November 3rd is International Project Management Day, a day to celebrate the most complex projects as well as the methodologies we use to achieve good project outcomes. We interviewed 3 of our Propeller management consultants who have led complex projects across multiple industries and have derived critical lessons throughout their career. Here are 7 key lessons that are applicable to a wide range of initiatives and organizations.
1. Establish structure: Even the most conscientious and dutiful project team members will benefit from a set structure to the project. Setting a routine of objective-oriented meetings, a standardized plan for approving deliverables, a method for quality control and clearly defined roles and responsibilities are all great examples of enabling your team to focus on their specific tasks. Without structure and clarity, team members can become sidetracked, flounder or duplicate efforts.
2. Engage your stakeholders: Many project managers and teams become tightly focused on the desired outcome – a process, an application, or something more tangible - rather than ensuring that the people involved in the project still want, need or support the end product. Business needs and project deliverables morph over time and can become like a giant game of “telephone”. It’s critical to continually engage stakeholders in a meaningful dialogue. It is equally important to allow stakeholder feedback to modify the project team’s work which will improve long term success.
3. Be accessible: In our digital world, email is usually the go-to form of communication, but as a project manager, it is important to make yourself available. If you are accessible, approachable and an active listener, you will earn the trust of your team members and key stakeholders. Decisions will be more informed and you will be more able to influence others.
4. Protect your team: Every project has a moment in its life cycle when there is intense visibility for the wrong reasons. In these situations, it is essential to protect your team from undue criticism. As a result, they will feel safe, remain motivated and focused to move forward. You are the captain of this project “ship” and naturally you want to steer everyone in the right direction. You won’t be able to get to your destination without a motivated and trusting crew.
5. Be prepared, but optimistic: When you manage a project, your job is to look out for potential risks and roadblocks and to do your best to evaluate and mitigate them. Your job is also to believe that the team will bring the project to completion no matter what obstacles come your way.
6. Plan and be ready to pivot: The key to most successful projects is thorough planning but you must also be ready to pivot and change course when challenges prevent you from moving forward the way you planned.
7. Think beyond your project: Projects are rarely done in isolation. Just as it’s important to know the history preceding your project, it’s also important to consider future implications of your project’s outcome.