In 2017, the Project Management Institute produced a survey called Pulse of the Profession. In this survey, executive leaders identified the most common reason for project failure as being a lack of clear goals.
What does this finding tell us?
Leaders of all kinds of businesses may do everything right, but their projects won’t achieve success without proper project management. It’s crucial for everyone to pay attention to their current project management tactics, so they can upgrade them and introduce new ones as needed.
Why Should Leaders Be Worried about Project Management?
Project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” It doesn’t necessarily involve working more, but it does involve working in a smarter way.
This definition translates to delivering good results—during the first attempt, and before the deadline. It requires staying within the limits of the project’s budget, but still meeting expectations.
As an example, let’s say a non-governmental organization is working on a project for building a sports hall for a local school. First, Johan, the project manager, has to develop a detailed proposal, which he’ll submit to several investors. After Johan gets the funds, he’ll develop a step-by-step action plan that disciplined team of that proposal.
Without proper project management principles, the process will take way too long to be completed. In many situations, it may even stop halfway. But with a disciplined team guided by a devoted project manager, everything will go smoothly.
Now, here’s the question: Are there precise project management techniques you should start practicing? Below, you’ll find a list of the most effective ones.
23 of the Best Practices and Principles in Project Management
1. Be Empathic.
Empathy is an essential project management skill. Even in the US Army, the Army Field Manual on Leader Development emphasizes empathy as a crucial element of successful leadership.
However, being empathic doesn’t necessarily mean being soft. It means putting yourself in the shoes of your team members, your clients, your business partners, and everyone else you work with. Whatever issues you face, try to understand the viewpoint of the person on the other end.
When you use an empathic approach to understand your colleagues’ problems, you’ll find a solution.
2. Define the Results.
What’s the exact goal? What deliverables do you need by the end of each stage? What goals do you want each team member to achieve?
Before the work starts, you should develop and document tangible goals.
3. Manage the Risks.
Each project is associated with risks. Some of the most common ones include:
- Tasks that aren’t completed on time
- Team members that lack technical skills to complete tasks
- Expenses that exceed the budget
Whenever you start planning a new project, identify the possible risks. Then plan the ways you’ll manage the highest risk factors, in case they occur.
4. Identify Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses.
It’s not just about the project; it’s about the leader, too. Are you capable of managing this project? Will you be able to host productive meetings? Are you inspiring enough? Will you manage to attract the right clients?
It’s important to analyze your skills as a manager, so you can work on improving them.
Write down your strengths and weaknesses. When you identify them, be completely honest with yourself. What can you do to improve those weaknesses? Can you take an online course or additional training? Maybe it only requires changing your mindset.
5. Develop Effective Communication Channels.
If you communicate ineffectively, your problems will linger beneath the surface. And by the time you realize they’re still there, they could be out of control.
You can solve this problem by developing a culture in which team members feel comfortable talking about their problems. They shouldn’t be frightened about escalating issues to higher management, who should consistently ask for feedback from their insubordinates.
6. Hold Everyone Accountable.
Project management is all about making sure everyone is performing well. As a manager, you need to emphasize the importance of accountability. Everyone should deliver their designated tasks on time, so the team will succeed as a whole.
7. Be a Great Motivator.
No, you don’t have to start giving motivational speeches every day.
But as a manager, it’s your responsibility to motivate your employees. So occasionally send affirmative emails, encourage your team to monitor and adjust as needed, and thank everyone for delivering good results.
Being a motivator means leading by example. If you want your team members to complete the tasks on time, you have to do the same thing with your tasks. If you want them to be committed, you need to be the first one to make a full-on commitment to the project.
8. Factor in Every Change.
Project managers often neglect the aspect of change. They plan everything in detail, but forget that the business environment may need to change in-process.
Stakeholders may change their minds about projects and be more demanding. Inevitably, you need to go over the budget and extend the deadline.
The initial plan should be flexible enough to incorporate any kind of change. To handle changes, you can reallocate resources and adjust the process in a way that will help you deliver results without extending the deadline.
9. Keep Your Meetings Brief.
Scrum meetings are really effective. They boost the energy levels of the team., and inform the team members about all aspects of the project. Therefore, they can coordinate with each other and help each other out.
At the beginning of each day, host brief Scrum meetings!
10. Track the Deviations.
Deviations aren’t exceptions. They’re standards. Your team might miss deadlines. The project may go over budget, and you may face risks you didn’t plan for. Anything could happen.
The important thing is to stay sane. During the project’s development, you need to keep track of all processes, so you can identify these deviations and act ASAP.
The most important factors to track include the budgets of the work you have scheduled and the actual cost of the work you perform.
11. Create a Clear Schedule.
Don’t just inform everyone about deadlines, and leave it there. The team needs a clear schedule with properly identified tasks and timeframes. You can use Trello, Google Calendar, or any other app that lets you share the plan.
In particular, Trello is very effective at organizing the workflow. You can create different boards, with tasks for all team members. As they complete the tasks, they’ll report them in the same app.
12. Make the Project Transparent.
The project data shouldn’t be top secret. Instead of simply delegating tasks to individuals, you should explain how these tasks fit into the entire project.
With this approach, you’ll inspire a greater sense of responsibility and accountability for each team member.
13. Track the Progress, and Write Detailed Reports.
As a project manager, you must monitor the development of the project throughout all of its stages.
You need progress reports from all team members, and you need to write your own report. This report records the discrepancies between the schedule and budget you planned and the ones that actually manifested themselves.
If report-writing takes up too much of your time, you can rely on the writers from SuperiorPapers.com. You just provide the data, and they deliver well-structured reports for you.
14. Organize All Resources.
If someone needs to access a weekly report, where can they find it? And if they need a specific document, where is it located?
You have to organize all resources, and inform your team members about this organizational system. For instance, if they borrow something, they should put it back where they found it.
15. Create a Knowledge Base.
To benefit from the expertise of the people in your organization, you should keep all project-related knowledge resources in a single database. There, you’ll share reports and recommendations from past projects.
If you encounter an obstacle along the way, ask yourself: Did the team deal with a similar issue in the past? Your previous projects have a lot to teach you. The previous solutions you implemented either turned out to be effective or ineffective. So if you analyze them, it will be easier for you to come up with action steps.
You can’t just tell people to give you reports and expect them to appear exactly the way you intended. As a leader, you need to encourage the communication process.
Mingle with your team members, and ask relevant questions. If you can help with something, do so. When you check on progress, ask how you can make the process more efficient.
17. Reinvent Your Practices.
In a Deloitte survey of executives, 58% of them said their current performance management approach wasn’t effective, in terms of boosting employee engagement and performance. And only 39% of the respondents had reviewed and updated their practices in the past 18 months.
These results teach us a valuable lesson: Even if you’re a great project manager, you can’t get stuck in the same pattern.
18. Stay Realistic.
Are your objectives realistic? You’ll probably answer with a firm yes. But are they realistic, given the deadlines and budget?
A great project manager knows how to set realistic expectations, given the resources.
19. Create a Team of Specialists.
Each member of your team should specialize in specific tasks, so they can complete them again without much effort.
For example, if someone is great at social media marketing, put them in charge of that aspect of the project. Don’t burden them with outside tasks, so they can focus on doing what they do best.
20. Take Your Inbox Seriously.
Some project managers keep their inboxes empty at all times. Any unattended notification on their smartphone makes them nervous. Other managers have dozens of messages waiting to be opened.
Which ones do you think are more organized?
Truth be told, when you get too many messages on a daily basis, it’s not easy to deal with them all. If that’s the case with you, you need a system.
- Create folders in your inbox.
- Sort the messages according to priority.
- Deal with the most important ones the same day you receive them.
- Spend one hour per week going through the other folders.
With this strategy, you’ll prevent important notifications from being ignored.
21. Have a Purpose.
Every project should have a purpose, which motivates the team to try harder. So determine the purpose of each individual involved by asking these questions:
- What does this project mean to everyone involved in it?
- Does it help the community?
- Does it boost individual skills?
22. Celebrate the Small Wins.
Don’t wait until the project is complete to celebrate the ultimate achievement. Instead, celebrate all stages. The process is what matters. When someone from the team does a great job covering daily tasks, praise them right away!
23. Have a Reflection Session.
No matter how successful or unsuccessful a project is, it teaches valuable lessons.
Once you’re done with all stages and have tangible results, it’s important to reflect on them. So you need to answer a few questions:
- What worked, and what didn’t work?
- What challenges did you face, and what did you do to overcome them? Were those steps effective?
- What lesson did each hardship teach?
Sit with your team, and ask them to answer these questions individually. Then see what you can extract from those answers. If you consolidate your answers in a report, it will show you how to avoid the same mistakes in the future. It will also list effective solutions so you can implement them again.
It’s All About the Practice.
How do you become a better project manager? Just do your job! But to become great at it, you need to keep introducing new practices. You can try tons of techniques, but the above-listed practices give you a good place to start.
Joseph McLean has worked as a freelance writer for over 7 years, with a diploma in English literature from the University of Queensland. Throughout his career, he has advised big companies and freelancers about planning campaigns and writing successful blogs. In his spare time, you can find him travelling all over the planet.