Project management is an imperfect science. No matter how experienced you are in overseeing or how great your project management software may be, it’s inevitable that some initiatives will run over budget, take longer than anticipated, and create a ripple effect of bottlenecks and complications that disrupt other activities within IT and throughout your organization.
Course-Correcting Project Management Tips
No two projects are the same: Despite the similarities they may possess, there are always personnel, resources, goals, and other variables that add new wrinkles to project management, making it impractical to approach each project with the same management expectations.
Yet despite these unique qualities, the problems that disrupt projects often fall into one of a few categories. Identifying these patterns is one way project managers can take a responsive approach to addressing project complications and getting workflows and timelines back on track. At the same time, project managers need the right mix of skills and resources to adapt project management strategies on the fly as both the nature of the project and requests from upper management require course corrections to their earlier approach.
Looking for ways to keep projects moving along smoothly, even when things go sideways? Here are six project management tips to keep you moving in the right direction.
1. Adjust priorities for certain tasks as project dynamics change.
If a project moves too far off course, or the nature of the project changes from when the workflows and timelines were initially created, a good project manager needs to recognize these changes and make adjustments to how the project is being managed. New developments in the process may require certain tasks to be given a higher priority in order to facilitate more efficient workflows across other teams and tasks.
In some cases, delays and change requests can extend the timeline for certain projects in ways that make it impossible to get a project back up to speed with its original timeline. When that happens, the best thing a project manager can do is adjust everyone’s expectations and establish new, realistic goals.
Deadlines can improve accountability and keep projects on schedule, but if your teams are endlessly missing deadlines, you aren’t able to use this structure to organize and motivate task completion. Although making these adjustments can be tedious across a number of different tasks and teams, a project management software solution can alleviate the time required to make these changes.
2. Communicate with team members to keep them motivated and goal-oriented.
Effective project management depends largely on your ability to keep project team members motivated and focused on the tasks and goals at hand. Even when frustration bubbles up amid missed deadlines and other complications, taking it out on your team isn’t going to yield productive results.
When trouble arises, it’s even more important to ensure that lines of communication are open. Communicate with your team members to make sure they are aware of the implications of missed deadlines and budget overruns, and maintain an encouraging, supportive message to keep them motivated in their work.
Encourage them to speak candidly about the struggles they’re facing—by being open to this feedback, you can gather valuable information about project team performance that won’t necessarily show up in a project management dashboard.
3. Make sure leadership understands the implications of change requests.
It’s not unusual for additional requests to be made while a project is underway. Those requests can change the timeline for subtasks within the larger project, affecting the overall project timeline. Changes in timeline can carry budget implications that project managers will have to consider, too.
As a project manager, it’s important to accommodate these requests whenever possible. But you also need to clearly communicate the impact those change requests will have on the project. Leadership needs to understand that changes to an in-progress project will represent a new cost in some form, so they to be prepared for the consequences of those decisions.
Make sure your company’s decision makers fully understand the implications of such requests before you make changes to your team’s workflows.
4. Break down large tasks into smaller ones.
The complexity of certain projects can throw a wrench into the process of organizing and completing tasks—especially when you’re the project manager in charge of managing resources in the most effective way. If trouble arises, the complexity of these projects can be compounded, adding to the confusion faced by both project managers and their respective teams.
It’s a simple recommendation, but it offers value nonetheless: If you’re struggling to manage tasks within a larger project, you may be able to gain some insight by breaking those tasks down even further. It’s possible that complex tasks are inhibiting your ability to assess your team’s needs, and you may not fully grasp the demands of those tasks.
A project management solution can make this easy, allowing you to manage tasks at a granular level and quickly evaluate resource needs, time demands, and other considerations that are adding unnecessary complications to an already difficult project.
5. Monitor individual and team progress, and be ready to offer support.
The benefit of monitoring progress on certain tasks is that you can be ready to offer additional support wherever it’s needed. The plans for a given project rarely play out exactly as they’re designed, especially when new challenges and requests are inserted into the process.
Greater visibility can make you a more effective leader. It’s not about peeping over the shoulders of your workers; instead, you should monitor progress as a means of allocating resources, human support, and your own management insights to facilitate better, faster performance.
A certain task within a larger project may become too tedious or too time-consuming for current project teams to handle on a manual basis. If these complications relate to manual data entry, for example, you can consider a couple of options: either increasing the number of team members assigned to manual entry or integrating an automation solution, at an added cost, to speed up data management and free up workers to focus on other projects.
These decisions rarely offer a perfect option, but this is where expertise in project management comes into play. Keep an eye on projects as they progress, and be prepared to get involved when challenges arise.
6. Celebrate small achievements on the way to larger accomplishments.
You can implement the best project management software and have all the experience in the world when managing large projects. But at the end of the day, project management is all about motivating a team to give you its best effort. Maintaining a high morale is important, especially when projects start to run into trouble.
Poor leadership can compound these problems by hurting employee morale, deepening frustrations, and turning project participation into a thankless endeavor. Using small mile markers to stop and celebrate achievements not only improves the mood of your team and helps you show your appreciation, but it can also yield material differences in the success of your overall project.
When you’re able to keep employees motivated and encourage them to put their best foot forward, it leads to higher-quality results and faster project completion while minimizing costs for the company. Take a moment to stop and smell the roses every now and then—it will help your team realize the progress it’s making, which is its own form of encouragement.
Get Your Project Back on Track
Every project manager wants to oversee ambitious, valuable projects and processes that beat deadlines and come in under budget. To a large extent, this is how project managers are evaluated within many organizations, so they’re under constant pressure to make sure teams and tasks stay on track and are oriented toward larger project goals.
But problems are inherent to project management. The right software helps, and support from leadership always makes a difference, but it’s also about having the right mindset and embracing these problem-solving challenges.
No matter what complications develop during a project, there are always opportunities to get the project back on track and make the most of whatever you’re facing.