I ask this question because I have noticed that in our community, we have some new project managers. We have also very experienced project managers. I would like our more experienced collegues to share their very valuable experience.
I have a set of five core principles that drive my project management/ management philosophy. I've had them for many years, even predating my adoption of agile.
People, not projects: If you focus on the team, the team will do better. Better team, is a better product. I spend every day of my job trying to make myself obsolete by enabling the team and helping them grow.
Communication is 100% of your job: PMI says communication makes up about 80% of a PMs job. I call it 100% and the big thing is you have to be adding value. As a PM you are the ultimate translation point for the project. It's your job to facilitate all the communication and enhance it along the way.
Process is a Tool, not a roadblock (sub-concept: There is no "one right way"): Don't ever let process take control of your project. If a process does not contribute value to the end user/ end goal, then look at getting rid of it. And if something has to be done, be open to if there is an easier way to do it. Inspect and Adapt.
There is no "one right way": I rolled this into "Process is a Tool, not a roadblock" but it really is its own principle. If I want to go from San Francisco to New York there are dozens of options (Different airlines, drving, train, cruise ship, even biking) and any one of them could be the right way for me, depending on my goals and contraints. Anytime you hear "That's the way we have to do it" ask "Why?"
All roads lead back to the customer: It's one of my guiding mantras, rooted in my original high tech job in customer support. If you can't map what you are doing to some impact to the customer, then you should be asking why you are doing it.
In trying to avoid duplicating the excellent comments in other answers, I have thought about some of the mistakes I have made, and offer the following - which probably says more about my own flaws than anything else!
Check your facts - never assume. It's amazing how often your assumptions will be wrong - especially when you "think" someone is doing something or has "probably" completed a task.
Trust your instincts - especially if something doesn't seem quite right. If it feels wrong, it probably is. If you can't explain why you feel uncomfortable about something, don't accept glib easy explanations. Go digging, and you will either get a good explanation that you can understand and then support, or you will uncover something that needed uncovering.
Support your team, but never defend the indefensible. Your team needs to know that you will support them whenever they need support, but you should never confuse supporting them with accepting poor performance or sheer incompetence. You are a manager: you have to manage, and your team should also recognise that fact.
Some quick ones off the top of my head.
Understand the state your team is in.
Mature/self organizing teams - Focus on individual relationships and generally just get out of the way.
Stable/improving teams - Give them options to learn whatever team skills they are missing to get to the "Mature" state. Set constraints but pretty much let them try different (often non technical) stuff. Be prepared to stick by them when things get rough.
Chaotic/stuck in a mess - Put your foot down and restore order asap, everything else is secondary. Get them to the stage where the workload and deliverables are in a manageable state so they can start to get stabilized.
Great teams are built, not hired. You cannot hire your way to a great team, the only way to get there is to build it up yourself one person and one relationship at a time.
Own your team. The team is yours, period. Never cede any control to management because it never comes back. Always remember that YOU are the one responsible for the team's failure or success.
welcome to PMSE!
That's a good question, and I'd like to share my top 3, in despite of my low experience in comparison to our more seasoned colleagues... I'll try to focus on Manager's top three instead of Leader's top three (which would make another good question).
Disclosure: All other answers are quite great as well, so I'll take use of it and, instead of repeat them, I'd add three new.
Learn how to say no: Sometimes, most of the team smell things are getting out of track, but are too afraid to confront counterparties (clients, stakeholders, sales). It's expected the PM does so.
Deadline is based on each subtask's estimate, and not the other way round: I've faced this scenario before: there are plenty of tasks to do, and a specific deadline. Task's estimates were done 'fitting' them into the deadline. It just won't work. It's ridiculous. It's unfair. And still... it happens all the time.
You will fail: As Jack Welch says in his 'Winning' (great book, I'm enjoying it a lot!), you will fail eventually, but you cannot be ashamed of it. Actually, failures are one of the best teachers you'll ever have. For instance, both tips above came from huge failures I had in the past. But again, as a manager you'll need to be resilient.
Here's a few: Don't separate the academics from how things really get done! If they teach it in a book, use it. Someone wrote the book because it worked on the job. Business theories? Apply them. Someone induced a theory because it was observed on the job. Or even better, someone tested it and found a correlation or cause and effect.
Learn to trust your team and your team's trust in you - being able to trust your team ensures that you have confidence in your team and their deliverables. That goes both ways. Nothing is more toxic than not having any trust.
Allow for change - The one constant in a project is that it changes or it evolves, some big and some small. So be prepare for it.
Open up the communication channels - Communication is usually key to the project's success. If there is a communication road block, lets open it and let the dialogue flow. A project manager is usually in the right position to do the opening.
Maybe not three pieces of advice, but I always think of three things/personas when running a project.
- Team (or People)
- Customer (or Outside World)
Sometimes you can make better all of them but more often this is like three-sided equation: by making on thing better or happier another one suffers. And you are in the middle of it.
For example when you care too much about people than possibly you don't give enough time to customer. If you promise a lot to customer, your project will be very risky. If you do not know enough of project details, you can make wrong decision about your team or customer.
Simply I always try to balance between these three things to make all of them 'happy' and stay happy myself too :)
Actively expand your skill set. Read books/articles on Project Management. Try things, fail and then strive to understand why you failed
Be clear and strong in your communication. Over communication is "just enough" communication. But be pithy and to the point. Get fantastic at summarizing documents, memos, meetings, goals, objectives, agendas, etc.
Every quarter/half/year, pick a functional domain to "dive into" For example, in Q2, allocate 40 hours of your time to be a Functional Tester. Work with the test team not as their leader, but as their apprentice. You won't be able to give them 40 hours a week, but you can set aside an afternoon or a morning for four solid hours of giving them your full focus. Get your hands dirty. Do the work, user their tools, etc. you don't need to be good at it, but you need to be sincere and give it your best effort and not be afraid to look foolish.
I asked that question a few days ago; so thanks to ask it again because we have very high potential in our community and sharing advices helps us all. And that gives me a chance to give my advices.
1- Learn how to plan: figure out quickly if you are good at it or not. If you are bad at it and you can't improuve yourself; change job.
2- Learn how to buit a team a spririt: really care about your team members. Learn how to mobilize them and motivate them.
3- Quick and clear communication: learn how not to be percieved as controlling but as caring about the well being of you team members.
4- Have a clear and fair process to give promotions.
Read this book.
Be as much open as you can, but whenever you find yourself thinking "should I do that?" don't do it.
Do things which make sense, don't do things just because you think someone is expecting you to do them.
Read, study, learn, but at the end do what you feel is right.
No one is going to bring you the solution, you have to find it yourself.
PMO, PMO, PMO, avoid complex charting but keep a basic gantt updated, keep up-to-date tasks list, assignment and due date; you MUST constantly be able to tell what each one of your team is working on and when he/she is supposed to finish, constantly, point.
It's never too late to recognize a mistake, start from the assumption you will make two or three mistakes a day, accept it.
Make your people happy, it's your team, bring croissant in the morning, be nice and understanding, invite people to coffee, lunch, dinner, check if anyone need anything done and make it happen.
All the rest is secondary.