Happy Project Management Day!
Imagine you have a significant project on your plate that you need to deliver in a very short amount of time. Loads of stakeholder eyes are watching your every move and one wrong turn could cost you dearly. The stakes are high, and your stress levels are equally high. Who are you going to turn to for help?
A project manager of course!
Nov 3rd is international project management day and to celebrate some of the amazing Orchard Project managers (PMs) have shared the following tips to keep your projects running smoothly.
1. Solid communication is the key to success.
Be transparent and communicate more than you think is necessary. It’s important to invest time and energy in building a good relationship with all stakeholders, they will be more likely to forgive when things don’t go to plan, and this helps build trust when you need to manage scope changes.
Same goes with your project team. Good communication can be the difference between success and failure. A team who are highly connected and in sync will achieve more than a team who are on cruise control and oblivious to future project issues or risks. As the PM it’s your job to set up an environment where clear and organised project communication can take place.
2. Believe in what you are delivering
When your team put in the effort to create a solid solution that solves a business/customer problem, it’s your duty as the PM to clearly define the scope of that solution and provide a project plan that explains how you will deliver the work. The best plans are created when the PM understands and believes in the solution just as much as the team who will execute the work. This is especially important when presenting that plan to stakeholders.
Sometimes stakeholders can react negatively to a scope or timeline. The classic line of.. ‘I nearly fell off my chair when I saw your ….’ can throw any PM off their game. The important thing is to listen and let your stakeholder express their thoughts. Understand their concerns by asking questions to find out what their issue is. If it’s budget, find out what their maximum budget is, and then descope to suit. Where possible hold your ground and believe in solution you and your team are offering.
3. Timelines are the lifeblood of your job. Do them first!
On any project the first thing usually asked is “how much and how long?”. Creating a project timeline at the start of your project will give you an idea of the resources/people/team needed, the rough project costs and the steps needed for the project to be successfully.
4. Stay in control by running a project status report regularly
For a project to be successful there are 4 big KPIs a PM needs to tick off: budget, timings, scope, and risk. It’s impossible to stay on top of these without constantly interrogating all 4 regularly. Questions a PM should be seeking answers for are: Are we on budget? Will we stay on budget? Are we running to schedule? Are we on scope or have we deviated? What does this deviation mean for the project budget and timings? Have we assessed all project risks? Have any new ones developed? Reporting on status to stakeholders and teams regularly will keep your project under control.
5. Say 'yes, and...' more than you say 'No'.
This is a controversial tip, but still a good one. 'No' is a brick wall. It's where ideas go to die. 'No' shows a lack of interest and desire to engage. It's rejection. When a human hears 'No' often they start to learn to avoid that pathway. No one like rejection and you can expect a teammate or stakeholder who consistently hits the 'No' brick wall will at some point change tactics to get a 'yes' or they'll give up.
'Yes, and' opens creative flow of ideas between teammates, it encourages collaboration and brings with it more opportunities. Some of the best nuggets of gold come off the back of unusual change requests. The healthiest project teams are the ones with a good flow of ideas, debate and change. Set your project up to handle a few ‘Yes, and’ moments. Give yourself room to assess the impact of the change, validate if it's worth pursuing (is it better for business or customer) and then plan how to make it happen if the impact is considered valuable.
6. Be organised
Organise your project documents and working boards (Jira) so that team members can easily follow along. For example: Have a centralised page where all your important project links and document live; Clearly label tasks, sprints, epics so that teams understand where they are up to; When managing multiple resources working on the same document, such as a copywriter annotating it for a ref pack and another marking up design changes, it helps to differentiate the mark ups. Eg: Put ‘DESIGN’ in bold before the change, so when the studio is doing the changes, they can quickly tell what they need to attend to.
7. Run Retrospectives often
Retrospectives are post project/sprint review sessions where you discuss what worked and didn’t work. They are so important at closing the project, celebrating wins, and learning what not to do next time.
8. Remember to breath!
Take a deep breath – and treat the challenge in front of you like a puzzle that needs solving. I.e. put the pieces in the right order. Meditation is also helpful when things get stressful.