10 Tips for New Project Managers
A Guide to Setting Goals for Project Managers
If you are new to project management there may seem to be a bewildering array of do’s and don’ts, guidelines, and rules to follow. While each company has its own approach to the discipline, there are some approaches to the job that has near-universal applicability. The following tips for new project managers cover a broad sampling of such methods.
Establish Goals at the Outset
Analysis of how you are going to complete the project should be done after project goals have been set. Even if the broad project objectives are assigned to you, take some time to delve into these goals to make sure they are reasonably achievable given the resources and time you will have available for the project. Once the goals have been established, you can perform analyses such as PESTEL and SWOT as necessary.
Avoid Mission Creep
Getting noticed and getting promoted are worthwhile goals, but biting off more than you can chew on a project is unlikely to help you achieve them. While setting ambitious goals for a project may be justified if you have the time, resources, and skill to successfully meet them, be cautious of your projects getting bogged down by “mission creep.” This occurs when project goals are unwisely expanded, or new ones created excessively, jeopardizing your ability to effectively bring the project to creation.
A project’s chances of success can rise or fall depending on the quality of communication between the project manager and other team members. If your communication is good, you should be able to identify and deal with any challenges that arise during the project’s implementation in a timely manner. If communication is subpar, these issues can substantially delay, and even halt altogether project completion.
Pursue an open-door policy with your team members. By making yourself accessible to them you improve the amount of project information you receive. The greater the amount of information you have access to, the better your decisions regarding project strategy are likely to be. Communication with customers should also be a priority to enable you to keep customers in the loop if changes are necessary or to speedily implement changes requested by a customer.
Breaking a project into different segments can in many cases make it easier to complete the project. Besides helping team morale by setting up easier-to-achieve goals, segmenting a project in this way allows you to focus on challenges unique to different portions of the project in isolation. Doing so makes it easier to complete each portion of the project in a timely manner.
Document Project Progress and Challenges
Maintaining copious notes about project goals and challenges encountered in achieving those goals is crucial to keeping a project on track. Make sure to share your notes and relevant pm resources with your team to ensure that everybody is up-to-date on where the project is and what needs to be done. Taking note of challenges as they arise helps to address them as quickly as possible by providing a record that your team can use to track ongoing issues and their resolution.
Solicit Input from Team Members and Stakeholders
The more feedback you get about the project’s goals and implementation the better. To ensure you are receiving a sufficiently broad set of input regarding the project, reach out to team members and other stakeholders to get their take on the optimal approach to achieving the project’s objectives.
Even if you disagree with their views on the project, getting feedback of this type can be very helpful both in testing your own opinions and in making various stakeholders feel that their input is appreciated. Once you’ve heard everyone’s opinions, you can make your decisions about how to tackle the project.
Be Upfront About Project Challenges and Issues
Transparency is a virtue when communicating with your team, managers, and other projects stakeholders. Let them know about any potential impediments to the timely completion of the project, as well as risks from a budgetary standpoint. Doing so means that if you encounter challenges, project participants won’t be blindsided when they occur. Taking such a proactive approach gives you a chance to help set reasonable expectations for project deliveries and to make sure your team is prepared to handle any eventuality.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Always ask what can go wrong. Very few projects proceed exactly as planned. When circumstances change, whether due to changing project requirements or some other factor, dealing with the situation can bring up unanticipated hurdles. To prepare for the possibility, research past results from similar projects to gain an understanding of potential outcomes. Seek input from team members on the subject for expanded insight.
To paraphrase a famous saying: very few plans survive first contact with reality. To be a successful project manager it is essential to be able to deal with changing circumstances. To accomplish this, you must remain flexible. If the original approach to meeting an objective isn’t working, try a different one. If a project requires more resources, don’t be afraid to let upper management know. Sticking to a plan when that plan is no longer applicable to the situation at hand is unlikely to bring about a positive project outcome.
Challenge ideas to make them better
Test your starting assumptions to make sure they will hold up for the duration of the project. These fundamental principles pertaining to the methods, resources, and timeline that will be used to complete the project should be as accurate as possible to boost your chances of completing the project on-time and within budget.
An effective way of challenging your ideas about the project is to ask “what if?” This forces you to consider what would happen if project results or circumstances fail to meet expectations. This process is helped by treating the input of project stakeholders, inside and outside of your team, with respect. This is especially true of those with technical expertise in areas outside of your specialty. By the same token, feel free to challenge their ideas just as you are challenging your own. Doing so allows you to reach a consensus outlook on project strategy and implementation that can help enhance project outcomes.
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