I help manage a lot of the projects that we undertake here at Webcredible, and through that experience I've come to recognise that, while every project is unique, there are some things you should always keep in mind. Here are my thoughts on six things you should remember when you run your next project:
- Make sure you have a balanced team. The team you choose and manage for your project needs to be balanced in terms of skill sets. This extends to soft skills as well, not just technical knowledge, so don't fall in to the trap of pigeon holing people in terms of their job title! By aiming to have a balanced team that covers all skills required for the project, you'll not only improve your team's performance, you'll also help team members develop and grow, making them more versatile for future work.
- Aim to keep a holistic view in mind when planning your approach. As the project manager, you should remember to keep a holistic picture of the project in mind. If, for example, what you're working on is part of a much wider initiative for the client, you need to know how your team's work will fit into the overall puzzle.
- Remember to manage everyone's stress. A phrase I've heard before is that a project manager should be like a swan on water: gliding gracefully, but paddling furiously beneath the surface. Always try to stay composed and keep control of the project, it'll keep your team reassured that they're in good hands.
- Make sure you run proper kick off and closing sessions. The kick off and closing sessions are arguably more important than the actual project execution. The kick off meeting is crucial for making sure you fully establish what needs to be done and delivered. Missing details here will mean you'll be playing catch up for a lot of the project. The closing session on the other hand is all about reviewing what you've done, and making sure you learn from mistakes. No project is delivered perfectly, so it's best to learn from where things went wrong so you can do better on similar projects in the future.
- Always review and assess potential risks before starting a project. Risk is always present in any project. It's important to review what you're facing, and assess what impact particular risks could have on project delivery. Some that come up quite often include:
- Not properly defining the project and required deliverables – it's best to try and define what you need to do as much as possible before work starts, or you may fall victim to excessive scope creep
- Changing stakeholders – a new client-side lead may result in a review of deliverables
- Tight deadlines and requirements – pay special attention when aspects of delivery might be outside your control e.g. if you're working with several agencies who need to deliver items first before you can start working, make sure you manage client expectations.
- Remember that every project is unique. While projects can be similar, or even have the same required final outcome, the circumstances around a project will always be different – this could be because of new team members, stakeholders, cultures, and so on. With that in mind, try and keep yourself adaptable, and take a flexible approach to each project, as there is no 'one-size-fits-all' right way of doing things. I also think it's worth meeting like-minded project managers regularly; it'll help you to see how others are managing projects, and give you either confirmation on your current methods or new ideas on how to do work in the future.
If you're keen to learn more, check out the two courses I teach: Digital Project Management and Introduction to Agile.