9 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers
So you have your project kicked off and things are now underway. How do you keep up with the day to day juggling of the multiple projects that you’ve been assigned to and the numerous stakeholders demanding your attention? You haven’t had nearly enough coffee yet to be able to keep up with the high demands of the Project Manager’s world, let alone function properly.
Whether you’re a new project manager or a seasoned veteran, Project Management can be quite an overwhelming role. So what are some of the things you do to keep yourself in check? Take a deep breathe and exhale. I’m here to help.
At ImageX, we work on Drupal web design and development projects for Higher Education and other verticals. Our day to day tasks might be different than yours, but whether you’re project managing a website, a new product or a skyscraper, we can all learn how to be more effective project managers.
Last month myself, along with the rest of the Project Managers at ImageX, were asked to individually write down what we believed were the 10 most effective habits of a Project Manager (PM). At first I thought, “that’s easy”, and so I went about writing a whole list of things that I knew would make me a highly effective project manager. After I started putting my thoughts together, I realized how much I had on the list, but also how frequently I missed some of these small but crucial habits. When our PM team re-grouped to discuss what everyone had put in, it made me realize how I had missed some of the habits that they thought were highly effective to THEM. So collaboratively, we not only were able to combine all of our habits to create a comprehensive daily project checklist, but also reduce it down from 10 to top 9 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers! And in true open source spirit, here they are for you to practice:
1. Invest in client relations
- Establish yourself as our single point of contact & ensure the client has one, too
- Research — find out about your clients and stakeholders, their business and industry, etc.
- Build relationships — put in extra effort to create connections with the client
- Show enthusiasm for their ideas — even if even if you disagree… hear them out and try to understand where they are coming from
- Don’t assume anything! Ask for clarity if you don’t understand something
- Keep written communication professional — remember, they might be shared
2. Manage expectations
- Ensure client understands their responsibilities (feedback & deliverables) and their potential impact on timeline/budget
- Manage the client as a resource. Hold them accountable and send them reminders if they have deliverables
- Push back — consult your clients on best practices & trends. Tell them if you think something may hurt their business and why.
- Always follow through on what you say!
Working with the Project Management team at ImageX has always been an easy and productive process. When we’ve had complicated projects, unexpected needs or near-impossible deadlines, they’ve been able to help keep things running smoothly and make sure our objectives get met.
-Bruce Stewart, Producer at Management Innovation eXchange
3. Structure projects appropriately
- Establish milestones — short-term goals keep long-term projects on track
- Structure work into weekly or bi-weekly sprints
- Who? What? When? Task Assignment
- Formalize releases — establish when a client gets to see/try things and work toward incremental delivery
- QA through-out — acceptance criteria and ongoing testing
4. Stay up to date
- Monitor time and budget daily
- Check daily developer reports & look out for their roadblocks
- Establish and maintain daily team check-ins
- Set regular (weekly/bi-weekly) client check-in meetings
5. Involve your team
- Plan out entire project with team when possible
- Involve your team in sprint planning
- Ensure your team accepts tasks & estimates
- Check with your team for any pressing questions/concerns before the client check-in
- Ensure they have what they need to complete tasks
- Don’t forget to report back — share client feedback with your team
6. Document meetings and decisions
- Take excellent client meeting minutes to ensure you capture critical decisions, statements and action required… ensure your documentation would be tight enough to cover you if there were ever to be a legal dispute
- Schedule gaps between meetings (no back-to-back) to give time to digest meeting outcomes
- Solicit client feedback on minutes, but assume acceptance
- Post minutes to the common forum where all the communications are kept ideally within a day (by end of day is best)
- Establish clear action items, track & follow up!
- Don’t forget to document relevant internal meeting minutes
- Provide a weekly progress report to the client
- Review progress at client check-ins
- Keep capacity planning tool updated weekly to ensure everyone is fully utilized, maximizing company productivity
- Keep project brief updated with latest documents on any updated contracts, etc
- Provide weekly reports to your supervisor, keep them in the loop
8. Manage change
- No surprises — communicate early & often
- Analyze impact of changes and adapt project deliverables & schedule as necessary
- Protect scope & transfer creep to change orders
- Don’t stick to original plan when there are opportunities to improve
- Adjust schedule & priorities to minimize downtime & under-utilized resources
9. Keep improving
- Learn how to use your technology such as creating your own blog post using Drupal admin to expereince what your clients might have to experience
- Have regular Project Management group process meetings
- Solidify estimation tools & techniques
- Perform retrospective/post-mortem/lessons learned meetings on all projects
- Measure budget success & failure for better estimation going forward
- Proceed with side projects & process development in your spare time
There you have it. These are just some of the habits that our Project Management team practices daily and has stuck onto their walls. So how about you? How do you keep on top of your game as a PM? Share one of your highly effective habits that you practice as a PM. Or share something that you think a PM should always take into consideration when managing a web project.