Twenty tips and tricks for being a good project manager

I’ve been a project manager on multimedia projects for just over ten years. During that time, and through trial and error, I’ve learned various tips and tricks that help in making sure that projects come in on budget (or under), delight the client, stay on track schedule-wise, and finish with everyone still able to authentically smile at one another over a glass of bubbly.

For the first time openly admitted* and let loose, here they are:

  1. Be like an all-in-one journalist/politician/and counsellor.
  2. Report and communicate/manipulate when you need to (but never lie)/give time and care.
  3. Spot potential problems before they become real – sometimes you’ll need to dig them out like a pig finding truffles.
  4. Never bury your head in the sand.
  5. When a problem comes up, talk to just the people involved. Then to anyone else who needs to know.
  6. There’s no space in project management for procrastination or delayed communications.
  7. Record and share agreed upon points from conversations or Skype chats in email and, as much as possible, make sure those emails are responded to (by email) with a corresponding agreement. Conversations are easily forgotten or misinterpreted.
  8. Never underestimate the power of a sign-off.
  9. Let your team in on any manipulation* you’re up to otherwise they’ll jump in and ruin the plan. *When I say manipulation, I don’t mean Cruella Deville evilness but rather a keen intuition along with prudent decision making and forward planning.
  10. Remember that you’re representing your team’s decisions, not yours.
  11. Your team need to know about and agree with your communications.
  12. Gently remind your team members that backing down on decisions should be discussed internally before they decide to change tact with the client (without consulting you). This is my pet peev. It’s enormously undermining.
  13. The opportunity for mediation, mutual agreement, and understanding is always there.
  14. Know when to be a hard-ass and when to give a little. There are no strict guidelines on this one, you’ve just got to feel your way through it.
  15. Project management is not just about contracts, gant charts, and spreadsheets. It’s also telephone conversations, tea, and Skype chats about bad days, good days, moods, and feelings.
  16. Talk to people at least once a week, even if you don’t actually need to, just to see how they are. Sometimes they’ll express problems you didn’t know about, problems which they weren’t meaning to tell you, and problems which you really should know about.
  17. Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for the opportunity to find, identify, and solve more problems (like it’s your new favourite past time).
  18. And whilst you’re solving problems, celebrate milestones and successes.
  19. Create an environment in which everybody is clear as to their roles and responsibilities and feels able and inspired to do their job to the best of their ability. (Lofty but possible.)
  20. Oh, and I heart Basecamp. It’s the best project management tool I’ve ever worked with.

If you’ve got a no. 21 to add in or have something else to say, drop me a comment below or Tweet me.

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