When I started my adventure as a project manager, nobody said it would be easy. Nobody said it would be so hard either. If you’re wondering what kind of obstacles you may encounter on your way to taking up this role, I hope this article will help you visualize it to a greater or lesser extent.
If I wanted to list all the mistakes I’ve made – and am making now – the list would be so long that the time spent reading it could be detrimental to your work. That’s why I focused on a few mistakes that occurred to me most often and were the most labor-intensive to untangle. Therefore, without further ado, let’s move on to the tips on project management so you do not repeat any of my mistakes.
1. Follow the guidelines – use Process Book
It is common to lose track when you have many tasks, tight deadlines, and you want to do as much as you can in little time. That is why it is always worth having a guideline that tells you what you should take care of next. At Applover, we have prepared the Process Book – it helps our clients know how the development process looks like and is a guideline for all of us.
While most projects start with optimism, people involved in them often do not know what to do next because of the lack of a clear idea and small steps to follow. Process Book allows you to create the right work schedule, determine who is responsible for what area and when specific tasks have to be completed. Milestones let you know how far you are and what is still ahead of you – don’t skip any of them. What is more, when work is well-organized, it is just more useful for everyone. So when you feel you are lost in the project, go back to the Process Book or other work schedule, and you will quickly get back on track.
2. Make notes, really
It may seem silly or trivial, but actually, it is essential at your work. That is why I decided to write about it a bit more. Not many people pay attention to making proper notes, treating this activity as something superfluous. Some notes can get deleted, forgotten, or dumped into that one folder that you will never reopen. Given the amount of information the project manager receives during each workday, I think it’s worth implementing this tip if you want to develop your project effectively.
If your notes are chaotic and ill-considered, they will meet the fate described above. To fulfill their role, a proper way of their organization is needed – starting from where they will be stored, going through their format, and ending with their correct usage.
Where should a project manager take notes?
Some people like the feel of paper and colored markers. Others prefer to transfer theirs to the digital world. There is also a group that works in a hybrid way mixing one with the other. Each mode mentioned above is right as long as it is used properly. Personally, I am a fan of the third option. I am currently using Google Keep. I like its interface and colors, while there is no shortage of tools on the market. Test a few and choose the one that best fits your needs. I tested about 4, maybe 5 solutions, but there are probably many more. Sometimes if I need more freedom, I also reach for a notepad and pen. I usually write the text on the blurb, which I then fold into a note and transfer to the target online location.
How should you write as a project manager?
I don’t think there’s any one right way to do it. Everyone has their style of writing, and it’s hard to prescribe anything. However, there are a few universal tips that can help.
- Keep them neat and tidy – this applies to notes written on the computer as well as offline. The look shouldn’t matter in theory, but it’s much more fun to use nicely laid-out materials. Group your notes, take care of their layout, and use labels or colors if possible.
- Write concisely – try to write in enough detail to keep the note’s context, but in general terms so as not to overwhelm the point with unnecessary content. If you write down only specific information, you will be able to find the exciting fragment faster.
- Take notes ongoing – using the example of daily stand-ups. I know that note-taking works best while it’s happening. After the meeting, organize all the information. Preparing a note from scratch after a meeting doesn’t always work – it’s much harder to remember the arrangements, details, or even the order of tasks.
- Double-check – always review your notes after you finish to make sure you wrote everything down. Sometimes something can slip through, and a quick review like this is your last chance to catch a thought before it flies away.
- Use your own language – don’t write down word for word what you hear. If you hear a foreign concept, ask questions or ask for a simple explanation. Notes from which you do not understand anything are unlikely to be of any use to you.
- Paraphrase – useful, especially during findings. You gain confidence that both you and the other team members are on the same page.
Why make notes?
Notes are divided into those whose purpose you already know and those you are yet to learn. It often happened that I was looking for notes in the garbage because I thought they are not useful anyway. Nothing could be further from the truth – by the way, I suggest you replace the garbage can with a magazine because there will be a lot of them. Once, someone much wiser than me said that well-made notes are a kind of time machine that allows you to move to a precise moment. And I agree 100%
However, if a time machine doesn’t appeal to you, here are a few advantages of running them:
- They will help you better organize your and your team’s work – it’s easier to create, prioritize, and delegate tasks by having them all laid out in front of you.
- They create a kind of database – you can draw from it yourself or share it with other team members. Either way, it is a win/win situation.
- Allows you to absorb more information – it is difficult to remember everything just by listening to the speaker, but if you read the notes of the conversation twice, the chance that you will remember a little bit more increases significantly.
- A time machine – a kind of archive of the project.
3. Don’t do everything by yourself
Project managers ought to listen carefully to the suggestions of the team members, as well as clients. When a project manager ignores their team and discourages them from sharing their ideas and insights, members tend to keep quiet. PMs need to be open to suggestions and learn how to delegate the tasks and show that they trust the team’s abilities. When you delegate tasks, you share the digital product’s responsibility, and the team is much more engaged – they care more about their work when they know and feel their influence on the final result.
4. Be involved from the very beginning
Sometimes, the beginnings can be pretty sloppy, yet building a house will not start without a solid foundation. It is the same with product development. Remember to get to know the client, his vision of the product, and the product itself from the very beginning. Thus, participate in questions with the client from the moment you can. Analyze carefully the briefs and all the materials that will be created during the cooperation. A project manager is a kind of treasury of knowledge, from which the rest of the team will draw, so you need to know all the crucial aspects for the product development.
5. Plan ahead
Look broadly and plan. With a vision in the back of your mind of what the coming days should look like, it will be easier to monitor the work’s progress. Try to anticipate most of the potential risks. Maybe then you’ll avoid surprises, and the project delivery date won’t be very far from the planned one. Of course, the ability to correctly predict potential situations will develop over time, but do not let this discourage you at the beginning of your journey as a project manager.
6. Avoid micromanagement
However, when delegating tasks, remember to avoid micromanagement at all costs. This is a dead-end that does not lead to anything useful. You don’t have to oversee every little detail of the delegated task. If you know your team well and trust them, you have nothing to worry about. Just let the professionals do their job.
The team trusts you as well. Experts believe that tasks assigned to them are challenging but within their capabilities. If the difficulty of a project element requires more commitment, they should count on your full support. Your role as a project manager is to provide complete information and consultation on every topic.
Do you want to find out more about project management tips?
Dear Project Manager, mistakes happen – just learn from them
There are always many mistakes in project management you can make – and it is not strange. This job is often time-sensitive and requires much attention to the details, especially when it comes to developing challenging digital products. So no worries – everyone makes some mistakes from time to time; what is essential is avoiding them and learning from them. Only then will you develop and improve your skills, therefore become a better Project Manager.