Don’t Let the Project Manage You

How many projects have you started and than had to give up because of lack of funds or lack of focus? Every professional project manager experiences these problems. The trick of being a successful project manager is simple – you have to manage the project and not let the project manage you.

What makes a good project manager? Persistence, the one singe quality that every successful person has. As a project manager, you must find way out of all obstacles. All projects have problems and run into chaotic moments. It is how you manage these situations that determines the type of project manager that you are.

This article is written based on the book I read couple days ago titled Project Management Made Easy. You can read this book for more detailed information about how to manage your project easily, but in this article I only highlight what should you do to be a successful project manager.

As a project Manager you have to create a project management methodology that explains the steps you will use to complete each project from beginning to end. As you grow as a project manager, you will begin create your own methodology by taking from others methodology and creating your own unique one. Your methodology will form itself over time and is a living thing, you may delete and or add to it until you get to place of completion.

As a project manager, you cannot get into a blame game where no one wins. If the problems occur in your project, you cannot blame others for your problems, you must take the blame yourself. For the example, it is not he vendor’s fault that they did not send the order on time. But it is your fault for either using a vendor that has a habit of not fulfilling their responsibilities or not following up with the vendor. It is not your secretary’s fault for not calling the vendor. Instead of blaming others, as a project manager you have to work to solve the problem by using some tactics, looking for another vendor. Blaming others is utterly useless. A good project manager solves the issue first. After the issue is solved, s/he may decide whether or not to ever use that vendor again.

In order to set the stage for a successful project, you have to set the stage. Setting up a successful project takes planning. A project is something like a race. You have to prepare for the race, have the talent, have the drive, use both to the best of your abilities and keep your eye on the finish line. Look at a project like a race that you will do your best to win and will do whatever it takes to cross that finish line.

When you are a project manager, you manage a team of players. Each one of the members of the team should have something to contribute. And each of their contributions should be valued. You need all types of individuals to succeed when you are running a project. Even if you feel that you are doing it all on your own, you still need help from suppliers, vendors, venue operators, etc. Learning how to access the skills of your team is an essential part of being a successful project manager.

Confidence is key, especially when you are a project manager. If you are not confident in your abilities and the project, how do you expect others around you to feel? When you exude confidence, you can then inspire your team to also be confident and hone in their skills to get the job done. Some points that explained from Project Management Made Easy book, you want to remember when you are projecting confidence to others include the following: always make eye contact,
 never be afraid of asking a question, always recap the meeting and verify action items and assignments,
 always be the first to follow up.

Another factor that you must have before you begin your project, the money. Not having the money and starting the project is akin to going to the store, getting a cartload of products and then wondering how you are going to pay for them when you get to the checkout line. You shouldn’t start a major project without knowing where you are going to get the money, especially in today’s economic climate.

After you have the team, the money and a budget in place, now you are ready to start the project. Most importantly, you have the right attitude. You are finally ready to put the wheels in motion and take action. By this time, you have met with your team, brainstormed on different aspects of the project and you pretty much know their strong points as well as any weaknesses. You know who can be trusted to do what. As project manager, it is up to you to delegate. Delegation is the most important aspect of good management

Although the completion of the project is your responsibility and you are not into playing the blame game, you have to be able to trust those on your team with completing their tasks so that the project can go as planned. Once you have set the wheels in motion and the project has actually started to take shape, you will have meetings with your team and updates.

As stated before, it is your responsibility as the originator and or assignee to make sure that the project is carried out to the fullest. Allowing others to be involved in the decision-making process until it is absolutely necessary can cause unwarranted delays. Instead of delegating the idea or concept, you are delegating an actual task with contact information, timeframes and details (all of which are contained in your folder). All your designate have to do is execute the task, monitor the progress, and follow-up when assignments are completed or problems occur.

This is the time to establish timelines. Each task will have a separate timeline, each working towards the completion of the project as a whole. In order to make this part of the project go smoothly, you can mark up a calendar identifying all of the dates relevant to the project and each task component. This is going to require you going back through your notes and making contact with vendors, stores, etc. and then putting thumbnail information on the calendar to remind yourself of deadlines, timeframes, and different stages of the project.

It is imperative that you do this promptly; do not wait. Give them your deadline and allow them to tell you exactly what needs to happen between now and then. As far as the deadline is considered, allow yourself a small cushion – but not too much.

It is crucial that you do not forget about the delegated tasks. Take the time to record on your project calendar regular follow-up dates to monitor progress. For example, if you are planning a large printing project and have concerns about meeting the deadlines to print, collate, and deliver the project, then mark your calendar for a week prior to deadline for a progress or status call.

As conclusion, a project manager is a manager who has to know all about management rules. There are some rules that you can consider when you manage your project. These rules that are taken from the experiences of the author of Project Management Made Easy, as follows:

  • Accept each project with a positive attitude and a vision of the successful end result. In times of stress, reflect back on the vision and do not overly dwell on the issues or problems. The successful VISION OF SUCCESS must be with you every step of the way.
  • Always get commitments in writing. There are no exceptions to this rule – ever. Anytime you get a bid from a subcontractor or any other individual, get it in writing. If you are getting bids for a project, get at least three bids in writing.
  • If you do not have time to explain a task and give full and complete details, do not delegate the responsibility to anyone. You have to be able to clearly articulate a goal and what it entails to be able to expect a vendor or team member to meet your expectations. People cannot read minds. You are better off to write the task down or ask the person to whom you delegate the task to repeat it back to you so that you see that they understand.
  • Remove the term As Soon As Possible (ASAP) from your vocabulary. Always state the exact time and date you need something or the date and time you will have something accomplished. ASAP is too nebulous for most people to pinpoint. Have a deadline and then follow up close to the deadline to make sure that it will be met.
  • Do not depend on emails or voicemails to relay pertinent or time-sensitive information. Always talk to the person accountable on the phone or in person. You cannot assume emails or voicemails are followed up on a timely basis or are even handled personally by the recipient. If possible, have face to face meetings, although this is not always possible if you are doing a global project. Nothing beats the personal touch of a phone call. Never assume that someone got your e-mail, text or voice mail message.
  • Always plan for the meeting ahead of time, by sending the agenda out at least 24 hours in advance. Prior to the meeting, practice by running through the entire agenda; asking and answering each question for your self. Try to anticipate what questions might be asked, research them and include them in you presentation or as a topic of spontaneous conversation.
  • Be prepared to give a status report on the project. Even though you are the Successful Project Manager, you may need to report to your boss, pastor, or committee an interim report on the progress of the project. Be honest about delays, unforeseen problems with the solutions that you have instituted. This shows personal involvement in the progress of the project and gives confidence that you are able to handle difficult circumstances calmly and with resolve.
  • Learn to take any criticism professionally, as long as it is given in that way! If you take professional criticism as a personal affront or attack, you will ultimately lose the ability to be a respected Successful Project Manager. I have seen many situations where a project manager became so defensive about problems with the progress of a project; they were never given the opportunity to manage again. No one wants to deal with insecurities and defensive attitudes. Learn to separate the personal feelings from the professional critiques.
  • Avoidance is never good. Always be upfront and willing to face the situation straight on, no matter what the outcome or consequences. Whatever short-term fallout from a project gone wrong will be replaced by long-term professional and personal respect earned by taking responsibility for failure. If a problem arises, do not hide your head in the sand to avoid it because it isn’t going to go away on its own. Be prepared for problems and face them head on.
  • Reward the entire team after a successful completion of a project. With proper management and guidance, your project team needs to be rewarded with words of gratitude, encouragement, and respect for a job well done. If you have the ability to show your appreciation with a more tangible reward (a small desktop gift, flowers, gift certificate) remember that is isn’t the value of the gift, it is the acknowledgement that matters. You will get better service as well as performance from those who you thank. The personal touch matters.
  • Be proud of your accomplishments and do not understate your achievement. You have the right to “toot your own horn” after a successful project or event. Without becoming arrogant, it is perfectly acceptable to accept congratulations when given and to visibly show pride in your own success. If no one knows what you are capable of achieving, you may not even be in consideration for the next challenge! We are often taught to be modest. Modesty has no place in the business world. You would be surprised at how many people shrug off a compliment or say “it was nothing.” It was not “nothing.” You worked hard for the project; you completed your goal and deserve praise. While you’re at it, give yourself a little reward as well.
  • Use successful project management as a springboard to other levels of responsibility in the organization. If you show your organization the talent and drive that you have as a project manager, do not hesitate to ask about promotions or other positions available. Success built upon success is the fastest way to achieve your ultimate dream.
  • Pay it Forward! Be a mentor to someone who is undertaking the management of his or her first project. Offer support and encouragement to those who are trying just as you did to be successful. Do not allow yourself to “take control” or start to micro-manage your protégé or co-worker, but rather be a resource or a great listener for someone who will find them selves in exactly the same place you were 2-3 years ago!

Source: Project Management Made Easy!

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