What are project management leadership and communication best practices for aligning project work to the needs of an organization? I suppose there are many but let’s talk about some of my top Do’s and Don’ts.
Lead by example. Act and behave as you would expect your team to. Think back to when you were a kid. Didn’t you want to become just like that idol of yours, the basketball superstar or the bestselling pop singer? You respected them as a ‘leader’ in their industry and wanted to be just like them. Might sound like a bit of a stretch when comparing to project leadership, but it’s really the same concept. Really! If you lead by respecting others, by working collaboratively, and by harboring a harmonious environment, so will your team.
This sure sounds simple doesn’t it? And it really is! But be wary that you are
communicating the right way to your team. Everyone has their own style of communicating. Some are better in person, talking face to face. Others are better via email. Whatever the forum, a project manager must create an open environment for information sharing. This will keep the team united with you as the project manager, and with the organization.
It’s one thing to communicate and it’s another to listen. A successful project manager will listen carefully to what the team has to offer. The project manager acts as a focal point for information. By listening, you will be able to tell if someone is straying from the overall project and organizational objective. Listening is also the best way to know how a project team member communicates, and what their particular style is, and that will in turn help you pick the best forum and style to communicate with them. Listening gets two birds with one stone! Pretty efficient, eh? (Yes, I’m Canadian – and proud of it!)
Most of us don’t realize this but a great project manager will make sure that the team does their job, and does it well. This probably sounds strange, but it’s true. Just think about it. Think back to when you were on a project team. Have you ever had resource issues that would put your piece, a critical part of the overall project, on hold? Or it turned out that your particular work package required more work than expected and you would not be able to finish on time? What did the project manager do? How did they react? A good project manager finds the best way to make resources available so that the critical path schedule doesn’t suffer any delays. A good project manager aligns the team goals with the organization goals. Then searches in other areas where resources could potentially be pulled from (and approaches the people that manage those resources). The project manager enables you to do your job. The project manager makes you look good.
With all these Do’s, let’s go over my most important Don’t. I’ll just mention one since I like to blog positively. My glass is always half full.
DON’T forget the big picture.
You must always remember the project vision and scope. It can be easy to get lost in the finer details; we’ve all done it before. If the schedule is pushed out or more functionality is proposed, think back to the big picture. Don’t be afraid to challenge. Remind yourself and others: what are we trying to achieve? Is this relevant to the project as defined in the scope? If relevant, should it be included in this phase of the project? Take a step back so you can look at the entire project. Take a step back and remember your key objectives. Take a step back, then step up to the plate and challenge: does this project work align with the needs of the organization?
About the author: Ruomu Zhu is a rock star in Silicon valley as a project management professional. She is also a student in the Fall 2010 Project Communication and Leadership course at USCC Extension – Silicon Valley.