How to be a Project Manager: Don’t stay in crisis
PM, a.k.a Project Managers, are professionals in IT, who are in charge of various software development processes such as initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria at the specified time. They might seem to be no different than other leaders in the economy, however, in order to handle the complex and ever-changing nature of IT, there are much more in a good PM than we may once imagine.
But how to be a Project Manager like everyone adores exactly?
Hold efficient meetingsI, during the time serving as a “peasant” developer, have realised this one thing that later benefits me a lot as a PM:
I hate meeting.
Not only me, but each of my colleagues feels the same way. We all hated them. Long, clumsy, ridiculously intense meetings. That type of meeting where everyone doesn’t understand what our boss was trying to say, nor why he was shouting at our faces. My old boss was not really a good meeting facilitator it seems.
That was the “ah-hah” moment for me. Of course no one wants to be in a big, giant, suffocating room only to listen to a boss complaining about something they don’t even know what it is. It’s such a waste of time, not to mention the annoyance lingering afterwards. Of course those poor organising meetings are not going to make the overall team performances better, nor the problems go away.
As such, if I wish to be a good PM, I have to know how to turn a meeting into a party, how to make everyone loves those 1 or 2 hours gathering in a compact conference room. I shall give my members a reason to voluntarily join the meeting, a thrust that’s beyond the responsibility as a team member. And now I’m talking it back to you.
All you have to do is to think about the reason why the meeting is there. Before calling your team on a meeting, make a list of issues that need to be addressed and the expected outcomes you want to attain, set forth what are important and build a detail, time-boxed agenda for the meeting (then make sure to follow the time restrictions as well!). In this way, you will guarantee the comprehension of the meeting so that everyone can easily follow.
Moreover, during the meeting, make sure you adjust your emotions. I know you are stressing out, but it’s not wise to take it out on your team members. It sure will backfire you someday. Instead, start off with recognition or appraisal of what they have done well. Thereby, tactfully point out what they can do better (not what they have done wrong – these two are totally different), and give them some dedicated advice upon how to improve. Let them know their efforts are counted, and that you care about their development and wish the best for them – not for only you, from the bottom of your heart.
You can also breathe a fresh wind into the meeting, such as getting them on a play-and-learn session or presents a funny video of you cheering on their latest milestones. Not every meeting needs to be formal, and you don’t always have to be an earnest boss!
Last but not least, give out clear delegation at the end of the meeting and note it down carefully. It’s your job to keep track of the progress anyway, so keep it in a way that’s convenient the most to you. By strategically dividing the amount of work to specific persons, not only the whole performance becomes transparent and effective, but the conflicts will be minimised as well.
Prepare a good planIt’s exhilarating to go with a flow. You are free to confront unexpected adversities, strengthens your flexibility, and figures many mind-bending things out from the middle of nowhere.
But as a project manager: a leader of a considerable number of people, a trustworthy partner to the customers, a representative of the company, lots of factors shall be contemplated before you hop on a freewheeling ride.
The work scope of a PM, take simple, is to bridge the gap between the company and the customers as well as the customers and the developers. Therefore, achieving satisfaction from all three parties is the ultimate goal while you’re a PM. In other words, you are the servant of the three of them. Therefore, it’s not up to you to decide the number of risks you are going to take – it’s theirs. And often time, they would all agree that the risks you and them carry along are too high for anything intuitive. Play it safe enough with some touches of over-the-top and rebellion is the more optimal choice to keep everyone happy.
To sum up, if you want your project to excel, a logical and creative plan should be done first hand. It’s not fun to play completely by the book – that’s why the “creative” part is there. However, there are still certain fixed notices you should keep in mind: company values, customer requirements and team member experiences.
In the end, it’s best to prepare yourself a profile of each member: what they can, and can’t do, explain it to your customers so that they know at which level they should expect. On the other hand, after your customers have visioned their dream product, note down customers’ requests carefully and consider it strategically – how you can represent the companies’ vision and deliver the greatest values to not only your customers but your team members as well. I’d recommend you analyse each of the customer requirements, therefore, think about what you and your team can do to elevate the idea, set a challenging yet achievable goal and break it down to actionable steps to interpret back to your team.
Should you are not sure about how you perceive your customers’ many dreams nor don’t really understand the functionalities they wish for, just ask them further for more information. Keep in mind that if you don’t understand the feature, your engineers and QA (Quality Assurance) won’t either. You don’t want your team members experiences to be a disaster just because of your lack in understanding, do you?
Keep moving forwardPeople say “Learning is the story of a lifetime”, and I couldn’t help but give it a thumbs up. No matter how mature or intelligent you are, which high place you are at, there is always something you are yet to know. Especially in these modern days when everything flashes so fast before our eyes, constant learning for adaptation plays the utmost importance.
The same occurs in this technology race. Once you fall behind, you lose, because the speed of change in technology is so high as a world-stirring app can be outdated just after a short night. Hence, innovation shall be the frontier priority to any PM and technological engineer, and learning is always an effective means to achieve it regardless of whether or not a natural-born idea giver you might be. Having a belly of knowledge is as well a kind of creativity, I’d argue.
You might be shrugging your shoulders, thinking it’s not simple as I said since no matter how much you want, you don’t have the time to actualise it. The workload of a tech expert is so heavy that you barely have any time left for your family, let alone getting new knowledge. I am not going to deny that, but it’s not like you must take the whole 1 or 2 hours to study as when you were in high school. Some minutes a day to read a new article while you are waiting for the water heater to boil or before going to bed should be enough. There are various five-minute sources you can dive in for latest trends, knowledge and skills in this software development field – for free, such as Codebetter, A List Apart, or right here with our informative and diverse blog feed.
And you know what is a secret recipe? It’s to keep asking “Why”. Asking it constantly allows you to think of a problem at a deeper level, trains your concentration locus, sharpen your intellectual curiosity and encourage you to learn more. Call for support if needed. Sometimes hearing the explanation from somebody else is even better as it’s less time-consuming and seems to stay in your mind longer. Therefore, forget your position as a PM: if you think someone knows something that you struggle to find the answer to – even if she is your subordinate, asks her. There is no place for embarrassment in the world learning and developing. No one ever knows from the start. We all start off not knowing until we know, and then we deliver our understandings to others. Through questioning, we learn, unlearn, relearn – and evolve. So it’s totally OK not to know, and it’s also totally OK to ask yourself or even others.
You shall also take full advantage of your company learning benefits if there is any. For example, in Savvycom, we set aside part of our budget as a learning subsidiary for employees in case they want to take an academic or a skilled course, a new qualification, a domestic or foreign technological training, etc. We encourage all of them, especially our PMs: the main in charge of many projects, to dig deeper into the multi-dimension of knowledge for skill enhancements and better product understanding.
Thanks to this meaningful policy, many of our developers and PMs are motivated to learn and become a better version of themselves, therefore, go so far as to create such amazing products to our customers, who never hesitate to give us good and genuine reviews.
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