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Project management doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and sometimes even the experts need a few tips. But where can pupils and pros alike turn for help?
A handful PM gurus decided to answer that question by developing a robust, crowdsourced Wiki-turned-book entitled 97 Things All Project Managers Should Know. Originally, the document was geared towards PMs in the software industry, but as contributors flocked and content grew, the wisdom contained in these succinct but invaluable lessons became applicable to all avenues of project management. Below are my 5 favorites.
1. Success is Always Measured in Business Value
“We need to focus on the fact that the project is only as successful as the business value it adds to the organization.”
- Barbee Davis, M.A., PHR, PMP Omaha, Nebraska, USA
In this tip, the author points out that many project managers feel like their only job is to bring an assignment to completion. Not so — tying your project to company initiatives is an excellent way to motivate your team, because they’ll actually understand why what they’re doing is so important.
2. Serve Your Team
“My favorite project manager had the maturity and self-discipline to keep his ego out of the way. Even though he was the boss, he didn’t abuse his power, change tasks, or shift direction based on a whim.”
- Karen Gillison Leesburg, Virginia, USA
The point this contributor is making is probably one of the most important that exists in PM culture. Often, project managers forget that they’re also team leaders, and like it or not, that requires people skills. Encouraging collaboration and innovation brings increased efficiency and in the end, makes for better execution.
3. Project Management is Problem Management
“Plain and simple, project management is problem management. Were that not the case, there would be no need for project managers. Rather, a request for execution would be made and all the pieces … would simply align and the work would proceed smoothly to completion without any need for shepherding.”
- Lorin Unger Hoboken, New Jersey, USA
Basically? $%&# happens, and refusing to accept and deal with that — or worse, laying the blame on other people or external forces — will only make you angry, anxious, and unable to perform your duties to the best of your ability. Face problems head on, and learn from mistakes. They’re a great way to inform best practices.
4. Introduce a More Agile Communication System
“Project managers are taught to mitigate communication breakdowns between team members, and provide constant, effective communication. The weight of this responsibility sometimes leads project managers to overreact.”
- Brian Sam-Bodden Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
Agile practices support an environment of constant communication, daily check-ins, and fully collaborative teams. When the entire team is in a state of continuous information exchange, the pressure of ensuring competency is shouldered by everyone, allowing the project manager to focus on more important tasks and issues.
5. Make Project Sponsors Write Their Own Requirements
“Since it is so hard to do, many project owners, such as customers, project sponsors, or company executives, expect the project manager to define and refine the requirements … on their own.”
- Miyoko Takeya, PMP Tokyo, Japan
Who knows what they want better than the person who wants it? No one, usually. That means that stakeholders have a considerable amount of up-front responsibility when it comes to laying out project needs, initiatives, goals, and even timelines. On the flipside, project managers need to seek that info out, and they need to allot time to do it. Asking questions is absolutely vital to successful project management.
Despite the book’s release in 2009, registered users can still submit 250-500 word tips to the Wikipedia page by creating a user account and providing a few pieces of information for the moderators. Read the full list here, or, if you’d rather share your project management secrets with us, leave us a comment below.