Project management is a difficult job that requires you to be able to juggle a lot of moving parts and people. Project managers need to understand the nuances of the project, lead the team, and be the client-facing communicator acting as a bridge between production and delivery to the client.
Project managers are always looking for ways to improve the process. There are always ways to
make the team more efficient and eliminate bottlenecks. After years of watching good creative teams work, we thought we would share some best practices from our favorite project managers. Here are our top tips for successful Project Managers!
1. The Devil is in the Details. Collect the project details up front. Many times project managers will be forced to dive into a project without fully understanding the budget, scope, and timeline. Make sure your customers share the details needed at the beginning so you can clearly understand expectations and set realistic goals for your team. Getting these details finalized in writing at the beginning of the project will help create a good foundation to work off of. Changes are inevitable, but if you have a complete job request form for the job, you can minimize “scope creep”, which is when someone asks for one more little thing over and over again until the project looks completely different than when it started. Finalize and agree on the details up front and adjust accordingly as the project moves forward. Look for an automated job request form in your project management app.
It's also helpful here to organize your workflow. Get a good idea of how jobs come in and how your team completes tasks in order to get a better understanding of what questions you'll need to ask the client in your job request form.
2. Assemble your Team! Once you’ve outlined the details, think about what the project requirements are. From here you will be able to determine what you need from your team. Be sure to communicate the goals, requirements, timelines, and delivery clearly and effectively to your team. You probably will need to communicate these concepts more than you think, so solidify the tasks and deadlines and continually communicate concepts and goals to your team to make sure everyone is always on the same page. And be sure to let your team know you have their back. Set expectations with the client as well and know how to say “No” when the client is requesting work out of scope.
3. Follow the Leader. As a project manager, you are the one everyone looks to for answers. Whether your addressing your team, the client, or management stakeholders, be the leader. Delegate tasks accordingly and trust in your team to accomplish them. Work smarter, not harder by focusing your time on the 20% of the project that is going to result in 80% of the work. And trust your gut. You were hired as a project manager for a reason! You offer a broad range of knowledge vital to the success of the project that others may not be aware of. Your input and perspective on important decisions is very valuable.
4. Set Checkpoints. Define important milestones within the project and communicate these to your team. Make sure the client is involved with important checkpoints and provides feedback throughout the process. Don’t leave client feedback until the end. You don’t want to duplicate work because of client revisions provided after you thought the job was completed. And be sure to use these measurable milestones to define success. As you reach the milestone, analyze how well you've stuck to your timeline and accomplished goals to better prepare for the steps ahead.
5. Risky Business. Be sure to identify risks associated with the project and have backup plans in case you run into problems along the way. Pointing out potential risks in the beginning will help you see early signs of trouble and take action to prevent them. Always be sure you know your tipping point. Pause a project if you see that it is traveling down the wrong path. Mistakes are going to happen, but it pays to be honest and human when communicating with your client and team.
6. Pass The Test. Always evaluate your project while in progress and upon completion. Status Reports and Hot Sheets will help you stay on top of tasks that are running past due. Use metrics on dashboards to monitor workloads and identify trends. Talk to your team about the workflow and ensure you have the correct tasks on the correct schedules. Upon completion of the project, take a look at what went right and what went wrong. Ask how you can build upon the issues identified and improve the process for next time. Learn from your mistakes and you’ll avoid making them again in the future.
Try incorporating some of these tips into your next project! Project management workflow evolves and the best project managers are able to lead the evolution.