Do you think you’re a good project manager? Project management is a discipline involving a wide range of technical and non-technical skills. Here, we discuss three of our top tips to help you do it well. And three things not to do.

What is project management?

TV programmes like The Apprentice give a strange impression of project management. If you only watched that, you’d think the main skills are running in impractical outfits, selling poorly thought-out products and shouting at colleagues.

Unsurprisingly, there’s more to it than that.

Project management is a structured discipline, designed to achieve a goal in the best and most efficient way. The Association for Project Management defines it as “the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters.”

Quote defining project management

How do project and programme management differ?

Programme management sits at a higher, more strategic level than project management. It has longer-term objectives and takes an overview of the situation. A programme can comprise several different, but related, projects and is supervised and co-ordinated by a programme manager.

Project management is more specific and each project usually has a set time-frame. There is a final result to deliver such as a product, system, campaign or event.

Three tips for effective project management

1. Set the project scope

This first step is essential for every project manager. It covers all areas of your project: activities, resources, timelines, processes, key stakeholders, budget, business case, deliverables.

The scope must be defined before you start work, to set clear boundaries and how to achieve success. It becomes the project manager’s go-to document and a valuable resource helping the team stay on track.

2. Clearly identify roles and responsibilities using a tool like RACI

There are many variations of this model but including a simple tool like this will help clarify roles and responsibilities. Broadly, it covers:

  • Responsible – who’s doing the task or the overall decision maker
  • Accountable – who owns the work, and is accountable for it being done (and done well)
  • Consulted – who is/are the key people to communicate with, and who can give you necessary information
  • Informed – who you must update on progress of the project

This step may seem time-consuming but is helpful in setting and managing expectations. The hard part can be getting people to stick to their role!

3. Choose a project management methodology

Many project management methodologies have developed over the years: agile, waterfall, scrum, Kanban, to name a few. They’re useful frameworks to help you manage and track a project. Different industries have even developed their own specific versions.

They all work slightly differently and each has its pros and cons. Make sure you choose the right one for your team and management style.

Three project management pitfalls to avoid

1. Poor communication

Communication can be considered as a soft skill but it’s one of the most vital in project management.

Increased levels of remote working can present challenges to effective communication. For example team members may not naturally overhear information as they would in an office setting. So it’s vital to have a formal (but not overstructured) way of updating the project team.

This means communicating successes and problems; don’t bury your head in the sand if the project isn’t on track.

2. Setting unrealistic deadlines

Your final deadline may have some flexibility depending on the project’s goal. But you must also consider deadlines for each stage and how they contribute to the whole.

Be realistic rather than over-optimistic (for whatever reason e.g. pressure from a boss or client). It will give you the best chance of completing the project on time.

If you’ve set deadlines properly in your scope document this will help. And if something does change, reflect it in the plan so you’re working from the most accurate, up-to-date document.

3. Failure to review at the end of the project

When a project is delivered, it’s tempting to be relieved and move on swiftly to the next item on the to-do list. Evaluating what went well and reviewing any problems are key to ensuring successful project management in future. It also helps to track and record processes and workflows so you can reuse them in the next project.

Why use formal project management?

Our experienced project managers work with clients to solve a wide range of business problems.

We will manage your entire project, either embedded in your team or as a fully outsourced function. We’ll design the programme, monitor progress, define governance requirements and ensure a successful outcome.

Contact us for a free, no-obligation chat to discover how we can help you manage projects, meet deadlines and achieve your objectives.

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