Project Leadership – Managing for Success

Project management is the art of guiding a project from initial planning to final implementation. Good managers possess a solid knowledge base, skills and expertise that let them see all project management phases clearly, as well as the specific steps needed to move through the life cycle efficiently and successfully – they understand what must be done and they make sure it happens, on time and within budget.

Maybe the most critical factor that determines the success of a project though is the personal investment of project cycle management leadership. When leaders are personally committed, and take ownership of a project, the results can be astounding.
So, how do you manage for success? It’s a loaded question, we know, but the following tips can help you exert more ownership over projects, approaching each one as an opportunity to engage your team, deliver great quality to your clients and the senior leadership.

The right leadership

Leadership establishes the tone for the entire project management framework. Will the work be frenzied and chaotic or predictable and (mostly) drama-free? It is ultimately up to you and the tone you set from the start.

The most important elements at the outset of a new project are to set clear goals and to make sure your team is held accountable for hitting benchmarks and reporting accurately. You can’t do it all on your own – delegate tasks, paying close attention to the unique skills and abilities of your team members to ensure you’ve given the right jobs to the right people. Everyone should know and understand their responsibilities and how they’ll be required to track their progress.

Focus on pushing deliverables and encourage team members to stay on top of their reporting responsibilities. Not only does this help you keep the project on schedule, but it also empowers your team to make decisions more quickly and intuitively. Too much time spent second-guessing or agonising over small details can bog down even the most efficient project management framework.

You. Must. Communicate. It’s essential, even on small projects. As a leader, it is your responsibility to make sure every single team member and stakeholder is in the loop and regularly updated on the overall status of the project. They also need to know they can come to you with questions, concerns or suggestions without fear of reprimand or reprisal.

For your team, you might create a master calendar as part of your project management lifecycle controls, with significant deadlines marked clearly for all to see. Schedule meetings well ahead of deadlines to check in with everyone, gather intel on their progress and make sure things are on track. This will also give you plenty of time to address issues and make adjustments before small problems become major headaches.
Another critical aspect of communication is to express the value of your project to those outside your team. No one wants to operate in a departmental silo, so create a compelling message that resonates throughout your organisation. Do this, and you may find it much easier to secure additional resources should you need them.
Prioritising activity

Maintaining a productive pace means understanding and mitigating risks. The easiest way to add this important element to your project management methodologies is to designate a risk officer to stay on top of potential problems. Ideally, this should be someone who is thoughtful, rational and more than a bit sceptical.

Managing risks effectively means:

• Every member of the team should feel comfortable reporting their concerns or difficulties. If people don’t believe they can speak freely, they will be more likely to try to hide issues and let them fester.
• Keep a real-time risk database for more effective project cycle management. This tool should record every issue, and its resolution, throughout the entire project.
• Not wasting time or resources obsessing over risk assessment. Yes, you must stay on top of issues before they derail a project, but if you see threats around every corner, you’ll quickly become paralysed by the fear that something could go wrong at any moment.

As a leader, you must be able and willing to make well-informed judgement calls from time-to-time that will mitigate potential risks. You must also have the courage and confidence to rethink your strategy should the situation call for it.

Resourcing and capabilities
Successful project management depends heavily on having the team and resources you need – when and where you need them – to deliver a quality finished product on time and budget.

This doesn’t mean you must become a master negotiator and secure unlimited funding and personnel support on every project right from the start. It means you have to learn to work with what you have been given to the best of your ability and be able to back up any request for more with robust data, clear communication, and conviction.

In addition to your critical role as project manager, you should recruit the following team members to improve your chances of success:
• Project sponsor
• Project coordinator
• Team leader
• Working team

Resource allocation is another essential part of your job as a project manager. Identifying resources at the start of a project and managing them throughout are essential project manager requirements, but so is knowing when and how to ask for more (time, money or people) when you need it.

Managing for project success involves a wide range of skills that work in concert to push a project through every phase and benchmark. If your ultimate goal is always to deliver high-quality finished products to your clients, while respecting the boundaries of time and budget, you will inevitably become invested in each project, exhibiting the kind of commitment and ownership that is a great predictor of success.

To see what Verto can do to improve the outcomes of your existing project management techniques, register for our free 60-day trial today!