Project management is a HUGE field that encompasses just about every industry in the world. But it's still growing at an incredible rate. Studies predicted the profession to add 87.7 million roles and $6.61 trillion (with a T!) to the global economy between 2010 and 2020.
Why is project management so popular? Because companies that don't prioritize it experience failure in more than 50% of the projects they take on, per the Project Management Institute.
If you want to increase your company's project success rate, or have an interest in becoming a professional project manager, this article has all the information you need. So without further ado, let's dive in and get started!
What is Project Management?
According to Wrike, a leading work management software company, project management is:
"The practice of applying knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to complete a project according to specific requirements. It comes down to identifying the problem, creating a plan to solve the problem, and then executing on that plan until the problem has been solved."
Based on this definition, we all manage projects on a day to day basis, both in our professional and personal lives. But for a few of us, project management is more than a daily activity, it's a bonafide and rewarding career path.
If you're interested in project management as a profession, keep reading. In the next section, we'll uncover why project management is necessary. Then we'll outline exactly how to be an effective project manager so that you can achieve your career goals.
Why is Project Management Necessary?
Before we teach you how to be an effective project manager, we need to explore the merits of the job. Why is project management necessary? There are many reasons why. But in our opinion, the three listed below stand above the rest.
Effective project management leads to:
More Efficient Work
A qualified project manager will bring focus and clear objectives to every project they manage. In other words, they'll ensure that a strategic plan — one that's based on important organizational goals — is laid out, followed, and even amended if need be.
Without a project manager steering the ship, it becomes too easy for teams to lose focus, exceed budgets, and miss deadlines. This is a very inefficient way to work.
Though project management is an expense that could technically be done away with, a skilled project manager is worth their weight in gold.
When teams work inefficiently (which, as we've just seen is all too common when a qualified project manager isn't present) they run the risk of producing shoddy work, exceeding budgets and missing deadlines. These issues, in turn, can lead to significant financial strain on an organization if it's forced to redo a project or loses an important client.
All in all, effective project management leads to greater overall success for companies. Not only will a project manager help teams work more efficiently and minimize risk, he or she will also possess subject matter expertise that others don't have.
Think about it: because a project manager oversees every aspect of a project, they will naturally learn a bit about every job that's required to successfully deliver it.
This will allow them to speak intelligently with each team member, clients, key stakeholders, and vendors, which will undoubtedly smooth over and speed up various processes. It also means that they might be able to step up and fill in for sick and/or terminated team members.
Lastly, project management leads to greater overall success because project managers are in a prime position to evaluate completed work and learn from it. Was the last project successful? Why? Did it fall flat? Why?
Asking and answering these questions, which is part of a project manager's job, will enable companies to complete projects more effectively in the future.
How to be an Effective Project Manager
Are you ready to learn how to improve project management skill? In this section, we outline five best-practices in regard to project management. Once you internalize the following truths, you'll be able to reach your full potential as a project manager.
1. Have a Standardized Process
To become an efficient project manager, you need to develop a standardized process for your work. Doing so will help you consistently deliver projects on time and on budget.
There are plenty of different project management methodologies out there. Some teams swear by the Waterfall method, others love Agile. Scrum and Hybrid have their loyal followers as well. We really like this straightforward approach from Brightwork:
- Initiation: Every project needs a starting point. During the initiation stage, work to gain the necessary approval, sponsorship, and promise of resources. Without these things, your project is completely dead in the water.
- Planning and Setup: The next step is to plan the project with your team. You'll want to map out the tasks that need to be accomplished, who will be in charge of completing them, major milestones along the way, and any possible risk factors.
While you could plan the entire project on your own, including your team has multiple advantages. First, you'll receive outside input and ideas that can benefit your project. Second, your team will better understand their roles and be more equipped to successfully meet the objectives you'll lay out for them.
- Work: Now that your project has been initiated and planned, the real work of completing it can begin. We suggest using some kind of project management tool to keep your entire team on the same page and working efficiently.
Whether you choose Trello, Asana, or one of the many other tools available, make sure your team is active in communicating and updating you and their colleagues on their progress. This will increase team efficiency and reduce risk factors.
- Re-Planning: Despite your best efforts, your project will go awry at some point. So monitor your team's work closely and expect to re-plan midway through your project. When an issue comes to light, address it immediately. This will ensure both deadlines and budgets are still able to be met.
Before changing a project in a drastic way, though, we recommend getting buy-in from upper management and key stakeholders. That way they aren't surprised when you deliver a result that's different from what they're expecting.
- Conclusion: The last step is to conclude your project by assessing what went well, what didn't, and how that information can be used to reach greater success in the future. Do this before starting a new project so that you can learn from the insights.
The methodology you follow to complete projects doesn't matter as long as it works for you and your team. The important thing is that you develop some kind of standardized project management process and use it on a regular basis.
2. Always be Proactive
The best project managers are proactive. They don't wait for problems to happen, they anticipate them and put protocols in place to deal with the issues before they derail their project in a substantial way. In other words, they're prepared for any eventuality.
Top-notch PMs are also proactive about communicating with their teams, learning about the latest and greatest project management software available to them, and constantly looking for ways that they can improve their skill set.
In general, passive project management is a recipe for disaster. Avoid it!
3. Know Your End Goal
To truly excel at project management, you need to take a big picture approach to your work. By that we mean, you need to know what your end goal is before you do anything else. And you need to keep that goal in mind throughout the project.
This isn't always easy to do — especially on large projects where multiple departments are involved. When marketing, sales, and design, for example, are each working towards the completion of a single project, it's easy for the big picture to get lost.
Your job as a project manager is to keep everyone focused on the main objective, massage egos when necessary, and not get bogged down in the minutiae of everyday tasks.
4. Learn to Listen
Growing up, we bet your mom, grandmother, or doting auntie told you that "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason: so that you would listen twice as much as you talk." Turns out, this is actually good project management advice!
Unfortunately, many of us don't know how to listen. Not really. We might know how to shut our pie holes and let someone else speak for a time. But true listening is when one seeks to not only hear, but understand another person.
Project managers must manage more than just projects, they have to manage people as well. To effectively manage someone you have to listen to their ideas, make them feel understood. When you do, you'll be able to really involve them in their work. You'll also benefit from the useful information and ideas they share.
The good news is, when you demonstrate true listening, you'll inspire others to listen as well. And when your entire team listens, true collaboration happens, which leads to more engaged workers, innovative ideas, and business success!
5. Improve Your Leadership Skills
As we just mentioned, project managers must learn to effectively manage people, which means that all PMs should seek to improve their leadership skills on a continual basis.
There are SO many blog posts, magazine articles, books, podcasts, courses, and other forms of content on the topic of leadership. A quick Google search will lead you to many of them and we encourage you to explore the resources available to you and become the best leader you can.
But for now, keep these five things in mind when managing projects and leading your team:
- Understand Your Leadership Style: The easiest way to learn about your leadership style is to take a quiz. It will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses and teach you how to improve your leadership abilities.
- Take Full Responsibility: Great leaders don't point fingers or blame their team when things go wrong. They take full responsibility for the successes and failures of their team, which inspires trust, respect, and loyalty.
- Share the Success: Taking responsibility is one thing, stealing the glory is another. Effective leaders know that they don't win on their own. As such, their team deserves to be recognized for their hard work and to share in the success achieved.
- Communicate Effectively: If you can't communicate effectively, you'll never become a great leader. You need to be able to make your thoughts and ideas known. You also need to be able to listen to the thoughts and ideas of your team, as we mentioned.
- Radiate Confidence: Nobody wants to follow a timid leader. If you're not confident in the work you're doing, why should your team be? While it's impossible to be confident all the time, it is possible to radiate confidence on a regular basis. You can do this by developing important skill sets and feelings of self-assurance.
Project management is a growing field with a ton of organizational benefits. Companies that employ project managers experience greater efficiency, less risk, and more success. Fortunately, you now know how to be an effective project manager.
Just follow the tips we outlined in this article:
- Have a Standardized Process
- Always be Proactive
- Know Your End Goal
- Learn to Listen
- Improve Your Leadership Skills
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