Tips for project managersBeing a project manager has a lot to do with attitude. An effective project manager must believe in their role and do it well. What would novice project manager do? Consider a fictional dialogue below. These would be the questions I would have asked when I first started, and the answers I would have wanted:

Game Rule No. 1: Commit to the project

  • I am placed in command of a critical project. I have had the team, objectives, budget, deadlines, and have several responsibilities assigned to me.
  • This is a good thing: Your business trusts you. You have a challenge ahead and a lot to learn and demonstrate.

Game Rule # 2: Manage the restrictions

  • Beginning to see barriers, what do I do?
  • As said Randy Paush : “The walls are there for a reason. They are not to keep us out, but to give us the opportunity to show how much we want something. The walls are there to stop people who do not want something enough blocks are there to stop the other”.

Game Rule No. 3: The ends justify the means

  • There are many things that are out of my control, what do I do?
  • Often, a project manager must question and challenge the limits in order to get things done in an environment of uncertainty. For the benefit of the project, other stakeholders understand that certain project managers skip authority levels, or not do it all by following all procedures to the letter. In this profession, sometimes the end justifies the means (always within reason, of course). Remember the letter to Garcia . The term “take a letter to Garcia” is widely used as an example of when it comes to getting things done in an environment of uncertainty, acting outside our circle of influence.

Game Rule # 4: Always work with an updated and realistic plan

  • After analysing what has been promised to the customer, it may seem impossible to meet the objectives.
  • Make a realistic plan, put forth alternatives, involving others in the problem and looking for the solution to them.

Game Rule # 5: When you are unsure, make assumptions

  • Too many things are unknown. It seems impossible to estimate detailed timelines, budgets, resources, etc. What do I do?
  • Make incremental planning, and for what you do not know, make assumptions. You could say, for example: Assuming that the vendor delivers the server that date, assuming that the technicians have this productivity rate, assuming that the client assumes a key personnel who need to validate requirements from such date, assuming I can… then estimated as date of delivery between April 20 and May 15, with a confidence of 65% . These assumptions have to be monitored continuously. Keep updated on the planning as you discover new information about the project.

Game Rule # 6: If you can only manage one thing, manages risks

  • This project has many risks. I do not do anything other than talk about them, but everyone seems to ignore them. When problems materialize who gets the blame.
  • The words are gone with the wind. Risk management is contrary to crisis management. It is the only way to anticipate problems. As project manager, you want trouble, not scares. When problems appear, you give a professional image if you saw them coming and had already prepared the answer. At each follow-up meeting devote a special issue to manage risk (it may suffice to review the most important). Each risk presented indicating the exposure involved in euros. If the answer is to assume, write the date and the decision maker in the risk register.

Game Rule No. 7: Adapt communication to the recipient

  • The boss of my boss wants to be aware of everything that happens, but does not come with any follow-up meeting. One day I will call the customer with a complaint, he will not know what to say, and there will be a cascade of reprimands to me. How do I prevent this?
  • It is normal that senior executives do not have time to go to follow-up meetings, but not the only way to inform. The communication must be tailored to the recipient. In these cases comes in handy to send a periodic status report summarized, publish scorecards to colour light indicators, timetables, milestones, etc.

Game Rule No. 8: Practice iterations to mitigate risks

  • I think the customer does not know what you want, what you ask is too general and ambiguous. When we deliver it, will they say no to everything? What can I do?
  • Practicing iterations, delivering every time, first the most important part, which can be progressively validated. Perhaps the first instalment reject it, will rework, defects were corrected. In all likelihood, the second instalment will not be rejected entirely and may serve to validate the first delivery to 100%. This dynamic of successive validations allows customers go modelling their product vision.

Game Rule No. 9: Fight against scope creep

  • The client wants changes continuously.
  • We must not allow that. If the scope changes daily, there is no way to manage the project. It is what is known as degradation scope (scope creep). It’s the worst thing that can happen to a project manager. The most effective technique against scope creep is a change management system.

Game Rule No. 10: Trust your team

  • Team members assigned may not have much experience in something, and have never worked together, will I have to do everything?
  • Of course not. We recommend a situational leadership, adapted to the maturity of the team, then assign roles and understand the why of activities (let mistake), then I will only be needed occasionally and from a certain point will be self-sufficient. They have become a true asset within the organization.

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