10 Practical Strategies For Project Managers

Project manager

1. Access to Information

Accurate information about the state of the project must always be available to everyone who needs to know. Use a web site, or shared network drive and keep it up to date. Communicate and socialize the location of the information. Make it easy to access. Make the information available in several layers of detail to satisfy the diverse information needs of different stakeholders. I guarantee this will reduce the number and duration of meetings and ebb the constant flow of e-mail and phone calls. In turn, you will be able to spend more time managing.

Keep no secrets about the state of the project, and don't surprise anyone. You can't bail a struggling project out yourself. A small risk or issue today will grow into a crisis if not dealt with quickly.

2. Change happens

Don't struggle against it, but manage it ferociously and with great courage. This is all on this subject for now, as this subject is worthy of it's own article, which is forthcoming. Just recognize that change is inevitable, and must be managed closely.

3. Have the facts straight and use data when reporting on the state of the project.

Intuition is a great quality, use it to know you need to review the facts, but it has no place in status reporting. Report the facts with no emotion. Emotion leads to finger pointing and blame.

4. Focus on the scope, schedule, cost, and quality of deliverables.

Don't focus on people and tasks. Reporting "Bob didn't write the specification" closes the door on understanding the problem and fixing it. And it kills your relationship with Bob for future specifications. Instead, report "The specification needed to be completed today, and it isn't". Then work with Bob to understand the problem and fix it.

5. Resist escalations (going over or around people).

While sometimes it is necessary to ruffle feathers, if you're constantly escalating, people will become alienated and lose interest in what you have to offer. When you escalate, be sure you have your facts straight, and that you are doing so as a last resort because your project is in jeopardy.

6. Strive not to use words like "No" or "Can't".

Too many of these words too often will create a perception that you are inept or not a team player. Eventually, people will start going around you to get things done. Instead of "No" or "Can't", clearly describe options and well thought out implications for each.

7. Be the cheerleader and keep things positive.

Celebrate every success, no matter how small. Regardless of the size and scope of your project, you want everyone to think it's the most important work in the world to be doing right now.

8. Keep the emotional bank full by praising those who do good work.

Eventually, you will need to make an emotional withdrawal from people, having them love you now makes it easier for them to forgive you later.

9. Things will always take 30% longer and cost 30% more than your initial estimates.

Pad your estimates. If you're lucky and persuasive enough, you may get approval for what you originally estimated.

10. Become an expert user of the Microsoft Office Suite of products.

Proficiency in Project, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access will give you a decisive edge over other project managers because your ability to execute quickly will increase dramatically.