Pertinent Project Management Dilemmas and Effective Solutions Including New Task Management Software
8 Steps for Becoming a More Effective Project Manager
1. PLAN, REVISE, EXECUTE!
As the project manager, it is your responsibility to create and execute project work plans. You must ensure that each project is clearly outlined along with detailed instructions for completion. Good project managers can provide realistic expectations to their clients by creating project timelines and milestones on a frequent basis. Moreover, while plans will usually need to be revised accordingly to the changing demands and requirements of your client, poor or no planning is a productivity and project killer. Realistic and openly communicated deadlines keep you and the team focused, help to organize thoughts and ideas, and stimulate actions necessary for project completion.
2. COLLECT DATA, DEFINE DEADLINES AND LEAD YOUR TEAM
Accurate records should be kept for all areas of the project; from conception to completion. This information is helpful for current projects but can also serve as guide for future projects of a similar scope. Many software products are available on the market today to aid in this process. An innovative new task management software platform that will automate much of this process called proTasker is just about to hit the market. As a PM, you are in charge of defining individual project responsibilities. Assign each task based on which employee has the necessary expertise and availability. This will help both your team and your client have realistic expectations surrounding milestones.
3. ORGANIZATION IS DIVINE
Poor organizational skills not only waste time, but also send a negative message about your company and quality of work. How can your clients trust your team to complete their projects if your company does not present themselves in a professional and organized manner? Start by organizing your office. Create a file system that keeps pertinent client information organized, easy to find, but not staring you in the face. Keep a running list of to-do items in a place you can see it on your desk and consistently update it to reflect what you have completed and add any new tasks (This is already part of the functionality of proTasker!). Dividing up the process allows you to break it into pieces that are more manageable. Rank the tasks from most important to least important. Keep a running list of questions you need answered on your desk instead of stopping to ask a coworker a question each time it pops into your head. It is beneficial to schedule five-minute meetings with coworkers periodically to discuss all topics at once. Taking the time to get organized is worth it as long as you make it a priority to maintain the organization you put in place. Maintenance is the key in the long run.
4. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE!
Personal organization and procrastination go hand in hand. When you are organized, you can properly allot time to do tasks. The least enjoyable tasks are put off almost indefinitely in many cases. Do those tasks at the beginning of the day when you are fresh and alert. You will have more patience and time to put towards the task. At the time of completion, reward yourself for a job well done! It may even help you to set mini deadlines. For example, if you really do not enjoy a task, set aside the morning for the task and once it is completed go out to lunch!
5. DELEGATE! DELEGATE! DELEGATE!
Delegate tasks whenever possible, but delegate wisely. Do not feel as if you have to do everything. Delegating shows your team that you trust them to complete the work, which in turn will empower them to be more decisive and confident. As the Project Manager, teach team members what they need to know to execute the task, or provide them with the necessary resources to learn on their own. Allow them the time needed to succeed and give praise when they do. Spend time developing your team as individual employees. Get to know them personally, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Focus on improving their weaknesses and continuing to excel at their strengths. Share as much information with your team as you have from your own personal experience, but also provide them with all the resources you can to help them expand their knowledge base. Give individuals and the complete team clear expectations and work to keep them motivated!
6. MONITOR TEAM PROGRESS
Ensuring your team is making linear, forward progress at all times is vital. When working on a project check-in with each team member periodically. Consistently acknowledge and appreciate each team member’s contributions. This will allow you to utilize each team member to his/her fullest potential and procure the best possible project results. By checking in you can monitor progress in relation to approaching milestones as well as identify problems before they happen. Make any changes as needed and amend the schedule and deadlines if necessary. Keep your finger on the pulse of your team’s heartbeat and you will deliver a healthy project every time.
7. GET ON THEIR LEVEL
As a PM, you should hold regular status meetings with your project team. Make sure team members feel that lines of communication are open. If team members have a good relationship with their PM, they will feel comfortable to approach their PM about issues or challenges they are having. If an employee is fearful to communicate with their PM it may be too late to fix the problem by the time the PM is made aware of it. Keep the team well informed of changes. Once changes are made to the project plan, make sure every member is made aware either via email or via group meetings. Understanding how to communicate with difficult or sensitive information is crucial. Sometimes as a PM it will be necessary to have uncomfortable conversations with staff or clients. Stay calm and communicate privately with the parties involved. Encouraging team members to ask questions if they are confused will also cut down on the amount of re-work necessary if tasks are not completed correctly. This relates to keeping lines of communication open. If your team feels they can talk to you like a peer they will approach you with problems and issues more quickly in many cases.
8. JUMP IN!
Do not be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get into the trenches with your team. Challenge others to develop as leaders while serving as a role model and mentor. A Project Manager that shows willingness to do any sized task will earn the respect and trust from his team necessary to be a passionate and effective team leader.
Some Quick Tips on Filling in the Gaps!
Ask Yourself…How can you improve upon the following?
1. Efficiency as it is related to infastructure?
a. Do you need more equipment?
b. Does another employee need to be hired?
c. Can the work be outsourced?
2. Employee training?
a. Are there educational tools available to equip employees with mission-critical skills?
b. Can the work be delegated to an employee with more knowledge of the task?
a. Is the issue stemming from a lack of funds?
b. Can the product or service be bought from an outside company?
c. Do you have enough employees on the team to complete the work assigned?
4. Client expectations?
a. Does the client have a realistic idea of what work is necessary for the task to be completed?
b. Is the client familiar with the processes being done?
c. Are their expectations in line with their estimated time allotted and budget?
5. Your personal PM expectations?
a. Are realistic deadlines set?
b. Do you have the resources necessary to complete tasks on time?
c. Are your team members equipped with all the skills necessary?
Go through each of these questions and answer them honestly. Identify areas where improvement can be made and list them according to which are the biggest priorities. Start at the top of the list and work your way down!
PM SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS
Many effective tools are available online to aid in the project management process. The question was posed, “What would ideal small business task management software look like?” An article in Entrepreneur magazine outlined the answer.
1. It would be web-based so everyone could see it at the same time.
2. It would have secure access, allowing different users the rights to see and change different things.
3. It would integrate with at least some system of timesheet data entry.
4. It would easily manage multiple projects and show people’s schedules across those projects.
As previously mentioned, there are some great software products on the market to help facilitate the project management process such as proTasker. These products are incredibly user-friendly. Action items and milestones for each project are all in one place and easy to access. The tasks assigned to each team member seamlessly integrate with their personal calendar, allowing them to look ahead at the work they need to finish. Pertinent files can be uploaded for team members to access and an employee discussion forum keeps all communication about the project in one place.
When it comes to personal and team organization as well as staying on track with deadlines, software tools like these are incredibly helpful to small businesses.
To learn more about proTasker, visit http://protasker.com/.