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A project manager plays a crucial role in bringing in the right people and resources, as well as getting stakeholders’ buy-in on projects that will deliver the best results. 

Five Best Project Management Practices

Here are some of the best practices you should know about if you’re new to project management or simply looking for ways to improve your team’s performance.

Set SMART Project Objectives and Goals

Steering a ship is usually easier when you know where you’re going. You and your team are better equipped to navigate your project through challenges and hiccups when you have common, measurable goals to strive for. Every experienced project manager will have used the SMART approach when setting goals. And you should, too!

Specific: SMART goals must be able to answer the basic who, what, where, when, and why questions.

  • Who is involved?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What are the project barriers we need to address?
  • What are the potential risks?

Measurable: Project managers must have standards or criteria in place to measure the project’s progress and success.

  • What are the key performance indicators (KPIs)?
  • How would the team know that the goals and objectives were accomplished?

Achievable: While it’s commendable to challenge yourself and your team to reach greater heights, your role as a project manager is to ensure that the goals are achievable. You will stretch and challenge yourself, but you’re not setting yourself up for failure.

  • Does the organization or the team have the right resources and capabilities to achieve the goal?
  • Are there case or feasibility studies to refer to?

Realistic: A SMART goal must be realistic. You must consider the available resources and time frames when setting your project goals.

  • Is the goal within reach? Has it been done before?
  • Can the team commit to investing their time and resources to achieve this goal?

Time-bound: Every project goal must have a defined start and end date. Without specified time frames, projects can drag on and may not even be relevant to the business’ goals anymore.

  • When is the projects deadline?
  • When are the checkpoints, and what should we have achieved during these checkpoints?

Get to Know Your Team

Aside from financial resources and time, the people in your team are essential factors that can make or break a project. It’s important to get to know your team on a professional level, including their strengths and weaknesses. It’s also important to know that each person on your project team is the right one for the role. For example, if your project is about improving customer experience, it’s important to have subject matter experts on customer success and client-facing responsibilities on board early on. They could have real-life experience and valuable insights that can complement the complex quantitative data that your team may have.

It’s also crucial to know what their current roles and workloads are. You need to ensure that they are committed to the project and consider the potential burnout and stress that can come from work overload. In your goal to assemble the best team possible, you must always be realistic and considerate of people’s abilities to take on more work.

Keep Communication Lines Open

As a project manager, you must work to keep two main communication lines open: the one you have with your project team and the one with the stakeholders. As a project manager, your team will look to you for the overall direction. And while they are subject matter experts in their specific fields, you are the one who will bring everyone together to ensure collaboration and communication are at the center of your work. Having a team without metaphorical walls will make work much faster and can help avoid issues such as scope creep and avoidable project delays.

Project managers also represent their team when communicating with the company’s stakeholders. Transparency is key when it comes to project updates with stakeholders, especially since they’re the ones who are funding and supporting your project. Additionally, by being clear and steadfast with the project goals, you’ll be able to get their buy-in and set the tone for the rest of the company’s adoption of your project’s goals and results.

Use a Project Management Tool

Take advantage of online team collaboration platforms and open-source project management tools for both project and resource management. These tools are especially helpful in an ever-changing work environment where organizations are adopting various alternative work arrangements. Whether you’re working with a fully distributed team on Salesforce implementation in non-profit organizations across the world or an in-office team for a system migration project, you can maximize the availability of collaboration and project management tools. Doing so will help you and your team stay on top of deliverables and be aware of the team’s progress from anywhere in the world.

Schedule Regular Checkpoint Meetings

Open communication and project management platforms are useful tools for project managers to stay in sync with the rest of the team. But these shouldn’t eliminate the need to have regular checkpoint meetings. These checkpoint meetings are more than just every team member updating you on where they are in their individual scope; they’re also a channel for measuring (and reevaluating) project milestones and goals. You’ll easily see whether you’re on track to finish the project and measure your team’s current outputs versus the KPIs you set at the start of the project.

Bonus: Don’t Forget to Evaluate

A project manager’s role does not end once a goal has been met. Every project must be evaluated or undergo a retrospective assessment. Project evaluations are a great way to truly wrap up the project you’ve just done and also set yourself up for success in upcoming projects. You and your team will also be able to identify the things that went well and find the best practices that can be used for future projects.

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