Improving project management

Project management is a challenging discipline. Knowledge and experience, productive communication, target setting, subsequent execution and leadership ability are all part of the skill set necessary to be an effective and desirable project manager.

Good communication with the client is fundamental to a successful project so that all parties are aware of the project’s progress in terms of targets, goals, deadlines and achievements. If the client is fully aware of any issues, and has a clear view of progress, then they are likely to be more understanding when problems and hold-ups do occur.

Obviously, pre-project research is key. Spend time thoroughly scrutinising the project scope in detail so that you are in the best position to proceed and more able to adapt to any subsequent challenges. Early and thorough preparation should reduce the need for avoidable and costly changes later. Winging it won’t do.

Having absorbed the scope of the project, the next step is to identify and prioritise tasks, and form them into a project timeline. What is immediate? What can wait? What requires further planning in advance? You can only do this when you thoroughly understand the project’s scope. Lack of prioritising will lead to wasted time and money.

However, prioritised goals must be realistic. Goals must be achievable so don’t offer what you are unable to deliver so it’s far better to set goals that you can achieve or exceed. Within each goal, have smaller, very measurable objectives that highlight the progress being made. Visible productivity is highly motivational.

Make sure you are confident and familiar with the project management software required for the job. If you are unfamiliar with a new tool then take the time required to get up to speed early as this will avoid unnecessary inconvenience and lost time as the project progresses.

It is likely that obstacles will challenge the smooth running of the project. The project manager should address them firmly and competently, taking charge of each element of the situation with clarity. Confidence is key as leadership is required to navigate the team through or round the obstacle.

Teamwork is crucial in any joint endeavour and though the project leader is ultimately responsible for the end goal, a cohesive team with a mutually supportive relationship will work better individually for each other.

At the point when problems do occur, a strong team relationship with the leader means that they are more likely to go beyond reasonable expectations to get the problem sorted out. Understanding individuals’ specific strengths and weaknesses means that tasks can be delegated appropriately. In addition, for the project manager to work with and help the team when required is a powerful motivational tool and one that gains respect.

Skilled project managers will always be looking ahead to identify and mitigate potential snags before they happen, rather than trying to deal with them later when it has become a damage limitation exercise for a much bigger problem.

Finally, as with many professional situations, the ability to evaluate self-performance as the project manager is a valuable learning to tool to help build on what was successful and highlight what could be improved in preparation for the next project.

RB Plant | Multi-Disciplinary Engineering Consultancy | Man