Effective project management is often measured in one’s ability to create timely, quality projects. What they don’t tell you in the job description, however, is that project management is also the art of knowing how to work with your colleagues to achieve the best results.
During a recent online training session, 10 Project Management Tips to Live By, GovLoop’s Director of Content Catherine Andrews explained why project management is also people management, and shared her tips for incorporating that into your leadership style. Here’s what she offered up:
1. Make the consequences of missed timeline and how they affect other team members’ duties clear from the start.
Andrews also emphasized the importance of communicating the benefits of overachieving.
“It’s also worth knowing the perks of hitting deadlines early or getting folks deliverables earlier than expected,” she said. “When you understand setting the context and consequences for when stuff is turned in, it can help make managing timelines a little bit easier.”
2. Host five-minute daily standups.
The main reason why team members miss a deadline is because they forget to prioritize it. Short, daily conversations with your team about their to-do lists gives you the space to remind them about upcoming tasks.
3. Employ the ‘parking lot’ method for scope creep and superfluous ideas.
The ‘parking lot’ method includes a space to list ideas that are tangential to the project at hand. This can help you keep the project on task, while still ensuring that ideas from team members are documented. If a team member is really enthusiastic about adding their idea to the project, ask them to flesh it out and explain exactly how it contribute to the goals at hand.
4. Have somebody else endorse your idea before you take it the team lead.
Andrews said that this should be the standard for every member of your team, yourself included, “Before you come to the team or the project with an idea that will add-on to the project, you have to first convince another colleague of the idea’s validity.”
5. Brainstorm ideas – and risks – ahead of a project.
Creating the space for the team to come up with ideas at the beginning of a project is always encouraged, but project managers should also remind their team to voice concerns about how a project could fail. Andrews recommends asking the team to picture themselves in the future after the project has already failed to reflect on what problems led to the imaginary downfall.
6. Learn to be honest and offer up alternatives.
“It’s just way better to say that something went wrong, and you won’t be able to meet the deadline, than to lie and dodge the reality,” Andrews said. From there, offer distinct options for moving forward. If a project goes off timeline, for example, offer to either launch on time without some features or push the deadline back to complete a higher quality piece.
7. Don’t be afraid to employ multiple types of communication.
Whether it’s email, instant messaging or face-to-face conversations, find a communication system that works for the project and for each teammate. Oftentimes, it takes a combination of multiple platforms to keep a timeline in order and team members on task.
8. Don’t equate being clear, setting goals or making concrete asks with being bossy.
Nobody can read minds, so making expectations abundantly clear to team members is an important part of managing a project. Too often, this may feel like you’re overstepping, but keeping all parts of the team in working order is part of the task.
9. Be genuine and nice.
Andrews could not stress enough how important kindness is in the workplace. While this seems like common sense, maintaining personal relationships with your colleagues can help your team run smoothly. If you’re a consistently kind coworker, then it will be easier to hold others accountable, and to make hard asks about tasks when necessary.
10. Operate around your team members’ preferred modes of communication.
Project managers should be “communication chameleons,” according to Andrews. While it would make their jobs easier to force their team to adapt to their specific communication style, it’s worth tailoring how you communicate in order to get things done.
While every project includes a new set of challenges and management quirks, keeping these tidbits in mind while working with your team can help you overcome any hiccups that come your way. And, if you get stuck, just remember to be kind and overcommunicate.
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