projects although that isn’t their primary job function. Whether in a formal or informal project management role, anyone who engages with work teams can be classified as a project manager.
Project managers must understand each person’s roles and responsibilities to ensure proper communication takes place in the light of ongoing changes.
As the work itself becomes more complex, the size of the project (scope) increases. The scope of a project refers to the specific goals of a project and largely determines what the project will ultimately cost.
When a project’s scope increases, or new goals are added that were not part of the original work estimate, it is referred to as “scope creep” and is a major factor in why some projects are completed late and / or over-budget.
Preventing scope creep is the responsibility of the project manager under the protection of a project “sponsor,” an executive, business owner, or another person with signing power within the organization who approves of and supports the project throughout its entirety.
How to Become a More Effective Project Manager
Now that we’ve covered some particulars of the project manager role, let’s look at how anyone can become a better project manager. These are great project management tips to follow for projects of any size:
What are the major projects your team needs to get done this year? This quarter? Get agreement from within the organization and post them onto a board – a whiteboard if you’re all or mostly a collocated team, or a digital tool if you’re all or mostly remote – for all to see. Anyone who walks by the board or checks out your list online will understand what your team is aiming to accomplish in a certain time frame.
Break down the work
Break larger projects into smaller pieces. Represent tasks, stories, and projects separately and assign them to team members.
How much work in progress (or WIP) should each person have? This may vary by team. Most team members will not be able to effectively juggle more than two or three tasks at one time, so try starting small and reviewing results before changing the WIP policy.
Visualize the process
Many project managers find value in a visual approach to project management. Using the process you already have in place (even if it only exists in your mind), create rows and columns on a project board or Kanban board that accurately reflect the steps that must be taken to get something done.
Side note: If you’re not currently practicing Agile, then visualizing your work is one of the most important project management tips for transitioning to a methodology like Kanban for managing projects.
Begin moving cards
Once everyone on your team understands how to use the board, encourage them to start participating. Start assigning tasks to people (by writing their name on the card or using an electronic Kanban board).
When team members are ready to begin working, they pull the task cards into the “doing” lane. This shows what they are working on to the rest of the team.
Once team members are comfortable with moving cards across a board, they may naturally begin to collaborate. Because each person can see what other people are working on, they can provide proactive feedback and assistance that can speed up or improve the work being done.
Many teams hold weekly or daily meetings around the project board to revisit priorities, discuss impediments, and catch up with one another about current and upcoming work.
The Importance of Project Management Tools
Let’s review: First, we discussed four key project management tips. Next, we covered how to be a more effective project manager. Now, we’ll dive into a category of software solutions that’s grown significantly over the years: project management tools.
Project managers have found project management tools to be highly effective at helping to manage projects and keep everyone in the loop (without losing sleep over it). Visual tools like Kanban and project boards help to show project status and help identify (and mitigate) delays or bottlenecks.
Project management tools let you see:
- Overall project status: Percentage complete, milestones, delays.
- Bottlenecks: Identify them and form a plan to resolve the bottleneck. This could be reallocating people to help “unclog” the busy areas or reprioritizing the work so that one person isn’t working on too many things at once.
- Organizational priorities: Major initiatives of projects for which work is being done.
Projects that benefit from project management tools
Many projects are multi-faceted; that is, the project has numerous phases involving many people who may work in different physical locations and maybe even on different project teams. This is one of the many reasons why project management tools are so beneficial for project managers, their teams, and their stakeholders.
While some work is done concurrently, other work can only be started or completed after another piece of work is completed. This is known as dependent work, or a task dependency.
Teams that work collaboratively often share task dependencies and rely on project management tools to improve the flow of dependent work.
This way, one team member responsible for doing the work can easily signal to the next person in the process that they’re ready to begin.
Side note: Remember “empower your teams” from the list of project management tips above? Project management tools give team members a shared platform to communicate, collaborate, and solve problems together, giving them more ownership of their work.
Using project management tools to manage task dependencies not only reduces the amount of time wasted on a project (idle time spent while waiting), it also reduces the amount of stress teams find themselves under as they juggle time spent doing the work and time spent managing changes in the work.
As long as each member of the team keeps the project board updated, task dependencies, bottlenecks, and priorities can be easily identified at a glance by anyone.
What Tools Do Project Managers Use?
Project management is the best way to stay up to date on project status and keep a team informed about shifting priorities and process flows. Because managing change is a big part of managing projects, having a visual map of a project’s status can save you tons of time if you’re a project manager.
Some of the most common project management tools include spreadsheets, whiteboards, and collaboration tools such as online Kanban boards.
Plus, project management helps individuals “get it” more quickly by seeing the work that needs to be done and actively managing their individual work items on a visual team board.
Effective project management tools are vitally important to project managers. If you don’t follow any of the other project management tips in this article, make sure to choose a project management solution. The abundance of details that require tracking (dates, resources, tasks, and milestones) to drive a project forward could drive a person crazy, should they rely on memory or handwritten notes alone.
Project managers select project management tools to keep track of constantly changing details. They reduce the complexity of a project by allowing a project manager to:
- Pool resources
- View trends in productivity
- Help team members stay focused on the right things
Bringing It All Together
Whether you’re managing your first project or your thousandth, the project management tips in this article can help you become more successful. See just how easy project management can be with a comprehensive solution like Projectplace. Register today for a free 30-day trial to experience the best workload management, document storage, and other project management tools in a single platform.