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Project Management Success Strategies - Part Two

Jun 22, 2008
You may have read in Part 1 of this 2-part article, that I recently managed a highly technical SAP project that had so many problems, every morning when the alarm clock rang I'd pull the covers up over my head for fear of heading into work. But, thanks to a few of my project management strategies, and all the planets aligning in the exact right place at the exact right time, the project launched on time, on budget, and with the fewest number of defects than any other similar project in the company.

So in the true spirit of being a good project manager, I'm sharing five more project management success strategies that worked well for me and my team.

1. Lead your team. Every project hits a rough patch, or two, or nineteen. Show strength. Role model grace under pressure. What have you done for your team lately? What motivates each of your teammates? Have you asked them? You'll find that some are motivated by the challenge, some by the visibility, recognition, showcasing their expertise, learning something new, etc. Find what motivates each team member and then give it to them. With a motivated and inspired team, your project will run so much more smoothly.

2. Prioritize everything. In today's resource-, cost-, and time-constrained business world, you don't have the luxury of NOT prioritizing. Managing a high profile project is like herding snakes. There are countless other initiatives that your project is dependent on, and numerous customer and business stakeholders wanting to know the status, risks, timeline, and resources that you'll need for next quarter. Just breathe. Then prioritize. You can only do so much with what you have. If someone is asking, or demanding, the stars, then meet with him one-on-one and listen to his suggestion. Discuss your timeline, goals, and priorities, and then align expectations. Much of project management is about setting priorities, and then aligning everyone else to those priorities.

3. Role model PM discipline. You can't be a great leader until you role model PM discipline. Get your project management professional (PMP) certification. It works. Your life and the lives of your team members will be easier. You'll also have so much more energy since you won't be running away from key stakeholders, or challenging processes, and asking Why(?) all the time. You'll immediately know what the right thing is to do, and you'll know to just do it.

4. Don't hide problems. I'm tired of people saying my projects don't have any problems, only opportunities. Where is it written that having a problem is shameful? I have a friend who's a Microsoft general manager and whenever Bill Gates visits him, his first question is always, Hey Mike! So, what's your biggest problem? What a relief that must be to actually take off his big coat of armor and just be able to talk about his biggest problem and then brainstorm solutions.

It's comforting to realize that other project managers have similar issues. Once the feeling, I'm-in-this-all-by-myself dissolves, then the feeling comes in, How can we work together to manage this? There should be no shame or judgment, only support and encouragement. So be proud of your problems. Talk about them openly. Then find the best possible solution and move forward.

5. Celebrate successes, give compliments and lavish recognition. We can't leave it up to our senior managers to improve morale and make our projects fun. We need to do that ourselves. We all want the same thing: to have meaningful and challenging work and to feel valued and appreciated. Find a way to give that to yourself and your team members.

If you continuously gloss over the 90 percent of the project that's going right, and focus only on the 10 percent that's not, then shift your thinking. Take moments to appreciate your team. Don't put a "but" at the end of your compliments -- for example, Nice job on that data conversion, John, but when are you going to fix that defect? That's not a compliment. Say often, Good job, and Well done!

Gift your compliments in person, as well as in e-mails and copy the team member's manager. Host a team recognition dinner after the project is complete. Write personalized thank you notes. Nominate the team for a company recognition award. Send extended team members a thank you token such as a small gift certificate. And most of all, don't be stingy with compliments. They cost nothing. Let's make our projects fun again. Appreciate your team, and they will appreciate you.
About the Author
Sherri Thomas is President of Career Coaching 360, an international speaker, and author of "Career Smart - 5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand." Career Coaching 360 Career Coaching provides career planning, management coaching, and leadership development support to help professionals change careers quickly and easily.
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