Seven Things Great Project Managers Do

1. Figure out your own approachUltimately you have to figure out how a project is delivered because you’re the one who’s responsible for delivering it.

Executives, Directors, Senior Managers, SMEs…. all care about a project and will have a view of how to go about getting it done. Some like Board members have more influence than others. Whilst it’s important to listen to everyone’s views and capture suggestions based on knowledge or expertise it’s absolutely crucial to derive an approach which you understand and you believe you can deliver.

Remember you’re good at what you do, you’ve been chosen to deliver this project because of your skills and expertise. Part of your job is to figure out how.

A bad PM lets others define the approach, a good PM defines it, a great PM defines it and makes everyone feel like they came up with it.

2. Spend time to clearly understand the goal, and plan backwards from there

How many times do businesses set out to ‘deliver a transformation’ or ‘make ACME world class’ and then wonder why they aren’t transformed? Wonderful pieces of jargon like ‘deliver a single version of the truth’ are lazy ways of defining what a project will do because they are useful to a point but then need to defined and agreed by the company. So what does a transformation actually mean for ACME, what exactly does ‘deliver a single version of the truth’ mean, how will we know when we get there?

This is another way of saying set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely (SMART) objectives at the outset of a project. Once these are clearly understood, forming a plan to deliver them is much easier.

3. Summarize the Project Plan onto a Single Page

The ‘one page plan’ is surprisingly useful tool for explaining to people how and when project will be delivered. The act of condensing a plan on to a single page is useful for you as the project manager as it forces you to decide what activity is crucial and what isn’t. If you can’t produce a one page plan you don’t understand the plan well enough or it’s not properly constructed.

4. Keep meetings small, short and action generating

Perhaps people do ‘spend too much time in meetings’ but they shouldn’t spend too much time in yours.

Meetings aren’t a waste of time, bad meetings are a waste of time – have an objective, keep everyone focused and only invite people who can contribute.

5. Understand the subject matter well enough to challenge or provide solutions

Successfully delivering a project is a process; defining what’s to be delivered, how it’s going to be done and then managing the activity to deliver it. In theory it doesn’t require knowledge of the subject matter in practice having a good handle on it massively increases the likelihood of success.

6. Strive for success, don’t fear failure

When you’re driving a car through a gap you look through the gap and not the walls (or the truck) and you get to the other side. The same with projects keep your focus on what you’re trying to achieve and what action that requires. And as with driving that doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the barriers, you’re just steering clear of them by managing risks or issues as they appear.

7. Talk to people, be honest, reward honesty

A successful project relies on clear and transparent communication between everyone involved. If someone is struggling to deliver something the sooner you know the better as it gives you more time to fix it. They’re more likely to let you know sooner, if they think you’ll try to help (reward honesty), you’re up front yourself and you regularly take the time to speak to them informally.

About Amjad Karim

Ben is co-founder of SmarterCalls
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