Did you know that the Great Pyramid of Giza:
- required an average workforce of 14,567 people,
- used critical path analysis, and
- was completed in approximately 10 years?
With its many tunnels and impressive structure, one can deduce that some sort of project management was used in order to complete the project. Think about it: with so many skilled individuals working together, only an early form of a project manager could have guided them to successful project completion.
And more than 4,500 years after the pyramid’s construction, the role of a project manager in guiding a project is still as important as ever. In 2015, the state of the global economy has forced more companies to re-examine the way they operate, with more organisations focusing on the proper execution of strategic projects and initiatives. Their goal of better project execution can only be achieved with rigorous project and program management.
Traditionally regarded as useful only in the IT industry, project management is now used in more and more industries every day. Whether it is energy or health care, every sector needs to deliver their projects on time and within budget.
Knowing this, how is it possible that projects still fail, even with project managers at the helm? The truth is that talented project managers are hard to find.
Poor project management doesn’t always stem from a lack of professional qualifications, either – the role of a project manager requires more than just being book smart. On the other hand, being detail-oriented doesn’t automatically make you a great project manager either. In reality, project management requires a mixed bag of skills, both ‘soft’ (interpersonal) and ‘hard’ (professional) skills.
So what can you do to make sure you succeed at your job? To help you sharpen your skills, here are 6 useful tips for new project managers.
1. Develop strong listening skills
Whether it’s your first or fiftieth project management job, you won’t get far without listening to other people. Regardless of what you’re working on, it is important to stop and listen to what your team or your client is saying – a huge part of which involves picking up on non-verbal cues.
Developing emotional intelligence can also help with team motivation, managing change and improving decision making. New and old project managers alike should practice speaking less and listening more.
2. Avoid micromanaging
Yes, it’s true that the role of a project manager is to manage their team – but only up to a point. Some people get a bit too involved, insisting on looking into every detail of their team’s work. This, however, will have the opposite effect.
Your constant interruption will drive employees crazy, while keeping you from the real job of management. Make sure to hold regular meetings to keep everyone abreast of their roles, but remember to give your team breathing room to do their best work.
3. Delegate and follow up
A typical project team comprises of people with different competencies, skills and temperaments. Part of a project manager’s job is to make all these people work together towards the desired end goal.
In order to do that, you need to identify your most skilled members and delegate tasks to them appropriately. But delegation is only half the battle; you can’t simply hand off responsibilities and assume everything will go as planned. Make sure to check in with your team members from time to time, but in a way that won’t disrupt their tasks.
4. Master your tools
Modern projects rely on collaborative project management tools so team members can keep in touch and make sure the project is moving in the right direction. Whether you’re the junior, senior or the only project manager on the team, always familiarise yourself with the suite of tools used.
Technique is just as important when managing projects and two of the leading approaches are PERT and CPA. These are used to analyse, coordinate, schedule and track project tasks.
5. “Measure twice, cut once”
Many project managers, especially new ones, tend to focus on speed and beating deadlines, rather than quality. However, this is not a good approach. Whether it’s a new or existing project, always take the time to study what has been done previously. By pre-emptively identifying as many risks and dependencies as possible, you can create a viable project plan.
This approach will ensure that all milestones and deliverables are tracked from the beginning and any kind of scope creep is avoided.
6. Get certified
Although most people involved in project management do it as part of their job, a certification can help enormously with a career as a professional project manager. There are many certifications you can earn in project management, for example a PMI, PRINCE2 or Agile credential (to name a few).
Having a legitimate credential in the field shows your professional commitment and conveys a higher level of knowledge and technical expertise. If you want to have a long career in project management, a certification is always worth having under your belt.
So whether your aim is to become a professional project manager, or it’s just a part of your job, following the above guidelines will help you to ensure that your projects are executed flawlessly. However, written guidelines can only take you so far, and it’s ultimately down to you to put these guidelines into motion. It might not happen overnight but if you are serious about your role and committed to developing your skills, you’ll be a project management master in no time!
Do you have any other tips for new project managers that you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!