How to be a superstar project manager – part 1 – working with your superstar team
I have a perhaps unorthodox view of what good project management is – and hence – something worth writing about. This “How to be a superstar project manager”post is divided in to two parts. Part 1 will focus on the in-house work you do together with your superstar team. Part 2 on how to deepen the relationship, impress and delight your customers.
So, I’m leaving out all the administration, the project planning and just focusing on a few pointers that in my experience – makes the best out of your journey as a team.
Ask for time estimates, and involve the team in the planning work so that you get the best possible project plan that everyone is part of. Like Trent Reznor in Nine Inch Nails sings “we’re in this together” (from the album The Fragile). It’s about you all working together on creating the best solution and end result for your customer. I don’t believe in telling other people how long a certain task will take – the only person that will know that – is the person performing the work.
Plan for the unexpected – add buffer-time
I always add on a bit of a buffer-time in my project plans. This ensures that if the shit hits the fan – we have allocated time to sort this out in our “curve ball account”. If the shit doesn’t hit the fan, the curve ball account is used to polish of the corners, to go the extra mile and ensure those details are pixel perfect – so that the client is not only happy – but amazed with the end result.
Ensure you all have the tools you need
Before anyone start working on anything, ensure that everyone that needs access has access, software is installed on the right machines and any other tools that the team might need, is in fact sorted out!
Kick-off with a cuppa
Once you are ready to start – have a great kick-off meeting, start with breakfast together and a nice cup of strong Italian coffee to get you all buzzing around your new existing project.
Ensure everyone knows what to do and it’s really clear to them. Never underestimate a simple list. When the shit hits the fan, things can get messy- to say the least- in our heads from stress (especially us working within digital). Having what you need to do written down, can be an actual comfort so you can stress out – and then get back on track with what you where doing.
Keep meetings short & brief and only with key competences from the team if required. I.e determine if it’s necessary if everyone have to be involved – depending on where you are in the project process.
Sometimes you also need to establish rules around how people conduct themselves in meetings (sorry Swedes – this I have never had to do before moving here…you people and manners – I don’t know):
1. Don’t interrupt each other when another person is speaking
2. Let everyone speak in the team – everyone should have their say, not just a few
3. Listen to what a person has to say – before jumping to assumptions
4. Let’s go around the table – and each person speaks about their part in the project
5. Be respectful with your colleagues time – detail questions are to be left discussed with the people who should discuss it – not everyone.
One central point of information
Try to collect all necessary information at one central point that everyone can access – anytime – anywhere. No one should be the roadblock to information, not even the project manager.
Encourage the team to solve problems and shine with their skills and develop them further on their own. No one should have to come to the project manager to ask about how they are allowed to solve something. You will drive yourself crazy if you don’t trust people and let them use their skills. You should remove yourself from the detail questions – yet be there as a support and help when needed. That said, see my next point.
Be a sounding board
Listen and try to be the fresh perspective in the team. Then do something about it – if it’s within your power. Sometimes you have to be the person with the fresh perspective that your colleague needs.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
Whatever it may be, browser testing, cleaning up documents that your team needs etc – just do it and don’t moan about it. As said before – “we’re in this together”.
Ensure that your superstar team – don’t get stuck in drudge work. No one should ever have to perform any task that can be automated in this age of digital! Avoid any copy and paste or other “drudge work” altogether. Your team are superstars of what they do – make sure their time is well invested in doing just what they are supposed to do! That’s how you invest wisely in both people and the money you pay them for their expertise.
Simplify workflows – remove unnecessary obstacles
I’m amazed of how many dumb things can be in the way of peoples work, especially in larger companies. Identify and remove. This is more from an organizational point of view. Ensure there are no bottlenecks such as software that doesn’t work properly or the team doesn’t not know how to use it. It can be anything that you can see from the “higher up” perspective looking down at the workflow. Even the solution you have implemented for and with your client – perhaps this needs to be improved – and thus improving both team and client happiness. Identify and streamline.
Be positive and encouraging
That doesn’t mean you have to act like a Teletubby or like you are on some kind of mood enhancer. This can be as simple as you all make fun of the situation, or take the piss out of something that’s actually is a real issue. Other then that – when someone does great work – tell them that. Also make sure you have a great celebration in the end to look forward to.
Once you have been through the process, working tightly, probably been through hell and back – but hopefully had fun during this – it’s time. It’s time to celebrate! I advice and rely on alcoholic beverages, that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If not – find something else to celebrate with and do it your way! Have fun.
Evaluate and improve
We all need to improve, and every project we go through will make us better. Put together a few questions, the team members can answer not to long after the project end. As a project manager – I also see it as my job to notice what can be improved until next time. But you can’t be everywhere and anywhere at the same time, hence why it’s great to get input from the team.