Setting up the Reluctant Project Managers for Success

Written by Brad Egeland

mentoring PMs

Some of us choose to manage projects.  Some of us planned this process out for quite some time and took steps to move into the project management position.  Others fall into it by accident…some even against their will.  However we fall into the position, productivity and organization, it is expected of the project manager, no matter what.  And if you’re an accidental project manager, there’s no guarantee you can just jump back to your last position…you may be let go period if you fail to produce or succeed.

Let’s imagine you’re one of a group of project managers in your organization – or possibly even the only one if you’re new or a startup – and you are tasked with mentoring one or more non-project managers who are being tasked with leading projects.  What processes would you go through?  What are some of the high-level things you would be focusing on to bring those non-project managers up to speed – at least with some of the key best practice focuses to start building a consistent and effective project management process in the organization?  The key is this: keep it simple and practical.  I’ve been in these situations before, and I try to focus on the following three key concepts to help the new project managers start out as productively as possible…

Run good project meetings.  Good meetings result in the giving and getting of accurate project information.  So the project manager – experienced or not – who can facilitate an effective and productive project meeting with his team and customer will be on the right path to project success.  And what do those “good” project meetings look like?  A planned agenda, a timeframe that makes sense and is adhered to, and notes well taken and distributed to all attendees post meeting to verify understanding and consistency.  A good project meeting facilitates the proper exchange of project information and any necessary discussion, and is setup to ensure that everyone is on the same page when the meeting is over.

Keep reporting regular and simple.  Keep status reporting regular and simple throughout the project.  Even if there isn’t really anything new to report in a given week, the project manager still needs to produce the weekly project status report.  All stakeholders – from the customer, to the project team, to senior management and on to anyone and everyone who plays a key role in the project – need to be kept in the loop with a complete but straightforward status report.  The smart project manager figures out one project status reporting format that will satisfy all stakeholder needs.  The PM has enough to do without creating fifteen different versions of the project status report for fifteen different stakeholder entities.  Most status reports need a good high-level project health dashboard for a project quick view that senior management and the customer often like, an area that focuses on what’s just been accomplished, what work is happening now, and what is coming up in the next 1-2 weeks, an area for project budget health, and – of course – an area reserved for critical issues and change orders and who is assigned to what.  Again, try to make it one size fits all…you already have enough to do.

Engage the customer frequently.  Our project customers are busy individuals.  New project managers tend to think that this project is the key focus for their project sponsor but that is often not the case.  So it is their job to keep the customer engaged throughout.  I often advise them to keep the customer assigned to a few tasks throughout the engagement so they aren’t likely to “disappear” into their day jobs and regular duties that go with that.  Keep them accountable to tasks on your project and they will be more available for meetings, discussions and those all-important decisions you may need them for along the way.

Summary / call for input

Project success is hard at all levels…startups, small organizations, big Fortune 500 companies with very mature project processes, new project managers and very experienced and certified PMs.  The bottom line is…success is never a given.  When we try to not over think project management and do too much multi-tasking but keep more of a simple approach…especially with less experienced project managers and less complex projects, then we are more likely to succeed and not get lost on the path to project success.

How about our readers…what are your thoughts on keeping it simple for those project managers who became project managers abruptly and are now learning on their feet?  What areas do you suggest they focus on as they “learn along the way” and focus on using consistent practices?

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.