If you are a project manager, you may have many worries on your mind. Are we going over budget? Will we finish on time? Can your project be finished to a good standard? Are my team members and clients happy?
Effective project management is essential for modern businesses, using a range of skills to guide the project to completion, communicating to all relevant parties and keeping things smooth.
However, when it’s done badly, people are not synchronized, team members can be overburdened or working in the wrong direction, projects can struggle and company’s and even economies can suffer as a result. This guide will give you some project management tips to help you boost your efficiency and your team’s productivity, whether you’re a beginner or experienced.
Why it is Important to Improve the Efficiency of Project Management
A lack of effective project management will lead to unfinished projects, wasted time and money, and leads to unhappy workers. Only 2.5% out of 10,060 projects in one study by PrincewaterhouseCoopers were completed entirely. Many projects fail because of a lack of organization and a lack of coordination to shared goals.
In addition, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that 1 in 6 projects go over 200% of the budget. Costs can skyrocket when you fail to organize properly. It also can lead to negative effects on the economy, as money is wasted on a large scale in order to achieve a project which is being managed inefficiently.
It’s not just about money, of course. Safety and wellbeing can be jeopardized when projects aren’t managed well, as corners can be cut, vital communication is missed, and people can feel overwhelmed and overburdened due to too much work falling in a few places. As well, team members can feel unvalued by a company that doesn’t properly help them.
Efficient project management focuses on reducing waste, maximizing output, and increasing efficiency. It is an essential part of any business, as the project manager guides the project, ensures everyone knows what they need to do, and should also understand and value the people that are undertaking the project. They also can endure any unforeseen circumstances and help the company navigate them much more. When project management is efficient, projects are more likely to be completed, money is less likely to be wasted and people will be happier.
What Skills do Project Managers Need?
There are many useful project management skills. From hard IT skills to soft people skills, project managers need to possess a range of abilities to work effectively with a range of different team members and clients as well. We have a list of some essential skills for a project manager:
This is probably number one. A project manager is communicating constantly, with team members and clients. It’s just being able to communicate with various people at the same time, it’s knowing how to communicate. For example, explaining things clearly, properly, and with all the necessary details is vital, so nothing gets lost.
Being friendly to your staff and regularly checking in, even if it’s just saying hello, goes a long way to let team members know you are aware of them and they are valued.
It is also important to know when to say “I don’t know” and how to say it. In this situation, it is best to say something like “I can’t give you the best answer on this, I will get in touch with the software engineer”, rather than sound like you haven’t a clue at all.
It’s not just about talking, a project manager has to listen. If you are a project manager, you have to listen to what people think, if they are meeting their targets and expectations, and what they want from other people. If you ignore this side of things, then people will be frustrated and plenty of vital information will get lost.
You also need to be able to communicate in written form. Acing meeting notes, emails, and messengers to get the right information out to the right people are skills in themselves, and one which any project manager requires.
Things can go wrong. Things can change. And you may not know everything. You need to be able to adapt to changes and try to keep calm under pressure when managing projects. If you don’t know something, try to use it to learn something new, and get a new skill while you’re at it. Be able to cope with the changes and the mistakes, and you will be a great project manager.
A major problem happens with projects when the product is put before the people, whether it’s the customer or the team. A project manager has to deal with all these different people, requirements, and needs, so you have to understand what people want, what they really mean if they are unhappy, and try to ensure that they are happy to continue working. A project manager is not, or at least should not, focus on purely getting an end result, but see themselves as a manager of people. When you focus on results alone, things are lost, pressure is overwhelming on the participants leading to burnout, and people will also communicate less effectively to you.
Employees need to feel engaged in the project. This ties back to communication, but get the members of the team to interact with the clients and feel a connection to the project. Engaged workers give a significantly better output.
While this may appear to go without saying, it is a vital skill of any project manager. A project manager has to bear in mind deadlines, the progress of multiple people, the needs of the client, and a variety of tools as well. To succeed in project management, you need to be someone who can stay on top of keeping track of these different things and be organized. This also requires a strong degree of time management and setting realistic goals and deadlines, knowing how long something will take in reality, and keeping on top of those goals.
Best Project Management Tips that You Should Know
You know the skills you need to succeed in project management, but now we have given some tips that everyone needs to know. Here are four essential tips for effective project management:
Create Project Plan
According to one study, by the Project Management Institute, that interviewed executives, 37% of projects failed due to a lack of clear goals. If your project doesn’t have properly defined goals and objectives, then it is more likely to fail. So one of the most important tips we can provide is for you to create a good project plan.
You should define the goals, align with the key points, and objectives, and set up a project scope document, which helps outline the work that needs to be undertaken in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the project.
Make sure you set out the roles and responsibilities in advance, so everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, and no one ends up with too much or too little on their plate, so to speak. Also, ensure that everyone knows where they need to go to communicate and what software to use.
Make reminders in a calendar
Have a calendar with reminders that are linked to everyone’s accounts. This can either be using google calendar or some other synchronized software, so long as it is all in the same place and everyone is aware of what to expect. This will help you make deadlines clear, get everyone at the right meetings, and know what is in store for you each day as well.
Extra tip: When it comes to your own schedule, remember to give yourself buffer time, and time for extra calls, meetings, and any unexpected situations, as you never know what may happen. Think back to our point on adaptability. Keep some space in your schedule!
Keep communication organized
It is vital to ensure that everyone stays up to date, and you can communicate well. To do this, keep communication channels clear and ideally in one place.
Use programs such as Slack to organize communication, and ensure everyone has proper work emails if necessary, to prevent an overload of different places for different messages where things can easily be lost.
Send out regular messages, have channels for relevant teams and stand-up meetings, to ensure that you can keep track of the project progress, and everyone knows where to go when they need to share something or get in touch with someone else.
Utilize project management software
Software and project management tools are plentiful these days. There is a range of programs that you need to effectively manage your projects.
For project management, there are programs such as Trello, which is an online Kanban board where you can see all the tasks, their status, and assign them to team members. There are plenty of alternatives, such as Jira which allows you to have scrum meetings and track tasks, or Toggl plan, which is useful for large teams.
You can have all communication on tools such as Slack, to coordinate different teams communication.
Time trackers such as Toggl Track can help you see how much time is spent on a task, and allow you to re-evaluative future deadlines.
There is a lot, so a trick is to ensure these are integrated as much as possible. This way your meeting will have reminders sent out before, then take place, and you can have information immediately shared, and the progress of the tasks can be updated without having to trawl through lots of applications at the same time.
Project Management Tips for Beginners
The previous tips are useful for everyone, but if you’re just entering the project management world you should be aware of the following tips and project management hacks (though if you are experienced, it’s worth remembering).
Set clear and achievable goals
We talked a bit about goals and the importance of planning. A good tip you should follow is to ensure that everyone knows what they need to do, so set them clear goals. These should also have reasonable deadlines, and make sure you are open to communicating with the team members about the goals, in case they need anything clarifying.
For example, a bad goal would be:
“Finish the current task by next Wednesday”
Or “Complete the development task assigned to you by Monday”
Because these have not explained what exactly needs completing. They may have lots of tasks, and considering how development can go on a long time, you may actually wish to refer to a specific component of the development process. For example
“Finish the preliminary landing page button for mobile by next Friday”
In this instance, the developer knows what the task is in more clear terms. They know which task to do and by when.
Make sure you give an appropriate amount of time, as you want quality results, not rushed work. Also, according to one study in the Personal & Social Psychology Bulletin, deadlines which involve a degree of self-determination on the part of the one who has to do the task are more effective than strict externally imposed ones, so allow for some control over this by giving them the freedom to discuss any deadlines.
Keep track of your meetings
Managing meetings is a key part of project management. We talked about tools, but a tip you should know is to record and transcribe your meetings and get reports about them. This is essential if you want effective meetings. It saves time, keeps all information logged, and cuts the need for endless meetings to recap previously talked about topics, or to fill in other team members.
As a project manager, you will have plenty of meetings with team members but also clients, and it’s essential you don’t forget anything. You should take good meeting notes to remember what took place, but this may be time-consuming.
This is where software such as Notiv can come in to help. Notiv records, transcribes and generates reports with the help of AI of any call, whether it’s on your phone, zoom, MS Teams, etc, and it is integrated with Slack and other software. This way, after meetings, the report can be sent to the relevant parties and everyone stays on top of what is going on.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
Whether you’ve been doing project management for one day or 10 years, you should always be learning. There are new developments and new skills you should be adopting all the time. What is important is to know what you excel at and what you struggle with.
Work on your weaknesses and take courses and try to learn the new skills, there is nothing wrong with recognizing you’re not the best at everything! And use your strengths to your advantage, and help others who perhaps struggle in areas you do well in.
You should reflect on things that go well and what goes wrong, and consider ways for you to improve. There is always something new to learn!
As part of being adaptable, accepting things go wrong, you should always check in on progress and reconsider anything that doesn’t appear to work. Is this deadline for the marketing team too short? Are you having too many meetings? Is your budget goal realistic?
Have regular status meetings and consider what can and should be changed. It is better to make changes when you can as opposed to letting inefficiency carry on, which can really lead to disaster, both financial or human.
We have given a range of project management tips in this article, and we hope that this will help you achieve your goals as a project manager. For truly effective project management, remember, you are managing people, and should see it as such. Communicate well and clearly, set realistic goals, be flexible, adaptable, and ready to learn something new. And make sure you use the tools to help you make your life a lot easier! Read more about recording meetings to see how you can get the most of your meetings.