Are things spinning out of control in your work place? Is there so much going on you don’t know how to focus your team to move a project forward? I’ve found that having the latest and greatest project management tool isn’t the key to making you or your project successful. You need to understand how to simplify project management and you need to have the right soft skills to connect with your team.
I’ve sat in numerous meetings recently where I thought a clear goal had been defined but soon realized that not everyone in the room shared that goal; their priorities had changed. We have a lot of innovative thinkers in our company and sometimes that makes managing projects challenging. I’ve had many discussions with Rose on how to lead this group, and over time have learned some tried and true tips that have helped get things back on track.
1. Communication is key. Clear, consistent and over the top communication. And I’m talking face to face communication. Not just an email reminder. I know that’s not always possible but it’s amazing how eye contact and facial expressions can clarify an understanding between two or more people. I realize this isn’t the main way to communicate in this day and age. However, when you communicate, whether you’re sending emails, catching people at their desks, sitting in a meeting, or communicating on a social network or video meeting, you must work hard to ensure your team is on the same page.
2. Make the project goal crystal clear. If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there? And, more importantly, how will you get your team there? Write the goal down, let your team ask questions, make sure everyone understands what you’re trying to accomplish. Then, determine how you’re going to get there by identifying the tasks to be done, who’s responsible and when it needs to be done. If you’re all heading down the same road, you’ll get there faster and with fewer bumps along the way.
3. Accountability is a must. Set up consistent project meetings and set clear expectations for providing status on the project. Everyone has a lot to do, and you can help your team get things done by clearly defining the priorities and processes they need to follow for reporting status. Consistently held, project meetings with open team communication, will help move a team forward, build trust, identify risks and road blocks, and help you meet your project goals.
I’m not saying all of this is easy. As a matter of fact, it can be pretty challenging, but these simple guidelines have made a difference for my projects.
I agree 100% with what Laurie has said here. Even a company like ours that prides itself on simplified project management has trouble staying focused. As in most organizations, we are comprised of multiple personality types and it can be challenging for Laurie to keep us all on task.
To re-emphasize what she said, there is no tool on earth that will guarantee your success. Tools can highlight problem areas and resource challenges but it takes a skilled PM to navigate through the issues and keep the project on track. Here are a few additional thoughts on Laurie’s “Top 3:”
1. Communication – Virtual teams can be a tricky challenge since face-to-face conversations are difficult. Make sure you plan some time for in-person meetings or at a minimum, schedule video calls to talk through tough topics. Try to avoid managing problems with email; while convenient tone can be easily misinterpreted. The extra effort that it takes to make a phone call or walk down the hall will be well worth it.
2. Goals (and competing goals) – This is one of the biggest problems a resource-constrained organization typically runs into. If there is more work to be done than there is time and resources to fulfill, projects will compete for attention. To further complicate this, key resources often have assignments on 5, 10, or more projects. This results in a phenomenon where the resource spends more time switching between work efforts than actually producing work and all of the projects suffer delays. Sound familiar? Take a look at your company’s resource allocation across projects. If your project’s resources can’t devote focused time to meet the project’s goals, you will need to make some changes.
3. Accountability – Each individual team member needs to understand his or her specific responsibilities and commit to meeting the dates. This means the entire team must not only understand the assignments, they must work with the PM to develop the schedule. You can dictate whatever you like but if you don’t have commitment, it isn’t going to work.
Can tools help? Absolutely, they can help us understand the projects and priorities, the resource commitments and the roadblocks. But, they can’t solve the problems. That takes a team, led by a good project manager.