Hacks for New Project Managers
If you are a green, wet-behind-the-ears project manager about to set out on your
first project, you might be wondering how and where to start, and what will get
you off to a great start. Of course, you want to make a great first impression
and you want your first project to be a smashing success. Here are eight tips and
tricks to help ensure you have smooth sailing (or as smooth as possible) as you
begin your career.
Become a Certified Project Manager
If you are serious about your
career, certification will
definitely give it a big boost. Not only will the formal training and education
help refine your skills, it will make you extremely attractive to potential
employers. And it will give you some “fake it till you make it” credibility
with team members, stakeholders and sponsors. Some companies will even reimburse
or pay for certification…what a benefit!
Understand the Full Scope of the Project
Don’t go into a new project unless you know it forwards and backwards. Take the
time to thoroughly research the entire project scope and understand every detail.
It might be terribly exciting to dive right in but unexpected surprises can cost
time and money down the road. That will affect the project and end up affecting
your reputation. Preparation pays off.
Identify the Project’s Top Priorities
Once you completely understand the scope of the project, you can begin to map out
the top priorities. This involves identifying the tasks that need to be handled
first, ones that can be done later and ones that will take some planning. This
method of prioritizing will help you because tasks won’t fall through the cracks
or sneak up on you. A delay or a bottleneck of deadlines is the worst possible
Set Realistic Goals
Under-promise and over-deliver is always the way to go. You don’t want to set
goals that are going to make the project drag out and take too much time, money
and resources. But don’t be so ambitious from the outset that you attempt the
impossible. Set your goals, then break those goals into smaller, measurable goals
that are easily achievable. As those goals are achieved, your team, your sponsors
and your management will be encouraged and motivated.
Get Comfortable with Leadership
You need to be OK with having a team looking to you for direction. You need to
be at ease with taking charge when there are problems and big decisions need to
be made. You need to exude confidence and continually provide the guidance and
advice your team needs to ensure project success. If this isn’t something that
comes naturally to you, talk to your manager, seek outside classes or a coach
who can bolster your skills and confidence so you can truly take charge.
Know Your Project Management Software
We mean really KNOW it. Like you know the back of your hand or your favorite
pair of shoes. Don’t be afraid to ask for training or help. Get a mentor if
necessary so you have a go-to person to ask questions as you get deeper into
the software. Using it to launch or manage your project means it’s going to
be a huge part of your life for the duration of your project and key to the
Be A Team Player
Yes, most of the time you’ll have to be a manager, but taking some time to
connect with your team will pay big dividends during the project. Building
relationships both collectively and individually will help you determine
the best use their skillsets. And the more they feel you care about their
success, the more they will care about yours.
Do an End of Project Evaluation
We can always be better. Keeping track as you go, or doing a debrief at the
end of what went right and what went wrong will help you the next time around.
Make sure you spread the high-fives among the team so that everyone feels
rewarded for a job well done.
Hopefully these will help you jump in and be a success in your first project
manager experience. It may be exactly what you think it will be (almost never)
but at least you’ll be as prepared as possible. Good Luck!