Demand for skilled project managers is at an all-time high. An estimated 1.5 million new positions being opened each year. Why? Because businesses of all types are under pressure to reach new customers and strengthen their bottom line. A good project manager can make that happen.
So what distinguishes a good project manager from the rest? The short version of the answer is that they know how to lead and can work with a wide range of personalities. The longer explanation is that a good project manger has mastered the 8 team management tricks below.
1. Research a Project Plan
This one should be obvious, but some project managers overlook the research phase. They would rather jump straight into action, with a hands-on approach from start to finish. To give the team (and yourself) a clear perspective, you should begin with research. Here’s the kind of information you should collect:
- Information about the client and their personal expectations and style
- A statement of work, which specifies both the project deliverables and goals
- A tentative schedule that can be used to shape the actual project timeline
- A proposed budget, which makes it easier to assemble the right resources
Armed with this information, you can get your project–and your team–started on the right foot.
2. Understand and Address Constraints
The biggest project constraints are arguably time, resources, and budget. When you look at the project scope, ask yourself if it is doable given the restraints in these three areas. Does the budget cover the necessary labor? Are there enough personnel to do the required work? Has experience taught you that you will need twice the allotted time to finish the project?
If the answer to these or similar questions is no, be up front with the client. Never begin a project when you know that there isn’t enough time, resources, or money to create all deliverables. Otherwise, your team will experience the frustration of a stalled or abandoned project or, even worse, burn out.
3. Share Plan Expectations Clearly
A good plan is only beneficial if it is well-executed. To make that happen, you need to share it with all stakeholders and your team. One of the biggest causes of project failure is lack of effective communication, so make sure that the following variables are clearly articulated.
- Project requirements
- Scope and budget
- How resources will be allocated
- The respective roles of each team member
The best project managers leave no room for ambiguity. Even a single misunderstanding can set the project back, which costs time and money.
4. Make Progress Easy to Visualize
Visualization tools make project monitoring simpler and more efficient. You can choose from a variety of tools, but Gantt charts are the most popular because they clearly define what needs to be done at any stage in the project. A Gantt chart can even help you identify potential bottlenecks in workflow.
Toggl Plan is a software option that makes it easy to create project timelines. Your team can use the timeline to confirm at a glance where they are in a project, what resources they need for certain tasks, and what the next step is.
[bctt tweet=”Agree or disagree: The biggest project constraints are #time, resources, and #budget. ” username=”toggl plan”]
Communication is so important. If your team communication breaks down, your project may break down, too. When collaboration is not sustained by open communication, your team can miss dates and the deliverables will be impacted.
As project manager, you are responsible for determining the right medium for communicating with your team. Although email is arguably the most popular tool, it isn’t exactly efficient. A team management solution like Toggl Plan can make status checks, changes in plan, and reports on deliverables simpler to send, read, and follow.
6. Prepare for Risks
You’ve heard the saying, “expect the unexpected.” Even when you’ve carefully planned and executed a project, unexpected things happen. The best project managers prepare for these unwelcome surprises by understanding the risks and project management challenges.
What disruptions are foreseeable? An important team member might quit. The client might not respond to an approval request quickly enough to keep the project on schedule. Some sources of funding have questionable stability. Once you identify most of the areas where things could go wrong, you can plan pre-emptive actions or find solutions, instead of doing last-minute damage control.
7. Know Each Team Member’s Workload
It’s happened to every project manager. At some point in the project cycle, a member of the team approaches you and complains about being overloaded. Or, conversely, they say that they have nothing to do right now and need direction. Avoid these uncomfortable (and morale-draining) scenarios by using team management software to ensure that the workload is evenly distributed and a few team members aren’t stuck working overtime every day while everyone else (including you) gets to leave.
8. Create Feedback Protocols
Your team already knows how to respond when the project is progressing smoothly- they keep going. But do they understand how to report and respond to problems? Do they alert their immediate supervisor or team lead, or do they skip the chain of command for certain situations and contact you directly?
A response that follows correct protocols can prevent a small setback from turning into a disaster of epic proportions. No one on your team should ever have to guess what they should do in a particular situation. If you find that uncertainty is hindering everyone, it’s time for a dedicated team meeting.
Team management isn’t always easy. Misunderstandings can occur, personalities sometimes clash, and even the best-planned timeline can be impacted by a major setback. But good project managers cultivate a work environment of communication and transparency and do everything in their power to help the team be the best that it can be, regardless of whether the waters are stormy or everything is smooth sailing. In this type of setting, success is much more likely.
Rose Keefe is an author and technical writer who has over ten years’ experience in supporting project managers in the manufacturing and construction sectors. One of her primary responsibilities was developing product manuals that supported efficient use of industrial equipment. She continues to write on the subject of time management and commercial productivity for trade websites and publications.