Two Ways to Be a Better Project Manager, Right Now

Joseph Stubblebine
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Nudging a project onto the right path takes a bit of finesse. The most critical project management skills deal with leadership and organization. Hesitating to make executive decisions and failing to prioritize can force your team into a state of disarray and unnecessarily extend your schedule and resources. If you're struggling to meet the launch date, you'll want to revisit these two points. Knowing how to organize and how to say no can save a project headed for failure.

Some of the most important project management skills don't require years of training to implement. Organization is an ability many high-achieving management professionals already possess. The problem arises when people unintentionally neglect this significant project management tool. It's easy to overlook the value of creating ordered lists when you're tasked with forming a budget, schedule, and plan of action, among other duties. But this chaos can be resolved by drawing up a list right now that prioritizes every one of your project goals. Distribute this list to each team member to eliminate confusion and competing interests. If you have a dedicated meeting space, reserve a spot on the wall for a blown-up poster of your list to keep people on topic during discussions. The earlier you integrate this project management skill, the better, so everyone starts off on an equal footing, and disagreements are minimized.

Lists are versatile project management tools that are immediately accessible. They can reflect your particular style of organization, whether it's inclined toward minutiae or the bigger picture. Create a list that spans the entire scope of a project, from planning to execution. Then, you can supplement it with monthly lists outlining goals that materialize as the project progresses. To minimize lost hours, attach a tentative completion date to each item. Take this project management skill a step further by starting off each day with a checklist that prioritizes your time in the office. Whatever your preference, an effective list should guide you from start to completion without too many missteps.  

As a project manager, you assume a leadership role that gives you the final say on various proposals. While there's value in compromise and teamwork, sometimes the best decision is a firm no. The most helpful project management skills keep your team on track, and saying no does exactly this. Instead of spending an entire meeting debating the merits of someone's unrealistic proposal, you can cut the argument short and direct the conversation back to the most essential priorities. Don't be afraid to reject a team member's idea. A respectful no and clear, succinct explanation allow you to focus on your list. Otherwise, you risk derailing your progress and undermining the main goal of your job—to bring a project to completion.

Make a list and just say no. If your project is falling behind schedule, put these concepts on your agenda for tomorrow. You can work on your master list right now and adjust it based on input from your employees tomorrow. And if a project member happens to contact you about a new request, give an honest answer based on the best interests of the project, even if it means saying no. These two project management skills let you fix the bulk of your problems immediately, so there's no reason to delay.



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