There’s a big difference between “check-the-box” project management, and actually leading a project towards completion.
Use these proven strategies to level up and deliver your projects on time, on scope, and on budget.
1 | Make meetings meaningful
People hate meetings–if they’re not worthwhile. But the reality is, most people organize their work around upcoming meetings, since that’s where high-value communication and accountability happens.
When you take ownership of meeting scheduling, you’re dictating how often the team is meeting, and that has big downstream effects, like how prioritized the project is and how much time stakeholders spend on it. Stick to the same recurring meeting times, and make scheduling effortless. Know when tough-to-schedule stakeholders are busy or not-busy, and keep in mind things like time zones, children’s bedtimes, etc.
Always send agendas the day before, not a week before, and not the hour before. Everyone should already be clear on what’s coming, so sending the agenda acts as both a reminder, as well as a primer, getting stakeholders mentally prepared for the call.
2 | Have your tools ready to go
Have a project charter, stakeholder register, and budget, at a minimum. For simpler projects, keep these documents simple enough to be combined into one workbook that can be quickly referenced by your team throughout the project. Frequently redirecting stakeholders back to these tools will help you keep the project from suffering scope creep or big delays.
On projects with greater complexity, invest time into an issue log, a higher resolution schedule, and a budget that projects your monthly spend, rather than a simple total spend number. Co-locate related spend from different departments to give an even fuller picture.
Make sure your project management software is up to date and that your team has easy access to effectively use it, along with any other tools they need to stay on track.
3 | Meet your team where they’re at
A Project Manager cares about scope, schedule, and budget, but most other stakeholders won’t. They do other job functions that have wildly different incentives (e.g. Sales Rep incentivized by monthly targets) and therefore might not care about yesterday’s float loss on your project’s gantt chart.
In other words, make it easy for stakeholders who aren’t used to doing a lot of project-based work. Give clear dates for when things are needed, and spend effort to help them stay on track. You’re the project manager because they haven’t developed the same organizational skills that you have (it’s not their job!).
Broadly this means you need to meet your team of stakeholders where they’re at, and make it as simple as possible for them to understand how to engage on the project.
4 | Use consistency to your advantage
Whatever you’re using to keep track of the project, make sure everyone knows how to easily get there. Use a single doc for rolling agendas, rather than creating a new doc for each meeting in a series. Then your team can bookmark the doc, and they always know where to go.
This also means consistency. Keep recurring meetings at the same time, and notes in the same place. Don’t tolerate last-minute meeting time changes, don’t move tools around, and avoid duplication at all costs.
Consistently sharing your screen during meetings is a powerful tool for project managers, because you can demonstrate and redirect stakeholders to the proper channels, tools, everything else your project is using. Use screen share to highlight agenda items when the discussion goes off track, or demo a recent win from a team member. Stakeholders will get it–as long as you’re consistent.
5 | Manage up
Make sure the executive sponsor(s) are aware of what’s happening. C-suite and leadership types can often have too much on their plate to regularly attend your project meetings, so send a status update on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. Let them know what things were recently completed and what’s ahead. Share big issues and propose solutions wherever possible. In your updates, use color, numbers and data, and be very word-efficient. Think Twitter, not Tolstoy.
When sharing status upwards, make sure other key stakeholders are copied. This communicates to everyone involved the project’s priority, and that both wins and issues are being surfaced upwards. This helps build an understanding of what we call “project reality,” meaning stakeholders know that the project is real, along with their direct role in seeing it succeed.
- Own the schedule
- Have your tools ready to go
- Meet your team where they’re at
- Use consistency to your advantage
- Manage up
At Hydrant, our Powerful Project Management team incorporates these practices (and many others) to work with leaders across industries to implement highly-tailored solutions for our client’s specific needs.
Right now, our team at Hydrant is offering 5 hours of free diagnostic time, exclusively to members of The Shop.