No matter how great your business is, there's always room to grow and better the quality of your projects. In today's post, we'll discuss some top tips for improving your projects by helping you improve the way you manage your team. Developing your leadership across each point will help your team grow and establish or improve the processes that not only help them function, but succeed.
1. Communication Is Vital
Communication is the foundation for progress in each stage of any given project. However, communication should extend beyond the scope of detailing needs and expectations, and reporting progress (either success or failure). Communication should extend to all project stakeholders, even the client, and if this isn't carried through, then risks and impacts can't be clearly understood, feedback will fall through the cracks, and changes in agreements on the scope and requirements of a project will ultimately be mishandled.
As a project manager, that also means you need to utilize communication to establish the other tips for improving your projects that we list below. We strongly recommend that expectations, priorities, roles, and other specifics be put in writing at a kickoff for the project. When changes need to be made, they also need to be done in writing with all stakeholders so that everyone understands and deadlines can be adjusted as necessary. Meetings should be held so you can stay on top of what tasks have been done, what problems exist, and to ensure that there's documentation to track what is occurring to spur success ahead of time, or slow the process down. Expect and request confirmation communications. You ought to have postmortems—the project twin of the kickoff—for evaluations and feedback, so you and your team can learn what did or didn’t work.
The moment communication breaks down, your reputation—both within the business and as a business—is at risk. At best it looks unprofessional and will make your project miss deadlines, and at worst, it can ruin brand trust, perhaps irrevocably.
Minimize the Use of Email
Email should never be depended on by a project manager or their team. Depending on the size of your business and the size of the project, your team members can be inundated with emails at any given time. Tone, especially with regards to priority, can be misunderstood, and in some cases, opening an email hours or even a day later than hoped can cause undue delays. Although it can serve an important function, especially in terms of documentation, more immediate and direct communication should be utilized. This will better ensure that prioritized information and contact is actually received in a timely manner. Look for project management tools that better enable this kind of communication. Never be afraid of over-communicating, and make sure that your team understands that it is more than okay to ask questions when they're unsure of something.
2. Set Priorities
Never assume that anything is obvious, and remember that everyone sees things a little differently. Communicate priorities from top to bottom and do your best to explain why these priorities are organized the way they are. The more your team understands what is important and why, the better equipped they'll be to meet project needs.
These priorities will invariably be defined by scope, cost, and time. Changes will likely need to be made, and the unexpected may challenge your team's focus. When priorities are both clear and regularly reviewed, however, your team won't waste time or resources working in the wrong direction. It will also help you to determine whether you need to add staff to a team, adjust the budget in a certain area, or even drop tasks or aspects of deliverables to meet the right goals for your customers.
When determining the priorities for a project, you must be realistic. Demanding too much work in too little time on too small of a budget is a fast way to burn out your team, not to mention disappoint your client when the project is late and over budget. This is another facet for why it's important to have clear communication with all project stakeholders—everyone needs a clear understanding about why the forecasting has been set the way it is and how each aspect of the project needs to fit together for success.
3. Roles Must Be Clear
This is the most straightforward of our project management tips, folding the first two tips together until it's easy to understand that responsibilities need to be clearly communicated in order for each person's tasks to be completed. Different roles and responsibilities can apply to more than just the scope of a given project or task, and it can become all too easy for one team member to confuse what you expect them to be doing for what they deem important, which may even mean interfering with another team member's work. It can also mean they’re trying to take on too many tasks, perhaps in an effort to pick up slack from other team members, leading to delays on the prioritized tasks you've assigned them. If each project stakeholder understands their roles and the roles of their teammates, then the team can function like the well organized business machine it's meant to be.
4. Trust Your Team
Having a project team means that as a project manager, you're a leader and leadership is based on trust. You have to be able to trust your team to do the work you've assigned them, and team members need to be able to trust each other to carry their part of the project. Trust not only boosts morale and productivity, it diminishes stress and frustration, empowering the team to work efficiently.
Conversely, the lack of trust between team members leads to slower work, breakdowns in communication, and poor results. This also means that if there's a problematic member on the team, you'll need to step up as the project manager to mediate the issue and determine whether or not they should remain on the project.
Your Team Has to Be Able to Trust You, Too!
Presuming that your staff is competent and professional, if you trust them to do their jobs and treat them respectably, they will trust your leadership through the course of the project. However, if you treat them as though they are incompetent, or as though you don't care, you'll quickly lose their trust. There's no motivation to work hard or work confidently if they haven't been treated as though that's what they've done.
These project management tips should offer a great starting point for auditing the way you function as a manager as well as the way in which your project team functions. Each area should be a baseline for growth that improves the ultimate success of the projects you take on.