Are your Project Management strategies tech-centric?

By David Hickman

I just conducted an experiment on LinkedIn, entering the search query “Project Management”, and couldn’t believe it when 7,453 groups popped up.
Seriously. Over 7,400 hits from a project management search? It’s a good thing the filtering system allowed me to narrow that number down to 6,900 English speaking groups.
What can I say here that hasn’t already been said in the countless books, blogs, and groups? To answer my own question, I thought back to my 30+ years of professional experience and 20+ years of team sport participation and coaching. One thing became very clear.
PMP is truly a washed-up, has-been approach.
Well, not exactly. PMP is good for initial Project Planning, but it’s cumbersome for most technology projects. The concepts work for Project Management, but for successful technical project leadership, businesses need to follow 7 steps to improve Customer/User satisfaction, and to optimize the overall quality of deliverables:

  1. Be agile and quick, hence the omnipresent approach to Agile software development.
  2. Be systematic with feedback loops. Your project is as late as the next deliverable. If you don’t checkpoint frequently, you may very well suffer a slip equal to the time between when you last checked and the goal itself.   This is why Agile software development implements daily scrums. Even meeting for 10 minutes saves days and weeks for larger projects.
  3. Use systems that track things. There is an abundance of systems out there from SharePoint to BaseCamp, PivotalTracker to Slack – and many in between. Use something to track tasks, issues, documents and test cases.
  4. Don’t use email too much . If all you do is handle one area of responsibility, you can manage a project via email. But most of us do not have that luxury. Instead of email, use one of the tracking systems from number 3 above.
  5. Use precise language, especially with remote teams. Don’t be lazy with your grammar or with your word choice. I have had to translate information too many times to clarify a concept. Treat each task, document and issue description as if you were writing a thesis to be graded by your toughest university professor. Double check the wording and make sure it makes sense to the recipients.
  6. Deliver news (good or bad) before it becomes a reality. If a requirement change, technical hurdle, mistake, or personal issue is going to cause your project to be late or early, let your team know as soon as possible.   If you describe events after they happen, you will need all of your Houdini skills to avoid sounding like an excuse engine.
  7. Set up systematic continuous improvement loops. People can pardon a mistake or two, chalking it up as a learning exercise.   Continuous mistakes, however, will have management looking for a new PM.

There will always be a balance between team members who are awesome and those who don’t really pull their weight. The key to project leadership is to presume—and inspire—excellent performance from everyone on the team.   Besides, it is easier to follow these 7 steps than to read the details from 7,453 LinkedIn Groups, right?

David Hickman is the VP of Global Engineering and Delivery at Menlo Technologies.

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