I was recently asked by someone who was new to Project Management for some general advice on the field. After some thought I have condensed my PM knowledge and experiences and created my “top 10 list of general guidelines for IT project management":
10. Become a skilled circus performer: i.e. improve your tightrope and juggling acts. You will need to find the balance between keeping the client happy and ensuring your team has everything they need to deliver. You will also have to learn how to juggle an insane amount of details. It can be tricky at times, that’s for sure.
9. Record meeting notes and action items: record what happened during meetings and any follow-ups (or have someone reliable and appropriate do it for you). Immediately following the meeting adjournment, things are probably reasonably clear. But don’t count on the discussion to be as fresh in your head 2 weeks after the fact. Therefore, you should keep a record.
8. Follow-up on meeting notes and action items: it’s not enough to just write things down. Follow-up on them.
7. Learn different languages: I don’t mean brush up on Mandarin or Spanish. I mean you will need to speak ‘Sales-ese’ and ‘Developer-ese’ fluently, for example. When having conversations about a project, I always remember who I am speaking with and what information they are most interested in and what information I need from them.
6. Don’t underestimate the importance of estimating: I think giving solid estimates is an art form. Also acknowledge who is giving the estimates. Is it the person who will be doing the work? Or not? Keep this in mind.
5. Break out your yoga mat and be flexible: The only certainty is uncertainty. You can prepare to be flexible but also BE flexible. Things can and will happen that were not captured in your risk mitigation plans. The ability to adapt to sudden project changes is definitely key.
4. Your resources are people: your team members are valuable. Take care of them. Make sure you recognize their achievements and celebrate milestones. Single people out for special awards but also include the whole team for other accomplishments. And beer and pizza go a long way.
3. Look and be organized: whether you show up to a client meeting with a pile of paper or whether you just need your Smartphone, make sure you know where to find everything. If you frantically start rifling through stacks of paper or madly scrolling through your phone in a meeting searching for things, you look disorganized and unprepared.
2. Communication: this is different from #7 (learn different languages). If you think something needs to be clarified, say it. Do not assume that everyone agrees to a key discussion point in a meeting even though most attendees are nodding their heads. Say it out loud to confirm.
1. Smile and stay calm: Flight attendants are taught to smile even if the aircraft is being hi-jacked. The logic behind this is that the flight crew’s perceived state of calm will put the rest of the passengers at ease. Of course when delivering ‘bad news’ to a client, grinning maniacally might be inappropriate. But what I’m talking about here is a general approach to project management and people in general. Business is business, but in the end we are all still people. The end result of adding that positive, human touch to the PM role will be happier working relationships. Guaranteed.