It’s halfway through 2022 and the end of the second quarter for many organizations. So how are your projects going? If you are still struggling to find your rhythm or are looking for new ways to tighten up your project management skills, try these best practices to finish the last half of the year off strong.
Talk to Your Team to Properly Estimate Inputs
While, as a project manager, you may think you know how long a task or project might take, don’t start estimating until you talk to your entire team. That includes junior developers as well. Why? Everyone works at their own pace and according to their knowledge levels. For example, suppose you are only speaking to the lead dev. In that case, they might know how long it would take them to do a task, but a junior developer, just finding their legs, might have a very different answer. This is also important if you share team members across projects. Get a full accounting of everyone’s perspective, and you’ll get closer to the reality of how long something takes to execute.
Be Specific About Responsibilities and Expectations
Don’t risk the success of a project by being vague. Make sure your team members know exactly what they need to do and when. Make sure any details they need to finalize their task are at their fingertips (or that they know where to access everything). The more color and clarity you can give, the less friction your team members will have in finalizing it.
Build Out Processes to Keep Everyone Informed
When it comes to successful project management, communication is critical. That’s why it’s essential to create a series of processes and expectations to build clear communication strategies. That may mean implementing tools (like Slack) to help your team connect and keep everyone up to date on the project and any ancillary tasks and updates. Even if you are halfway through a project and realize that communication is a weak link, it’s never too late to build out and communicate expectations to all involved.
Communication works both ways, and it is also crucial that you, as a project manager, keep your team informed of any changes. As soon as you know of the necessary changes, you need to get that information into the hands of your team. That way, less time is spent backtracking. Also, if you can set the tone for what communication should be like, your team members will be more likely to follow your lead.
The best way to ensure you’re leading by example is to use the same communication methods you push onto your team. For example, if you institute Slack as a mode of communication, you also use it as your primary mode of communication.
Follow the Progress
While each person needs to take personal responsibility for individual tasks, ultimately, it’s on you as a project manager to map the progress and ensure you get the entire project over the finish line. Tools will help you stay aware of ongoing task progress and showcase how you advance. Look for solutions that help illustrate the progress that will help you both stay organized and translate the latest project updates to stakeholders visually. Apps like Monday.com and Trello help keep everything organized, and Jira can help manage agile workflows and bug tracking.
Like communication, using technology to map and follow progress requires you to be where your team is, so make sure you use the same tech your team is leveraging.
Stop Scope Creep as Early as Possible
From time to time, items and tasks that were not part of the original brief may pop up. While this is natural, and while it’s entirely expected to have to tweak plans here and there, as a project manager, you need to keep a watchful eye out for scope creep.
Sometimes a stakeholder might initiate scope creep by asking a team member to go beyond a required task. At other times, the client may want to change a specific aspect of the project (in both small and large ways). Team members can also contribute to scope creep by going deeper into tasks than necessary or getting roped into “side projects” initiated by stakeholders, clients, or different teams (sometimes without realizing it).
The most important thing to do is call out scope creep and get everyone back on the same page. Go into conversations prepared to show how much the “tweak” will cost time and resources. While you should be flexible enough to pivot if the change is deemed necessary, don’t let any “extra work” slip by without giving the primary stakeholders the facts they need to decide if the work will be worth the outcome (and any related cost).
Keep Your Risk Response Team on Speed Dial
If you don’t have a risk response team in place, it’s time to build one. If there’s ever a problem, they can jump in ASAP. Your risk response team should be composed of individuals trained to take on emergencies and who can jump in at a moment’s notice to work towards a resolution.
Of course, compiling a risk response team does take time and resources, as proper training may be necessary. However, they can be invaluable if your project hits a crisis mode. Start compiling a list of people you know you can count on to jump into action, including developers, designers, marketers, or HR, and start devising a game plan for contingencies.
Are You Writing Everything Down Yet?
If you aren’t, it’s time to start. That includes from the moment a project is in its inception phase through to completion and evaluation. Writing down meeting minutes, agreed-upon deliverables, project outlines, goals, et cetera, will help you stay organized and give you details to look back on throughout the current project. More importantly, it will act as a blueprint for future projects by giving you a complete roadmap to template, tweak, or follow going forward.
Take Time to Evaluate
Once a project is wrapped, it’s time to learn from every aspect of it. For example, did the tools and technology you implemented work for you or against you? How was the communication? Were documents and iterations of the product easy to find? Was there scope creep, and how did you deal with it? Did you go over budget? Et cetera.
Take note of every aspect of the project and reflect on how things went down. Once a project closes, you have the space and the time to look at all the ways the project succeeded and find ways to replicate successes while smoothing out any rough patches to make the next go-around more streamlined.
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