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4 Ways to Keep Project Management from Killing Your Project

Jen Fowler
#Industry Insights
Published on May 28, 2015

Follow these tips to keep project management from getting in the way of completing your projects.

Bad_Project_ManagementBelieve it or not, project management is important. In any project, somebody has to keep track of budgets and resources, communicate with the client, and make sure deadlines are met. A good project manager will be able to handle these tasks while leaving the people doing the work (in WSOL’s case, that would be our design, development, and QC teams) to complete the goals of the project.

Unfortunately, project managers (PMs) have something of a bad rap, and often deservedly so. If you’ve ever been involved in a project in which you had to sit through endless meetings, read lengthy documents, and fill out complicated checklists, you probably cringe when you hear the words “project management.” These sorts of activities are often used by people who follow the PMP (Project Management Professional) style of project management, and while these methods do have their place, focusing solely on them can lead to a project that gets so bogged down in procedures that the team has trouble completing the project’s goals.

This isn’t just a matter of people being irritated with an overbearing PM. I’ve been involved in projects in which the team was forced to spend so much time in meetings going over documents and checklists that they weren’t able get the work done in time to meet deadlines, which led to lost revenue and even layoffs. Poor project management isn’t just an annoyance; it can have a profound effect on a company’s bottom line.

So how can a project manager avoid strangling the life out of a project, and instead be a facilitator that helps things get done more quickly and efficiently? Here are some tips that I’ve put together for PMs who want to keep a project moving forward rather than holding it back:

Don’t focus on long documents and checklists

You want to be able to stay on top of the project’s goals, deadlines, and deliverables, but that doesn’t mean that you have to force everyone on the team to read through long briefs and updates or complete lengthy checklists that include every possible action they take when completing their tasks. These types of documents are most likely going to end up going unread, which means that things are going to end up getting missed.

Rather than focusing on the process, it’s better to work toward completing the actual goals of the project and doing whatever you can to help that happen. I've found that the best way to do so is to provide brief, to-the-point details on project scope, deliverables, and timelines to the members of the team, helping them understand what exactly needs to be done and when without getting bogged down in too much detail.

Talk to your team, not at them

A good PM will not just give orders, but will listen to their team to find out how work is proceeding on the project, what areas may need some more attention, what might need some more time to complete, what questions or comments need to be relayed to the client, or any number of other things to keep track of. If you’re not aware of what is going on, you won’t be able to help them solve issues by communicating their questions to the client or shifting resources to concentrate on tasks that need to be completed.

Keeping track of your team's changing capacity is one of a project manager's most important duties, especially if your team is working on more than one project. If this is the case, you will need to be proactive, allocating time in ways that will mitigate any resource problems and keep the projects on schedule.

Be a facilitator

Since the project manager is the main point of communication with the client, it’s your job to make sure the right information is conveyed to the right people. Rather than making everyone sit through conference calls with the client every day, you should be sharing data, feedback, and questions and answers between the relevant personnel on your team and the client’s, making sure that everything is moving smoothly and everyone is on the same page.

It's especially important to keep the project team (in WSOL's case, this includes Design, Development, and QC) updated throughout the project. If there are changes to the project's scope, technical requirements, or schedules that they need to be aware of, these can be done quickly and unobtrusively via daily, 5 minute project update meetings or through regular communications channels like email or group chat programs. This allows everyone to stay productive while making sure they are up to date on all current goings-on with the project.

Don’t be too intense

Project management requires a light touch rather than a stranglehold. Rather than constantly querying your team to track completion percentages or progress toward deliverables, it’s best to keep your thumb on the pulse of the project and adjust according to its needs. This means maintaining smaller touch points, planning resources to ensure that you will meet deadlines, and looping clients in when communication with them is needed. Ideally, a PM should guide everyone toward the project’s ultimate goal without getting in anyone’s way.

At WSOL, we try to follow a more agile style of project management in our web design and development projects. Rather than feeling trapped by procedure, we can adjust to meet the needs of a project throughout its lifecycle, which ultimately results in a product that best meets our clients’ goals. This has resulted in many satisfied clients and helped us learn the best ways to work together to complete projects on time and within the allotted budget.

Do you have any questions about how to put these project management tips into practice? Do you want to know more about how WSOL’s team handles web development projects? Please contact us with any questions, or feel free to leave a comment below.