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A Manager’s 7 Tips for a Successful Project

A Manager’s 7 Tips for a Successful Project
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I’m Simon and I’m an Account Executive at Higher Click. Previously, I worked for one of the biggest insurance companies in the world. My current position is between a purely managerial role and that of an executive, so I’m involved in quite a lot of project management. This article will summarize all that I’ve learned over the years.

A project manager’s main job is to bring a particular project to completion, both on time and within budget. There are all kinds of factors that can cause a project to veer off its tracks, both internal and external, but steps can be taken to ensure that your project experiences as little disruption as possible.

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With planning and preparation, you can put your project into the best shape even before you begin, and hopefully minimize the types of interruptions that can derail the best-laid plans. Proper work before beginning a project can also ensure that any unexpected occurrences can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.

1. Ensure that you have full project detail up front

A completely detailed project scope, with approval from all stakeholders, is a necessity. Be sure the scope includes interim milestones, a detailed timeline, and a budget that is sufficient to cover all required work.
If you get everything in writing at the beginning of the project, you have an excellent foundation to build upon. Change is inevitable, but you have to maintain control and point out when the project begins to resemble something completely different from what was originally outlined. This is critical to avert disaster if your client tends toward “scope creep,” which is when someone asks for “just one more little thing” repeatedly, until the endeavor has become a lot more or different from when it began.

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2. Set realistic expectations

A PM I once knew was fond of saying, “You can have two of the three: good, fast, cheap. You CANNOT have all three.”
Make sure everyone on the team, including the client, understands the limitations of the project. You can finish a task successfully on time and within budget, as long as expectations are reasonable. You most likely cannot work miracles if expectations are not reasonable, and would only setting yourself up for project failure. Don’t begin your project with failure nearly predestined.

3. Establish measurable and reportable criteria for success

How can you know if your project is going to be successful if you don’t have any way of measuring success?  You will need interim milestones, especially for an endeavor that will span a long time, so that you can determine if you are staying on track or straying from the project’s goals.
You must have both internal checkpoints and client checkpoints. Never leave incorporating a client’s feedback until the very end of the project, unless you want to risk having to re-work substantial components if the client is not happy.

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4. Select team members, and assign responsibilities carefully

Gather your human resources, and make sure that skill-sets align with required roles. This is an important first step: If you assign the wrong person to a task, you are reducing your chances of success before the project even begins.
Make sure each team member is clear on what is expected from them and when. Encourage them to ask questions to clarify anything that may uncertain, and to come to you whenever something seems to be out of place or going awry. Clear and open communication is mission-critical.

5. Embrace your role as leader

You are the director of this project, so be sure to act the part and do not let any other team member assert dominance over your position. It’s your job to draw the best work out of your team members, so you are coach, mentor, and motivator. You may need to cultivate a team atmosphere among people who have not worked together before, so be sure to include team-building exercises if necessary. You also are the liaison with the client, so be accurate in your communications both internally and externally.
Be sure to provide strong and calm leadership to your team if your project encounters turbulence. It’s far more difficult to be a great leader in times of stress, but that’s exactly when your team needs you the most.

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6. Manage project risks

Hopefully you have defined the more likely risks up front during the project preparation, so you will already have contingency plans in place for certain occurrences. If you can see when a risk is imminent, you can take preventive action to avoid it, or you can quickly step in with corrective measures if necessary.
Be ready to halt a project if the risk becomes unacceptable. Part of your role as leader is to know when things have begun moving inexorably toward a failure point.

7. Evaluate the project when complete

Once a project has been completed, it’s important to do a “post-mortem” report, even if it is only for internal purposes. You can pinpoint what went right and what went wrong, determine what could or should have been done differently, and establish the best practices for use in future undertakings.

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More by this author

Simon Andras

Simon is an entrepreneur who blogs about lifestyle.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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