Project Management Guide: Best Practices for Project Managers

Project management is a daunting field, so deploying the right techniques is critical for success. Adopting the right practices will be high on your list of priorities. Otherwise, coordinating an important project will seem like an uphill struggle.

Effective project management is a difference-maker, where the best practices are derived from methodologies, industry conventions, international standards, and organizational guidelines.

Best practices are essentially ‘ways of doing things’ which translate to high performance. Though best practices vary from organization to organization, there are some general standards which are applicable across the board.

To inspire you to reach new heights, here are some of the best practices for project managers:

Define Objectives
Project Planning

Define Objectives

You should decide upon the real objectives of a project before diving in headfirst. Understanding the specific objectives will enable you to define boundaries, creating a foundation for future initiatives.

From this alone, you can establish work parameters, understanding which areas require the most attention. For example, if you’ve been asked to organize a blood donor campaign, is the objective to get as much blood as possible, or is the main goal to raise your company’s profile?

You should also define the scope of the project since this will set boundaries for future activities. Using the above example, you’d need to know whether transport to the blood bank is within the scope, or whether staff should make their own way there.

Understand who your stakeholders are and what they expect to achieve. You can utilize their input to define your scope and objectives, before getting relevant parties to review your goals and agree to them. With an adaptable approach, you’ll be more open to suggestions from critical stakeholders, enabling you to establish productive objectives.

Define Deliverables

What will your project deliver? For example, if you’re devising a promotional campaign for an energy drink, one of the deliverables would be the artwork used for advertisement. Determine the tangible things which will be delivered throughout your project, then document them in a way that aligns with the goals of your team. When your team is fully on board with the deliverables, they’ll be capable of executing them in line with your vision.

By documenting your deliverables, you’ll outline the procedure that’s necessary to reach your objectives. As always, key stakeholders must review deliverables and agree they accurately reflect what you’re trying to achieve.

Project Planning

Once you’ve established what you’re trying to achieve, you should next consider which resources, people, and budget are required to complete the project.

What activities are necessary to produce your deliverables, and what work structures will help you execute your vision? Estimate the time and effort required for each activity. You should then determine a realistic schedule for executing your deliverables, ensuring they remain consistent with your goals.

At this point, you’d be wise to incorporate the input of your team, who will be better equipped to estimate the time it will take for them to complete tasks. Planning without consulting your team is a recipe for disaster, where it’s important to acknowledge that when it comes to certain business functions, front line staff will understand more than you do, especially those in line with their daily duties.

You should set critical milestones during the planning stage, dates by which certain aspects of the project must be completed by. This will structure your project plan, which must be reviewed and agreed on by stakeholders.

Communication

Communication is everything. You can devise the best project plan in the world, but it will be obsolete if you can’t communicate it with your team. You should create an environment where staff feel comfortable asking as many questions as possible. When your team knows exactly what’s required from them, why they need to perform tasks and exactly how, your project will flow smoothly.

Staff should be aware of the tasks and milestones, via two-way dialogue that reinforces your expectations. Communication also allows staff to appreciate project priorities, knowing where and when to focus their time.

Define Objectives
Project Planning

Tracking and Reporting Project Progress

Once the wheels are in motion, it’s important to be mindful of your original objectives. You should track your actual progress against what you planned, to establish whether you’re moving in the right direction.

Any variations should be noted, regarding cost, schedule and scope. These should then be reported to your manager and other key stakeholders to determine corrective courses of action. If you’re not hitting your goals, it’s important to work out why, and perhaps tweak your approach to secure a more productive outcome.

Adjust your project as you see fit, juggling scope, schedule and cost. When one factor is adjusted others must be too, so it really is a balancing act.

To be a successful project manager, you must be willing to adapt your plans based on the changing nature of external circumstances. This is especially true in today’s digital world, where new technologies constantly emerge transcending industries dramatically. Managing risk and change is key to the success of your project, alongside the ability to stay composed when anything goes wrong.

By combining the aforementioned approaches with logic and rationale, you’ll be positioned for success as a project manager.