Take a minute and think about successful projects of which you’ve been a part or witnessed. Maybe your team completed an analysis on time and under budget. Perhaps a change was implemented across your organization with little resistance. Maybe you worked with a team of ten executives to update your company’s web presence.
Whatever the project, think for a minute about why it was successful. What actually happened to make success more possible?
In nearly every case, successful project completion can be traced to successful project management.
It doesn’t take much searching to find resources on how to be a successful project manager. A simple Google search results in more than 154 million links. An Amazon.com search nets 1,883 books. And yet, so many of us still struggle with how to effectively manage a project – let alone be a rock star project manager.
Here are five simple steps to increase your rock star status as a project manager:
1. Begin with the End in Mind
For any project to be successful, and any project manager to be a rock star, you must know what you’re trying to accomplish. This is not a time for guessing or sort of getting it right. To be most successful, make sure whoever created the project and/or asked you manage it provides insight into the intended outcomes. You can then work backwards from the desired outcomes to create a plan for success.Remember, there may be times when the end results are modified or completely changed because of the work of you and your team. In that case, make sure you, your team and the project champion (whoever assigned it) agree upon the modified outcomes and all are working toward the same goal.
2. Assemble a Rock Star Team
Before you determine “who,” spend some time thinking about “what.” What skills and expertise do you need to be most successful? What departments need to be represented? What do you personally bring to the table and what compliments do you need for your own weak areas? Once you know what you need, start recruiting rock stars. Remember, rock stars generally don’t become stars because they are unassuming and wallflowers. When you gather the best people, you likely will have some personalities around the table and could have some who are not accustomed to doing things a different way. Rock star project managers learn how to manage the personalities they’ve gathered and find ways for everyone to shine.
Of course, you may not have the luxury of picking your team members. In that case, spend some time thinking about the strengths and challenges of your pre-existing team and work to find ways to give tasks and responsibilities that fit within their strengths. And be prepared to coach them through any areas that may be troubling.
3. Schedule Regular Check-ins
“Regular” will need to be determined by the timeline of your project. It could be daily, weekly, biweekly, hourly (in emergency situations), it all depends on the scope of the project. Rock star project managers gather the entire team “regularly” – regardless of the scope – to check-in. These check-ins should be used to update on progress made since the last check-in, discuss any changes to project scope, realign to project outcomes and reward success as often as possible. Scheduled check-ins are great . . . and to be most successful you also need to have additional check-ins with team members outside of those regularly scheduled meetings. You’ll quickly learn the balance between micromanaging and just in time check-ins so your team feels supported and appropriately connected.
In-person, email, phone, agendas, meeting minutes, strategic plans, leadership updates, company meetings . . . in the end, the most successful project managers are those who communicate effectively with all the constituents impacted by the project. Successful project managers also determine the communication “rules” for the project: How often will you communicate? Does the entire team need to be copied on emails and/or do you have to reply all on responses? What is an acceptable turnaround time for email communications, returning voicemails, etc? Which decisions need conversations with others before making? Having conversations and establishing your best practices for these communication standards (and others) will help you and your team be more successful.If you want to be a true rock star, you’ll also learn the preferred communication styles of your team and do your best to communicate personally with your team members using their preferred style. This is not to say you have to personalize every communication – you won’t get anything done – however, when you “speak their language” you’ll have a better chance of inspiring each member and getting even more accomplished.
5. Manage Expectations
You’ve determined the outcome – and adjusted when necessary. You’ve selected your team. You’ve scheduled check-ins – and are prepared for extras. You’ve created communication best practices – and considered your team members’ styles. Now, you have to hold the team accountable to your decisions. When someone is not meeting the expectations, it’s your responsibility as project manager to bring that team member back into alignment with the overall plan. It’s also your responsibility to keep the team as insulated as you can. Depending on the visibility of the project, many others in your organization may want access to your team, have preconceived notions about your deadlines, question your authority or responsibility to act, and have any number of other “problems” – real or imagined – with your project. Rock star project managers manage the expectations of the organization around the project team as well.
Be intentional about implementing these ideas with every project and you will be on your way to becoming a project management rock star!
Rock on. . .
Lodestone Logic would like to thank Jenny Pratt as a contributor to this blog post