The purpose of a project manager is to make sure that a project is completed under budget and ahead of schedule. But, in the real world, there are dozens of factors that can cause even the most doggedly determined project manager to fail at the task that they have been assigned.
It’s a good idea, therefore, to take a step back and think about what it means to be a successful project manager. Here are some tips from Simon Andras, a long-time project manager with more than a decade of experience under his belt.
Get All The Project Details Up Front
Before any project gets underway, it’s important to get all the details up front. You want to be able to see things like interim milestones, a comprehensive timeline, as well as a budget that is able to cover the projected costs.
Andras recommends that new projects managers get everything in writing at the beginning of a project, even if they are working within an existing organization. Having everything in writing, he says, allows project managers to know exactly where they stand.
It’s also critical, he says, to have the detail up front to prevent the dreaded “scope creep” where clients or bosses constantly ask for new additions to a project. Changes to a project lead to delays and increased costs.
Select Team Members Carefully
One of the first things project managers learn on PMP courses is that it is imperative to make sure that the skillset of the people on your team matches the task in had. There’s no point trying to undertake a project if you don’t have the right skills deployed in the right place.
Great project managers always match the task to the skill, so that only people who are qualified to carry out work are the ones doing it. Make sure you ask your team members if they are all able to do the jobs that they have been assigned and regularly evaluate their performance.
Establish Reporting Criteria
It’s difficult to know whether a project is going well without data, so top project managers continually look for ways to track their progress. You need to be able to know whether you are on track to hit your targets or beat them. If nothing else, keeping track of your progress allows you to document the speed and quality of your work.
Use data to feed into client checkpoints, showing them how a project is proceeding and getting their feedback.
Always Be Realistic With Clients
Project managers have a tendency, no matter how experience, to over-promise. They tell their customers a project can be completed in a matter of weeks, only for things to be delayed and for the project to be delivered months or years later. Top project managers know that you can’t ever deliver something that is high-quality, cheap and fast, says Andras. Instead, they have to choose either fast and cheap, or fast and good: never all three.
Setting reasonable expectations is part of the skill of being a project manager. Miracles don’t exist, so promising them is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure.