In order to become a successful project manager, it is essential to work like one. First, one should understand the tactics that are required to become a successful project manager. Effective project managers have a lot in common with any other project managers. They are people oriented and as a result, they quickly build a good working relationship with their team members. Another critical quality that project managers should possess is the knack to handle interruptions.
Project problems and requests usually have no appointment; therefore project managers should learn how to focus on need of the hour. Please note that project management requires a lot of attention; this, therefore, demands that you should be a very patient person. Understanding your responsibility as a project manager, also goes a long way in ensuring that you stay popular in this field. Unlike other managers, project managers have specific roles, which are closely aligned to the projects that they are currently managing. These roles can be broadly classified into three main categories which are; · Assuming responsibility for the project as a whole ·Leading the team ·Employing relevant project management processes. What are some of the secrets that enable you to become and remain popular in project management field?
Experience is always the best teacher, but not everyone is so lucky to have it. However, that should not discourage you. Education is a continuous process and hence it should be viewed as a journey rather than a destination. Discussed below are ways that may catapult you into a successful and prosperous project management if managed and utilized well. Consider their suggestions, but not necessarily silver bullets. There are four main ways that are designed to help you stay popular in project management, which are further sub-divided into tips as you will read later on. The broad categories include; 1.Preparation 2.Planning 3. Project estimation 4. Tracking your progress As you can clearly decipher, the above mentioned categories are arranged according to a well-designed chronological process. Therefore, do not skip any of the processes stick to them closely and you will realize how easy it is to get and remain popular in this field. View disappointments as a challenge rather than a set-back and work hard to solve them.Let’s Look at these Processes in Detail:
PreparationAs you probably know, there is no journey that can commence without preparation. Project management is a journey and as such the groundwork must be well laid before commencing this long journey. There are four suggestions under this topic, which are;
- Define your project success criteria - Make sure that you explain to all your stakeholders the importance of this project. If they are able to share a common understanding of it, like you do, then the project will most likely be a success. There are various ways which you can use to rope in all stakeholders apart from the usual predetermined schedule which include: achieving specific customer satisfaction, achieving a specific volume target, increasing and expanding your target market and being specific to details that entail maintaining minimal errors or none at all if possible.
- Identify the necessary project drivers, degrees of freedom and constraints - There are usually five common dimensions which include; staffing, budgeting, functionality, quality and schedule. Align these dimensions with your desired project success or degree of freedom. It also helps a lot to clearly define each of them into a constraint, a project driver or a degree of freedom; which you can adjust accordingly to suit your desired level of success.
- Define the product release criteria - During the initial stages of your project, decide when will be the best time to release the product you have been working on to the public. The criteria for this should be well thought out to avoid unnecessary setbacks in the project. Whatever criteria you choose, have the following in mind when designing them;
- it should be realistic, achievable
- measurable and well documented
- Negotiate on the commitments - Do not commit yourself to the goals that you truly know to be unachievable, since in the end if they prove to be unachievable you will be the one held primarily responsible, be wise. In order to avoid such pitfalls it is important to negotiate with all stakeholders about what is really achievable. Try to reason out with them on any sacrifices that you think are a necessity for the overall good of the project.
- Developing and writing a plan – Planning is very essential as it enables you to avoid many unexpected hurdles that you may otherwise encounter along the way. Writing a plan isn’t a challenge in itself, but rather its development. This is because developing a good plan involves negotiating, thinking, talking, researching and listening, which may prove quite tedious at times.
- Breaking down large tasks into smaller manageable units - The biggest advantage of subdividing your work is that, it helps you in making better estimations. In fact, it helps you to schedule further activities that you had not thought of. It also comes in handy when you are tracking your success as it permits more accurate status tracking.
- Develop worksheets for large activities - Not all activities can be broken down. Therefore, it is important to design a work plan for these activities that can’t be sub-divided further. Finally list all the necessary steps that they may require. These work plans will also help your staff and/or team members understand which tasks they are supposed to carry out.
- Have a time set aside for reworks in your plan - It is common for projects to have defects and improvement opportunities in their lifespan. Quality control experts can always find a defect in the project you are doing no matter how hard you would have worked to avoid them. Therefore be on the safe side, set aside some time for reworks to avoid any last moment jargons.
- Manage project risks - It is always advisable to be on the offensive rather than being on the defensive side. If you fail to manage these risks, then they will ultimately manage you. There is nothing more frustrating than facing risks that you knew to be avoidable with just a little planning. Analyze the possible risks that you think you may face, evaluate them and then look for ways to mitigate them.
- Estimate the time needed based on tasks and efforts and not calendar days - This is one task where many project managers go wrong, they usually estimate time based on the calendar days and not on the complexity of the tasks. Make use of units such as labor hours. Once you have calculated the required labor hours, convert them into calendar days. Usually all factors are taken care off, when calculating these labor hours per unit. They may include issues, e.g. emergencies and interruptions etc.
- Schedule people for less than 80% of their allocated time - Do not create a task-schedule of more than 80% of your team’s time. The main reason you should not do this is due to fatigue. Human beings are not machines and as such their effectiveness reduces with time. A person’s productivity decreases with time, therefore make the necessary allowance in your schedule.
- Build training time into the schedule - It is important to allocate some time to training of team members. People are different; we have slow and fast learners. Just like you subtract time for leaves and holidays, do the same for training. Training is essential and as such a necessity as well. Learning is a continuous process and hence very essential when designing the work schedule.
- Make use of estimation tools - With the advancement in technology, estimation has been made very simple. Make use of the available commercial tools when estimating time. These tools have the benefit of experience; therefore, they are able to give an accurate breakdown of the time that you may require for the project.
- Plan for contingencies - As you well know plans don’t always go as planned. Therefore, in order to avoid setbacks in terms of time spent, it is important to include emergency buffers into your schedule.
Tracking your ProgressThis is the last phase in the process of successful project managements. It involves tracking of the actual time spent as related to the budget. Do not count a task as complete unless it is 100% complete. Remember the good old saying that; do not count your chicks before they hatch? It is very true. Don’t count your project done unless it is truly done. Be truthful to yourself, try as much as possible to track your project status honestly.What are some of the project management tools that you can use? In order to remain popular in project management and avoid being viewed as a passing cloud; it is important to not only understand some of the best project management tools but actually how to use them as well. Having the right tools will enable you to finish your project successfully, on time and within the budgeted frame as well. Project management tools include;
Work Breakdown Structure
It is also known as task analysis. This particular tool is used to break down the whole project into smaller components. It is usually incorporated in task management software, but you can create yours as well. Some of the items you can use to come up with your own customized task analysis include deliverable lists, to-do lists and checklists. This tool is usually at the foundation of the project management.
This tool is used to identify all parties participating in the project. it sums up the tasks and responsibilities of each and every individual member of the team, as well as estimating the time frame that each task may take to be complete. A time tracking software may be incorporated into the action plan so as to effectively manage scheduled tasks. You can also incorporate a document sharing software into the action plan which can help you share information more quickly and easily.
Gantt charts are very popular with project management. The main advantage of this tool is that it helps you to monitor your project by showing you the overall flow of the project plan. It has become an industry leader in project management due to the fact that it is specific to detail.
Critical Path Methodology
This tool is used to manage complex projects and can also be used to design a project schedule. It is usually applied in logic networks. It shows how activities logically follow each other as well as giving the estimated start and finish times of a project.
Project Management Certification
It is a requirement that ensures project managers are able to manage their teams effectively. It ensures that a manager has the necessary education and qualification required to lead a team. It is usually an exam just like any other, complete with tutors and an examining body. An example of an institution offering this certification is Project management institute. It is a professional certifying organization that requires managers to meet certain requirements before they are given the mandate to head various projects. There are currently two certifications that you may choose from, which include; certified associate in project management and/or project management professional.