Have you ever worked on a poorly managed project? Most likely, the answer is yes. This is because good project management is hard. As a team leader, you’re responsible for delivering results, aligning and motivating your team throughout the project, and providing them with the right tools and resources. And even if your job title isn’t project manager, you may have been required to play that role at least once.
So how do you achieve awesome project management skills in government? How do government project managers differ from those in the private sector?
These questions and more were answered at GovLoop’s most recent NextGen online training by Randall X Webb with the Housing and Urban Development Department and GovLoop’s Senior Director of Content, Catherine Andrews.
Here are some of their top takeaways for government project management success.
Over-communicate. From the first stages of preplanning to the final day of the project, it is essential to communicate with your team members through every step of the journey. Communicate your project plan upfront and early, using risk management terminology. “Be as transparent as possible,” Webb explained. Assess your organization’s risk tolerance for project management and clearly document what sponsors and stakeholders expect and by when. Throughout the project, set and frequently repeat expectations and deadlines.
Understand your constraints. Be well rounded in all facets of your project and know its key information and data. This includes being able to assess your project’s constraints. As a government project manager, it can be hard to have a firm understanding of your budget. Instead, face the known facts and make sure you and the entire team are well informed. To manage the scope of projects, Andrews suggested employing the “parking lot” method. Have a document where you can store and file tangential ideas and documents that can rest there and be returned to later, when the time comes.
Understand your team. Part of being a successful project leader is your ability to manage people, too. Be proactive and assess your team’s individual skills and competencies. Don’t ignore competency or skill gaps and address these inconsistencies as soon as possible. Remember to be nice to everyone. “It can enable the project if you use the Golden Rule,” Andrews said. This goes hand in hand with effective communication. Remember that everyone has a different style of communication. Celebrate and adapt to these different styles and don’t be afraid to employ multiple types of communication. You want to show your team members that you can operate around their preferred modes of communication. This may require you to shift your own mindset and adapt.
Be clear and upfront. As a project leader, you have to be clear about the consequences of missing deadlines and how they impact the rest of the team members’ duties. To keep track of the team’s progress, consider hosting five-minute check-ins. “These are a good way of enforcing the timeline and reminding team members of what they need to get done that day,” Andrews said. Check-ins can also help you and your team address and avoid issues before everyone is too far into the project. Emphasize honesty with missing deadlines and allow for your team to offer alternatives if this happens. Remember that your team can’t read your mind. Be clear about what you want and always give context to everything you ask of anyone.
Even if you are not leading a project, consider these skills and practices as a team member. No matter what your role is, the goal is to get the project done. “Each organization is different, so you want to really understand its culture,” Webb explained. By taking a step back and assessing your team’s needs and constraints, you will be well on your way to project management success.