Are you a new project manager or interested in trying your hand at project management? Here are eight practical tips for you to remember as you embark on this very rewarding path.
Be prepared to learn
If you have been a team member on a project, you have probably been exposed to some project management terms and concepts. For those of you who haven’t participated on projects, one of the first things you will notice is that project management has a whole language of its own. In either case you will discover there is a lot to learn. I have been a PM for over 15 years now with several additional years on many different projects in various roles. Almost daily I learn something new that helps me become a better project manager. Continuous learning is key to your success.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Nobody expects you to know everything out the gate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you don’t understand something or if you haven’t been exposed to a situation. Just because you ask for help, doesn’t mean that you are weak or are not a good project manager. My experience is that your employer would much rather have you seek guidance than for you to make a mistake because of something you didn’t understand.
Look for a mentor
One of the things that helped me early in my career was the guidance I received from a seasoned PM. He was more than willing to guide me along and share with me his wealth of knowledge and experience. Even more than what he told me, great lessons were learned by watching him work. I watched how he approached issues, interacted with shareholders and team members, and all other aspects of the profession. Many organizations recognize the value in mentoring and will assign one to you immediately. If this is not the case, ask for a mentor or at very least informally pick one of your own.
Understand & follow defined processes
Most organizations have identified processes which provide repeatable methods to run the business. If you are lucky, these processes will be documented, but often they are not written down. The availability of documented processes is usually a sign of the maturity of an organization. Whether the processes are documented or you have to learn about them from your coworkers, spend the time to understand and then follow those processes.
Serve your team
You and your project will be successful only if your team succeeds. You are or will be leading a group of individuals who are blessed with their own strengths and skills. It is your job to get these individuals to work together as a team to deliver the service or product which will ultimately provide value to the customer. I have learned that team production increases as you serve your team members by doing things like removing road blocks, facilitating resolution of issues, and in general supporting their every need.
Communicate often and appropriately for your audience
Communication skills are key to project management. You will find yourself talking to team members regarding task details as well as sharing management’s expectations with the team. You will need to be effective as you convey status or details about the project activities to management. Almost every aspect of project management is facilitated by the written and spoken word. It is important to understand your audience and formulate your communication that addresses their needs. In short, hone your communication skills.
Don’t be afraid of change
Often we feel uncomfortable when change occurs in our life. This can also be true on a project. I can’t remember a single project that went exactly as planned and did not change as it progressed. Since change is inevitable, don’t stress when it occurs. The key is to have a change management plan in place which describes how a request is submitted to the project and how you will manage that change request. If this plan is documented and understood by all shareholders, you will be able to manage through change without flipping out.
Project Management certification is an important step in your career which will lead to greater responsibility at work and will ultimately increase your income. Most certifications will require additional learning and experience that will increase your abilities as a project manager, which I believe is the real value in working toward certification. To see a summary of different certifications that are available, read my blog about Important Project Management Certifications.