Some of my favorite industry articles are ones that I can directly relate to due to my role as a Project Manager (PM) at Ai. I’m constantly on the hunt for ways to improve my daily processes and foster a healthy environment for my project teams.
The PM Hut recently published an article entitled “10 Ways to Accelerate Project Success” that defined 10 characteristics great project managers should exude. While each of the characteristics named are essential attributes for any PM, the accompanying four tools mentioned really hit close to home for how we work here at Ai. As someone who is in the trenches, I can’t help but react to something so applicable:
“It’s very important that a project manager has experience using a system or methodology of approach, and can document and communicate it to the team. People need to know what’s going to occur, when, where and how.”
My take: This is vital; I even mentioned it in my recent “Why Athletes Make Good Project Managers” post. To reiterate: As the PM of a project team you’re on the hook to ensure both the internal and external teams always know the upcoming key activities and who is responsible for each. Proactively sharing information without being asked helps guarantee success, and paying attention to your audience when communicating facilitates the information transfer.
While all PMs have their own methodologies of how to get things done, consistency between PMs within the same company is key. We all use the same templates and follow the same project lifecycle, and we’re always evolving our shared superset document with findings from recent projects. Succeeding is easier when there are no blurry lines.
“With project experience we add tools and techniques to our tool belt. Those techniques are very beneficial for a project manager to share and pull out at specific times.”
My take: While this can be interpreted in many ways, here’s how I apply it: As time goes by and I accumulate more projects under my belt. I learn new ways of managing issues, risks, clients, internal resources, etc.; we all do.
At Ai, we’re encouraged to share our findings at recurring PM team meetings, and we’ve instituted mini-mortems at predetermined checkpoints throughout each project phase to capture both project-specific and company-wide findings. These mini mortems have proven extremely useful, and we share all captured information via our company wiki so we’re able to reference it later.
As we all gain experience, our tools and techniques evolve along with us, and it’s important to share our findings with each other so we can help each other grow.
“The software that is used should enable project success. We are all familiar with the previous generation of project management software that was so complex nobody really used it, defaulting instead to paper or sticky notes. Today, project management software is very collaborative, often customizable, and widely available. Many also have social tools built-in to enable project collaboration.”
My take: At Ai we’ve definitely gone through a bunch of software to get us to where we are right now, in terms of what PMs use to run projects – We’ve narrowed it down to Basecamp, Harvest, Jira, MS Project, etc. I’ve been the guinea pig in testing out other software, with the goal of always seeking to gain further efficiencies when it comes to running our projects. The hunt is always on for something that isn’t necessarily more robust, but more applicable to the way we work here at Ai. One of the great things about Ai is that each team member has input. We’re not set in the tools we’re using now, and the exec team is always open to suggestions for improving the way we work.
“Developing templates that can be mobilized and quickly and effectively implemented is very simple today. The benefit to your team is that being able to reach for a template saves a lot of their time and effort. Templates also help to keep work processes more consistent and standard; your team will know what to expect and when.”
My take: It took us a little while, and we’re still always evolving our documentation, but we’re definitely in a great spot with regards to having a central place for us all to access templates that we use over and over again here at Ai. Standardizing with templates helps to (1) ensure the internal team, no matter the project, is always seeing consistency between PMs’ documentation, (2) allow one PM to step in for another PM easily in times of need without having to relearn a certain way of doing things, and (3) save time! Most likely, every document we’re creating for our projects has already been created on another, so no need to recreate the wheel every time.
Often these four tools are underutilized or taken for granted by entry level PMs. Learning to use standardized methodologies, techniques that maximize efficiency, software that is designed for the tasks at hand and time-saving templates are among the most important lessons that have helped me grow in my project management career. I use each of these four tools everyday at Ai.
The PM Hut is a great place to learn new strategies that will help both rookie and veteran PMs. It’s also great to read articles like these that confirm tactics you’re already using. You can check out more of their educational articles at their site, PMHut.com.