Some project managers are worth their weight in gold, while others are not even worth the money it took to print their magnetic name tags. There are several variables that separate a good project manager from the bumbling, the incompetent, and the lazy project managers, and if you want to be sure you are standing on the right side of that dividing line, Brett Harned is at your service. He writes in an article five tips for bringing your A-game to every project every time:
- Keep communications flowing.
- Set and manage expectations.
- Know when to involve the team.
- Know and manage stakeholders.
You need to be able to develop a plan for communication that fits the needs of the specific project, which means taking into account the size of your organization and the individual merits of your team and clients. Maintaining transparency about budget through regular status reports guarantees that no one will ever feel blindsided about the direction a project takes. Harned notes that it can be particularly useful to find and assign a specific skilled person to communicate details back to the client, since not everyone is so good at conveying information in such a way. However, he underscores that when it comes to communication, a good project manager will document everything and relay it all back to the team in one way or another. Sometimes seemingly trivial extra details can become helpful lampposts in projects.
Side by side, managing expectations is in itself another form of maintaining communication. You need to develop a document for the scope of the work that is expected to be accomplished and then go over that document with the client. Since the client is likely not as well versed in programming or technology terminology as you, you should not be afraid to repeat yourself from time to time, as it will hopefully increase their understanding of what you are doing. The better the client understands your position, the more enthusiastic and better able to support you they will be. Equally important, you will develop a stronger relationship with your client in the process. Try to involve team input in making the best final product for clients, but ultimately frame all work done according to the key needs of clients. In order to get the best out of your team, “cheer lead”:
Every project needs a leader who owns and supports the process. A good project manager will enforce process and keep everyone on the team in-sync. Juggling timelines, deadlines, and deliverables is key, but a project manager who also supports the process, the team, and the client, brings true value to a project. Be the one who says, “Wow, this is really nice. Good work”. Don't be afraid to be the one to say, “Did you think about X?” to look out for the best of the project. And, if the project manager is really doing a good job, he or she will know and understand every aspect of the project. Sometimes, he or she will be able to anticipate questions or concerns the client might have.
Being a good project manager means being proactive. If you look like you picked up your management skills from reading Dilbert, your team and your clients will know. Use Harned’s tips to avoid looking like the office doofus.