To succeed in managing projects, a project manager needs to follow the project management best practices. There is a set of best practice rules utilized by experienced project managers which you need to know and follow if you want to become a great project manager. We did publish a great infographic about project management best practices a while back. That graph is a good visual reference to keep in mind for future reference. In this article I will discuss ten elements of project management best practices which applies to teams small or large, experienced or novice based on my experience managing projects in the past twenty years. Granted most of these rules are common sense, but when applied as a unison they have an potent effect in finishing projects successfully.
Project management best practices – ten commandments
If you understand and follow the following ten rules described in this article for project management best practices, you will be a better and happier project manager. I have used these rules for the past twenty years and refined them based on the outcome of projects which I have been involved. Using these rules will make your team more productive and collaborative. These rules also help to make your project more visible to upper management and makes the process more transparent. This helps management to have a better view of the project’s progress and will be more forthcoming when you need resources or want to start new projects. When so much good can come from following these simple rules, what keeps you from trying them?
1-Make your team to collaborate
If your team knows how much you value collaboration and team communication, they will be more receptive to collaborate and work as a team. Collaboration or lack of it is the number one factor in success or failure of projects. The willingness to collaborate is the first step. You and your team also need to know how to collaborate effectively. Communication is the basic element of collaboration, but more is needed. Set rules for communication and collaboration and publish them as a guideline for your team. If your team is located in one place, collaboration is much easier. Make sure any member feels empowered to brainstorm with other members. Ask team members to set in their calendars collaboration time slots for an hour twice a week. Team members can use these time slots to brainstorm with colleagues on ideas or discuss problems they are facing in their tasks. If you have remote workers in your project, make sure they have the tools and ability to collaborate with their local colleagues freely and often. Today’s online collaboration tools like Binfire make this task easily possible.
2-Plan, Review and Re-plan
Planning is the second most important factor in success of projects. Plan with your team leaders and technical experts in your organization. Review the plan with colleagues and publish the plan to your team, upper management and other stake holders in the project. This project plan should be the road map for steps needed to take to finish the project and should establish a clear target for success. Update your plan once a week if needed. As part of the project plan you need to identify risks to the project and come up with contingency plans on how to counter these risks if they arise. Assigning somebody as the risk manager is a good way to start the project. Put the project plan online and make it accessible to everybody in the team.
3-Have a kickoff meeting at start of the project
You need to start the project on the right foot by having a one day kickoff party for all your team members and stake holders in the project. If you have remote workers invite them for the kickoff meeting in person if at all possible. In this meeting elaborate on the goals of the project, time table and challenges the team is tasked with to finish the project successfully. Make sure people have time to ask questions and understand the goals clearly. Use this gathering to introduce all members one by one to make sure the team knows each other in first name basis. Having a name tag for teams who have new members is very helpful in the gathering. Ask members to introduces themselves to the team and give a brief background about their expertise and their role is the project. Distribute team T-shirts and other items to create your team identity.
4-Identify the strength & weakness in each team member
Your team members are the ones who will make or break the project. Human capital is your most important asset. You need to know the value or score of each team member. Sport teams rank their players so should project managers and team leaders. Rank each team member from 2 to 5. Two is for average score and five for excellence. You should get rid of anybody who scores two or less. Make sure to involve the team and technical leaders of your organization is tabulating scoring for each member. The scoring should be based on the following three criteria.
- Experience & know-how
- Ability to lean new things
- Emotional intelligence and ability to collaborate
5-Keep short term goals aligned to final target
You did define the project goal in your project plan in the rule number one we mentioned in this article. The project plan needs to get expanded and refined over time. You need to define all steps needed to get to the ultimate goal which is the product or service you plan to deliver. These small steps are your short term goals. Make sure each short term goal is in lockstep with the final goal and does not deviate from the shortest path to be able to release the product or service to the market. Your project should consist if many short term development cycles. By short term I mean 4 to 6 weeks duration. If you are familiar with Agile project management method, you know this is called Sprint.
6-Hybrid project management methodology
There is a new project management approach called Hybrid project management methodology which is great in implementing short term goals and at the same time keep an eye on the long team goal. Both Agile and traditional methods are fine, but Hybrid project management is better for most projects. Hybrid method combines traditional methods like waterfall and Agile to create a potent project management method. I have used Hybrid method for the past 6 years on all projects we have done with amazing success. There are a few project management applications which supports Hybrid project management. Using such a tool is essential. Binfire supports Agile, Waterfall and Hybrid project management methodologies.
7-Hold short daily status meetings
It is great idea to hold standing only status meeting every morning. If you have remote workers make sure they are included via videoconferencing or teleconferencing. Make sure every member has the chance to say what they accomplished in the previous day, what they plan to do today and if they are facing any challenges or problems. If issues brought up in this meetings, just note them and schedule another meeting with subset of people who are directly involved with those issues. Don’t waster all team members time discussing specific issues only interested to a few.
8-Demand and practice excellence
If you don’t demand excellence from yourself and each member of you team, you will never achieve excellence. As a manager you need to set the bar high. Make sure everything you do is fully thought through and complete as humanly possible. Demand the same from each member of your team. Great teams who believe in excellence make create products. Your job as a manager is to give feedback to your team members as how they are performing. Make sure to evaluate and asses each member every three months or sooner if needed. Review the report with each member individually. When praise is in order, don’t hesitate to give it. When someone deserve reprimand, make sure it is never personal and the goal is to make the individual to try harder and achieve better results. The idea behind project management best practices is bring excellence in the art of project management. Notice I wrote Art here since project management is not an exact science. The way you interact and treat people, the way you talk and handle meeting and your emotional intelligence all help to make you a better or worse project manager..
9-Document everything and publish to all stake holders
Keep track of everything happening in your project by documenting every decision and action you and members of your team make. This helps you to go back and check why you made decision when things are not going right or when faced with similar issues you have solved in the past. It is also a great learning tool. When the project finishes, use the data you have gathered to perform a through analysis on how the project proceeded and if mistakes were made. Also note great things which were done and how. You can use these leanings in your future projects. Make sure you use a good project management app with document storage capability. The app should keep all versions of files you upload. Make sure the site is secure.
For the project to be a success you need to get rid of stress and anxiety. When people are relaxed and have fun they perform better. This does not mean you let your team party all the time, just once a while take a break and make sure the whole team have some fun. Sports are and physical activities do wonders for the moral of teams. Make your team’s job easier by providing basic necessities when people work hard and stay late. Late night meals, taking care of some errands by hired help for employees when they are too busy to do it themselves are great ways to reduce anxiety and make them relax. Most successful companies in Silicon valley, Boston, NYC and Tel Aviv have great side benefits for their employees.
I hope this paper about project management best practices helps you to become a better project manager. If you are not familiar with concepts covered here, this blog; Collaboration Corner is a good resource. There are also many online resources which could help you study and get familiar with these concepts. If you have questions, or have ideas on how to improve or add to these principles, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or contact me directly.