Projects are a necessary evil for any manager. Given that project management is my life and focus, I wanted to share some saving graces that will help you when things get hectic. Let’s start with some common pain points you may be able to identify with…
Projects can play hide and seek from our radar or grow their own personality and attack. The latter is the hardest project to manage; it’s the project that takes on its own life and begins to manage you by making you work long hours, run in circles, reinvent processes for special circumstances or cause general undue stress and fatigue. It’s happened to me, so I want to share a few tips on how to help you manage your projects so they don’t manage you.
See into the future – Buying a crystal ball is not an option yet, so, we need to plan and forecast to adequately prepare for the workload and make the proper resources available to employ. Part of this is, of course, determining the overall goal of the project. My advice is to do what our team does and share the big picture of where you want to go with all the gory details. Your team will work better as a unit if their comprehension is high and their roles are clear.
Communicate – Strong communication skills are often the toughest part of project management but also the most critical. Make sure everyone on the team knows where the project is on the timeline at all times and that they are actively involved in reporting where they are. We do a daily 15 minute huddle to help organize resources and get our heads around priorities. Continuously ask questions and get feedback to orient. If you are close to missing a task, alert the team and re-prioritize accordingly. Realize that any reflow of tasks affects the next set of tasks on your schedule, so be proactive and adjust them immediately to understand the impact one change has to your entire workflow.
Be prepared – Get all your facts together and ask the right questions ahead of time. If you have the who, what, when, where and why figured out – you’ve already won half the battle. Information is power. When it’s time to get your ducks in a row, start with the project due date then work backward to create a detailed schedule (include drop dates and milestones as key indicators in tracking progress). Look closely at all the moving parts and how they work together. Once everything is scheduled you can place this alongside your other projects to paint a picture of where you are overloaded or overwhelming resources, which will undermine your success. Re-flow your project calendar to maximize effectiveness. From here you can prioritize and complete them in order. Don’t touch items that are on-going during a high stress period. Instead, leave low priority items for later when a high priority item is due first.
Remember, you can’t do it all or please everyone – It’s a fact, you can’t do it all. Only do what needs to be done and what will affect the success of the project. This goes back to prioritizing before and returning to evaluate as needed during the project. If everything is lining up, then you’re on track. If not, some unnecessary tasks should be cut to create more time for what’s really important. You have to stick to the schedule and goals/tasks that will create an overall successful outcome. So, if someone comes to you with a project that can wait, it should wait.
Don’t use a banana to hammer in a nail – Get the right tools for the right job. They don’t have to be expensive or complicated. In fact, the best ones will be the simplest to use and customizable to meet your needs. You can’t go into a project blind and expect to come out “winning”. Here at Red Book Solutions we live by the Manager’s Red Book to prepare, plan, prioritize, and execute—as do our 350,000 manager clients across the country. We base our priority items off of an Action Priority Matrix. Without this feature I’d be running without a framework, which is a recipe for disaster for project intensive managers. Other great tools for daily organization and project management include Microsoft Office Tasks, RoboHead by Aquent and back office solutions by MacromatiX.
As always, the overall goal is to have big wins without the pounding heart rate or headaches that are common side affects of high productivity job responsibilities that come with being a manager. From us to you, go forth and prosper.
By Crystal Gardner, Marketing Production Manager at Red Book Solutions | 6 Years Marketing and Project Management Experience in Agency, Corporate and Private Institutions | University of Denver, Daniels College of Business, Office Of Communications & Marketing, Office Manager