Managing a project means facing a lot of challenging issues. There is a lot of effort involved. It begins with creating the right plan, then directing its progress to keep it on track, and finally seeing it through to fruition.
Whether you're a project manager by title or through necessity, there are some things you can do to ensure your project's success. Here are 10 secrets we were able to obtain from some of the world's best project managers.
1. Keep Looking Forward
A successful project manager is forward-looking, asking questions, and constantly preparing for potential problems.
2. Don't Delay Tackling the Tough Issues
The successful project manager understands and separates easy, predictable tasks from those that are uncertain and fraught with risk. Focusing attention on the latter, and hitting them head-on early, can alleviate those risks.
3. Use Assumptions with Extreme Caution
Being a successful project manager means gathering information and facts rather than basing a plan on assumptions. When assumptions have to be made, they are made with an abundance of caution using the best information available.
4. Save the Details for Later
Effective project managers don't waste time getting into an abundance of detail in the early stages of planning. Many of the elements in a project have a great deal of uncertainty. Build in enough time to develop clarity in those areas. Once the details of those parts of the project become clearer, they can be more accurately planned and tracked.
5. Communicate Goals Clearly
Successful project managers make sure that team members have a clear understanding of what is needed and by when. These items should be based on the desired outcome, not an activity.
6. Tailor Tracking to Project Risk
Successful project managers know that tracking and follow-up should be tailored to risk. For example, if the timing of task x can only slide a day before it disrupts the project schedule, then it should be monitored daily. If it can shift a week without causing other delays, then monitor it weekly.
7. Understand How to Get the Best Out of Your Team
The best project managers know their team members and understand how they work best. Some need close monitoring and assistance. Others work better with more independence and flexibility. Understand how to keep team members working most effectively toward a shared goal.
8. Focus Effort on the Important Things
Successful project managers know the difference between what is effective and what is unnecessary bureaucracy. They focus the important things: keeping the project on time, the client happy, the budget under control. They don't worry about whether a team member updates the project chart to log that a specific task is 20 percent versus 30 percent complete. That is wasted time and effort that produces no outcome.
9. Know What Hat to Wear When
Great project managers stay focused on the big picture, but are also able and willing to jump in and get their hands dirty when needed. The ability to guide an entire process forward while attending to details as necessary is a valuable skill set. It is one that must be learned and honed through experience.
10. Understand and Practice Great Leadership Traits
Successful project managers treat others with respect. They show appreciation for effort and reward achievement. They also deal with adversity and setbacks through shared learning, not laying blame. Great leaders understand and hone great leadership skills.
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