Tips for efficient project managers – part 2

The efficient project manager is one who is aware of the many things beyond the technical skills, such as creating schedules and budgets or managing scope, that are required in order to be successful. While a thorough understanding of the technical skills is definitely required, we need to be knowledgeable in the soft skills as well in order to enjoy real success as project managers. 

Below you can find additional tips that will help you become more successful in managing your projects.


1. Encourage your team to provide regular feedback to you


You should welcome and encourage feedback from members of your team (and anyone else with whom you interact, for that matter) and utilize that feedback in a way that helps you to improve your performance. You should also remember to welcome positive as well as negative feedback with equal enthusiasm. 

Positive and negative feedback are equally valuable to your goal of improving your performance as well as improving the performance of the team. In order to create an environment where team members are comfortable in approaching you with feedback, you need to have established trust and safety within your team. They need to know there is no risk in giving you feedback, especially if that feedback deals with an area that needs improvement. 


2. Provide regular feedback to your team members


People want and need regular feedback as to their performance, so they know where they are doing well and where they need to improve. As a project manager, you probably won’t be involved in the annual performance review process regarding the members of your project team.

You should meet with each team member periodically (quarterly or more often, depending on the length of the project) to provide feedback on what that person is doing well and where improvement is needed. Don’t let performance issues go unaddressed, communicate with individual team members often, and build a stronger, higher performing team. 


3. Make use of information radiators


“Information radiator” is a term that comes from the agile world that refers to graphic displays of information posted on walls, usually in the common work area of the project team. The intent is to conveniently provide as much information, as possible, to the project team, as well as to other interested parties.

A common example in traditional project management is the posting of the project schedule in the form of a Gantt chart. Another information radiator that I like to use is the graphic form of the WBS that is color coded showing work in progress, work completed, work running behind schedule, and work not yet started. This one graphic provides a snapshot of the project’s progress to anyone who is interested. 


4. Use only the project management tools and techniques that add value


Few organizations have the resources or the need to implement everything described in the PMBOK, however, a solid understanding of those project management principles is necessary to know which are appropriate and which can be ignored.

After careful consideration, implement only tools and techniques that are determined to add value to your organization. Also, try to refrain from using templates or procedures taken from other organizations and develop procedures that are specific to your organization.

Finally, take the time to educate employees as to the purpose of each procedure and the issue it is intended to address, as well as how the procedure is likely to make their work easier and more successful. 


5. Encourage your customer to review your project management plan


 I want to point out that I’m not suggesting that you give your customer approval authority over your plan, but only that you encourage your customer to review your plan.

The first benefit is that it will instill confidence as your customer will likely be impressed with the thoroughness of your plan. The fact that you even have a written plan to guide the management of her project is going to be very impressive, as it’s unlikely that she sees many project management plans given the number of project managers who don’t understand the value of creating a written plan. 

By having a documented change control process, which your customer has already reviewed, it becomes much easier to respond to customer-requested out of scope changes. 


6. Embrace the idea of minimally sufficient


The basic idea is to do only what is necessary to accomplish whatever you are trying to accomplish, and no more. In the agile world, this concept is most visibly applied to documentation; however, we can apply it to many aspects of traditionally managed projects, not just documentation. 

As a project manager, be vigilant from the early planning stages about the work your team is required to do to complete the project. Be thorough in your requirements analysis. Is each requirement necessary? Are any requirements excessive? Does all required documentation add value or can some be reduced and still retain value? Often the customer or those in management require things without a full understanding of the value or impact of the things they require.

Look also to your processes and procedures. Are you holding too many meetings? Do your meetings involve only the people that are really required and are they efficient and effective? Are project reviews excessive and do they add value? Are there better ways to gather and disseminate information? By asking these questions, you can be deliberate in your goal of reducing wasted effort and maximizing the productivity of your team. 


“101 Tips for the Enlightened Project Manager”,  Joe Drammissi

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