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How To Improve Your Project Management Style in 9 Steps

by wrich

By: Dennis Lenard co-founder and CEO of Creative Navy UX Agency

Project management is the complex development journey of a lifetime. This profession demands a varied skill set and constantly challenges your abilities. Newcomers need to learn how to face potential obstacles head on in order to level up in their career. 

Most organizations understand the value of training their project managers in house. They develop courses with concrete, company related examples in order to help new hires find their footing. Best practices dictate to keep novice project managers at a responsibility level which can help them succeed. Their tasks should become increasingly more complex as they gain experience. 

Despite these general guidelines, a report published by the Project Management Institute in 2017 revealed that inexperienced project managers are responsible for 20% of project failure cases. This is understandable, as certain tasks are only perfectible through experience. 

Here’s a list of recommendations to help you improve your project management style:

1.Do Your Homework

Know the project like the back of your hand. Clarify the product’s goal and understand the limitations, whether they pertain to cost, timeframe, or scope. All these parameters should be discussed at length during an initial meeting with the stakeholders. Find out what the expectations of the client are and measure them against your team’s capabilities. 

Tip: Many product owners are excited about expanding the scope of their product. In the early stages of design and development, which are largely dominated by uncertainty, this is counterproductive. Their product should solve one problem really well rather than be a mosaic of half-baked features. It falls onto you to guide them towards the best possible outcome!

2.Set Milestones

That mountain of work that you and your team have to climb? It won’t happen in one day! Even if it was the actual Everest, you would still need to divide your strategy into smaller, more manageable stages. 

Milestones are exactly like the camping outposts you would lay down in an expedition to conquer the peak. In order to be effective, milestones must be dated and associated with certain deliverables. They provide structure to your team’s working process and help manage the expectations of stakeholders.

There are scenarios in which milestones change along the way and time allocations are expanded, with the consensus of everyone involved, of course. Know that while milestones provide stability, they should not be inflexible.

3.Define Parameters and Enforce Them

If you track the completion of each milestone, it will make you better at estimating the resources you will need to complete future projects. Familiarize your team with your preferred tracking methods. Ensure that the work is getting done at a reasonable pace. You can start off with a simple table that contains the title of the milestone, its respective deliverables, and their due date.

4.Allocate Resources Effectively

When calculating resource allocation, most project managers rely on their experience. If you’re a novice and have been lucky enough to receive contextualized training beforehand, you should be able to use the company’s tried and tested practices to make balanced decisions. 

Working while understaffed, with an insufficient budget, or according to an unreasonably paced schedule will demoralize your team and send people on a project management death march. Without the proper resources projects are doomed to fail. Become a champion of adequate resource allocation within your organization. 

5.Learn to Lead

A great leader doesn’t waste time micromanaging their team. Check your colleagues’ work, but don’t breathe down their necks. True leadership is knowing when to offer support. Your duty as a project manager also includes helping people fulfill their professional potential. Understand what your team members need in order to succeed and give it to them. 

6.Perfect Cost Estimates

A client’s budget is limited, and your cost estimate should generally make allowances for the unforeseen. As the project moves forward, its scope might change. Know that while human creativity is limitless, time and money are not. Be mindful of how much the client can spend and towards what the money should go.  

7.Communicate

As a project manager, you need to navigate professional relationships flawlessly. You should communicate your team’s progress to relevant stakeholders and seniors as often as you can. Keep everyone up to speed. This helps instill a strong sense of project ownership in everyone involved. Frequent miscommunication and disengaged stakeholders can be early warning signs for project failure. 

8.Take Warning Signs Seriously

A project’s success rate relies on the previous factors, as well as knowing how to identify potential hurdles early on. The most common warnings signs are:

  • An unclear scope – it’s important to establish feasible project goals right off the bat;

  • Lack of communication – dysfunctional relationships with stakeholders or among team members can sabotage the project effort;
  • Bad timing – it’s very likely that the user group wouldn’t be ready for change, or that the organization is unable to allocate the appropriate resources to the project;

9.Identify And Correct Cultural Misalignments

In this circumstance, culture refers to the client’s preferred business practices. Be mindful of the stakeholder’s background if you come from different parts of the world. To avoid miscommunication, organize a preparatory cultural awareness seminar. 

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