Chapter 4: Top 5 tips for successful project management

Whether you’re brand new to project management or a seasoned professional, you can elevate your practices and turn around more successful projects with a few key tips. In this chapter, we’ve outlined five best practices for beginner, intermediate, and advanced project managers.

Tips for the novice project manager

You’ve probably managed some sort of project before, whether that’s planning a birthday party or knocking out your to-do list at work. If you’re just getting started managing more in-depth projects, here are five tips that will serve you well:

  1. Hone your communication skills: Communication is perhaps the most critical skill for new project managers. Identify which people need what information when, and then air on the side of over-communicating.
  2. Implement tools to help you succeed: Even small, simple projects benefit from having a tool in place to plan, schedule, track, and monitor project details. You can learn more about project management tools in Chapter 9.
  3. Prioritize time management: Chances are you’ve never managed other people’s productivity before. Make this a priority by working with your team to set realistic deadlines and hold people accountable. Ensure you model this behavior, too.
  4. Prepare for change: The potential for change increases with every additional factor — more resources, additional deliverables, added dependencies among tasks, and more. Think through any potential risks at the onset of the project, and then build in flexibility to your budget and timeline so you can pivot as needed.
  5. Know your team: New project managers need to build trust with their team, and one of the best ways to do so is to connect with them. Take interest in your team members’ work and communication styles, strengths and weaknesses, and their interests outside of work, in order to foster strong relationships.

Tips for the pro project manager

You’ve got some experience managing projects — dealing with stakeholders, juggling schedules and budget, and turning in high quality, on-time deliverables. If you’re ready to level up your management style, leadership skills, and reporting abilities, here are five top tips:

Below are five top tips for intermediate project managers:

  1. Promote transparent communication: Establish communication norms, like frequency and preferred mode, and promote a culture of transparency to keep team members accountable and in the loop.

    While today’s distributed workforce poses new challenges to communication, it also offers greater flexibility, which often leads to improved performance and employee satisfaction.

    Read our guide to remote team communication, and learn more about developing strong collaboration standards in Chapter 6
  2. Choose a project management methodology that serves you, and stick to it: In order to execute on any project, you’ll need a strong framework. Choose a methodology that fits the needs of your project, team, and organization, and implement it across all projects and processes.
  3. Invest in the right tools to support your processes: At this stage, consider investing in real-time tools that allow you to plan, track, and manage all aspects of your project from start to finish. Leverage a tool that can house and organize your project details, roll up key information, and provide real-time visibility into progress.

    You can find information on the different kinds of PM tools, along with steps to choose the right one, in Chapter 9.
  4. Measure your progress, and adapt as necessary: Closely monitor performance as your project progresses using the KPIs you identified during the planning phase. Frequently reflecting on your success metrics will help keep your projects on track.
  5. Get in front of potential issues: While you can’t control every factor of a project, you can mitigate risk with proper planning. To anticipate risk, revisit lessons learned from past projects and avoid making the same mistakes again. Develop potential response plans, and build in enough flexibility so that you can respond to unexpected events or changes to your schedule and budget.

Top 5 tips for the veteran project manager

If you consistently manage multiple projects — and a variety of resources — simultaneously, you can consider yourself an advanced project manager. Whether you’re managing a program, portfolio, or department, you’ll hone your leadership skills and drive better results with these tips:

Here are five best practices for advanced project managers:

  1. Understand how multiple efforts connect: Identify how your projects connect to each other, as well as how your projects align to greater business objectives. Remember this strategic alignment is what will ultimately lead to an integrated, successful program or portfolio of projects.
  2. Invest in advanced tools: If you’re managing a program or portfolio, you’ll need powerful, enterprise-grade tools that can house documentation, roll up key data, create powerful dashboards, integrate with other applications, and provide necessary security. To learn more about how to find the right PM tool for your needs, read Chapter 9.
  3. Improve project intake and prioritization: Ensure your team is working on the right stuff with defined processes for taking on and prioritizing new project requests. Consider adopting a tool that allows you to easily create an intake form, and collect all the details necessary to assess and prioritize each request.
  4. Model continuous improvement: Continually learn from your past efforts, both positive and negative, by applying lessons learned from your past projects and motivating the team to practice continuous improvement in their individual tasks. Additionally, remain educated in the subject matter itself, and invest in courses, if applicable.
  5. Improve your resource management skills: As your team and project portfolio grows in size and complexity, managing resources well becomes that much more critical. Learn about capacity management and utilization, how to forecast hiring needs, and how to staff projects to maximize efficiency

You can learn more about project management courses and certifications in Chapter 8.