5 Newbie Mistakes to Avoid With Your Company Brochure

How is your company brochure performing? Is it a marketing workhorse, tirelessly sending prospects to your website already convinced of your value and ready to convert? Or does it lack social grace and charm, positioning your company more as a Leisuresuit Larry of your industry? Your brochure may actually be harming your company’s marketing efforts, creating perceptions that you hadn’t counted on.

Brochure design matters, and here I describe the five biggest killers to an organization’s image that show up in company brochures.

1. Lofty and Unlikely Claims in Your Tag Line

Making ridiculous claims on your brochure cover is a mistake frequently seen in the do-it-yourself brochures of small mom-and-pop businesses. This could be likened to meeting someone for the first time and blurting out “Hi! I’m incredibly handsome!” If your company brochure looks like it was designed by your nephew, Travis in Microsoft Publish, your audience will not be convinced by lofty claims such as “The Next Generation of Real Estate Marketing.”

2. Use of Meaningless Buzzwords
Do you think outside the box? Are you an expert, a guru, or a maven perhaps? And is your marketing REALLY “Evolutionary”? It’s unlikely to find anyone that could still be convinced by these terms, so why do we still see them in marketing? This is like saying Ah, Screw It – Just Put Anything On The Cover. Real professionals know that to have any chance of speaking meaningfully to your audience, you need to use real language, not clichés. As seen in this example from Paradigm Real Estate Solutions, terms like Expert, Visionary, and Evolutionary lack credibility and even meaning. Leave them out of your marketing.

3. Cheesy Stock Photography
Want to really make your audience think you have no idea what their business is about? Contrived scenes of happy, sexually diverse, architects with no sense of personal space are probably not going to make a connection with prospective clients, and are likely, rather, to position your company as a b-grade player. Instead of following this approach, select imagery that indicates you understand your audience.

4. Amateur Typography

In 1979, a computer program called Apple Writer was published, and it was amazing! It would allow anyone with an Apple II computer to use all kinds of text effects within a word processing document. These effects included different font sizes, various font colors, a choice of font families, and an assortment of font styles such as bold, italic, normal, and underlined. With this new freedom, came new responsibility – the responsibility to avoid using all the effects in one document. These days, most of us have matured beyond this temptation, and typography has returned to its once noble place in design, but we still see examples in the websites and brochures of legitimate organizations. Use typography to present your information, without getting in the way.

5. Incohesive Story
When presenting information to an audience, it’s best to apply some kind of structure. There are many types of information structure to choose from, and the decision relies on the type of information being presented. For example, when describing a process, it is common to use a sequential structure. When explaining the cause of something, a series structure can be very effective because it indicates how one event leads to another and then to a third, and so on. A list of supporting arguments can be presented in a parallel format, with each argument supporting the motion like legs of a chair. Each of these formats makes it easier for your audience to mentally digest your information, providing structure they can understand. Failing to lead your audience through a recognizable structure can seem like pointless rambling, with pages lacking any relationship to each other, and headings which seem to crop up as interruptions to the previous topic.

5 Reasons to use Agile for Developing Software

Project management techniques all come with their own set of advantages and limitations. Some, like Agile, are sector specific. However, few are able to capture and answer the requirements of software developers like the Agile method does. Indeed, there is little doubt that this method creates a more efficient atmosphere for developers, enabling both the client and development team to achieve their goals. What’s more, with such powerful software such as TeamPulse, you can automate, measure, and manage progress much more efficiently.

From experience, research, and consultation with colleagues, here are five reasons why you should adopt it for your software project.

Reduced risk

Risk keeps project managers up at night. The fact that your expensive project may be blocked by a multiplicity of factors would understandably keep you queasy. Whether it is scope creep, budget overshoot, late delivery, and many others, Agile helps reduce this risk through its tight monitoring and feedback processes.

With Agile, progress is measured over small deliverable schedules. This ensures that your team is constantly achieving milestones: great for tracking progress, and great for morale too. TeamPulse project management software features a powerful reporting mechanism that helps you keep a tight check on these factors: including scope creep, overworking personnel, over-budget items, as well as late delivery. This way, you reduce the risk that things will get out of hand.

Increased productivity

Apart from keeping within the budget, the most important goal for any PM is to maximize on productivity. The Agile way goes beyond smart management of teams; it merges the skill sets of different personnel without sacrificing on their independence. What it creates is a team that is interdependent and truly collaborative, sharing their skills, lessons, and experiences on every assignment.

When you embrace the innovative collaboration tools that TeamPulse offers, you make this collaboration even more efficient. You can stay up to date with the latest team news, share documents, track comments, all in one convenient central location.

With real time collaboration tools on offer, your team can now work off-site as well. Agile caters for this by advocating for personnel to work within their usual environment, so as to enjoy the efficiency that comes with working in a familiar environment. With off-site work, you also reap big on creativity as well.

Embraces agility

Software solution projects are supposed to be responsive to changing business and client needs. Traditional models of project planning are rigid, employing a central mandate and sticking to it throughout the project. For software development, that makes life very difficult.

Agile system allows you to be flexible in your mandate, by dividing the project into stories (sub-divisions) that are delivered in spaces of up to 4 weeks. For large projects with lengthy delivery dates, changes in requirements and business environment can easily be introduced when the project is divided into such. A PM software such as TeamPulse by Telerik gives you the opportunity not only to track, but also to modify the stories as needed. This level of flexibility reflects the dynamic environment of project management.

What’s more, the feedback mechanism allows you to constantly consult with the client to ensure that the product you are delivering is exactly what they want.

Improved labor use

In any organization, the human resource is the most important resource. The project environment is no difference. How you manage the labor you have directly determines whether you achieve your objectives or not. The Agile system ensures that you are responsibly allocating work: not over or under- doing it. Proper work allocation ensures sustainable development of project resources: working smarter with what you have. This process requires a good information management system, just what Telerik provides.

By first tracking progress according to the individual, you are able to see individual output and performance. Telerik also allows you to see how much work is allocated to each individual, ensuring that you are not over or under utilizing labor. Their output is also shared on a real time basis, so there is no information lag either.

Efficient feedback mechanism

One of the biggest fears every project team has is to finish a product and be told by the client, “This isn’t what we want.” Having spent (now wasted) precious man-hours and valuable resources, going back to the development stage will be a morale lowering affair.

This can all be solved by an efficient feedback mechanism. Agile recommends frequent feedback from the client, forcing them to participate throughout the life of the project. To make the feedback process easier, Telerik has a dedicated feedback portal. It is an organized, efficient, and friendly way of having the customer participate in the software development. They can submit feedback privately or publicly, follow progress, as well as leave specific comments and attachments for your participation.

Tips for New Project Managers

Project management – it’s all about task management and scheduling, right? Not so fast. There’s a reason why most project managers you meet are between 40 and 60 years old, with between 10 and 20 years of experience. Successful project management is an art form that requires a unique set of skills that are typically developed through years of experience. If you are a new project manager, here are some great tips that you can put into practice to get you on the right track.

Commit Yourself to Continuous Learning

You may be familiar with some industry terms and concepts from being a team member on various projects. However, as a new project manager, you’ll notice that there are always new certifications, software, or other training that can make you much more effective at your job.  Plan to continue learning, and you’ll always stay ahead of the pack. The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the largest worldwide association for the industry, and they offer several certification levels that can help increase your abilities and advance your career.

Ask Questions

Don’t be concerned that you will seem incompetent if you ask for help. No company will, or should, expect you to know it all as soon as you start. The best way to approach new situations is to be like a sponge, soaking up as much knowledge as you can. If you don’t understand something or become involved in a project that you haven’t had experience with, ask for guidance. By taking the time to understand the task at hand, you’ll be less likely to make costly mistakes.

Use the Right Software

A large part of a project manager’s success or failure can be attributed to their choice of project management software. Taking the time to find a platform that allows clear and specific communication of task details will allow your team to meet deadline and budget constraints. It is important to use project management software that allows you to share project schedules with your entire team, but it is equally important that it has the administration settings available to not over-share information with teammates that don’t need it. It is important to not over-share information for the productivity of your team because there is no sense in bogging people down with tasks and objectives that are not relevant to them. Look for software that doesn’t break the bank, but don’t sacrifice these features:  user-friendly, browser-like navigation, easy printing, and the ability to search and filter data quickly to locate the information that you need.

Adhering to these tips from effective project managers and using project management software will go a long way in helping you enjoy a rewarding project management career. Strive to provide the best and most project management professional you can be by staying inquisitive advancing your knowledge, and staying current with technology. With the right knowledge, people and tools you can navigate any project with ease.

The Power of Team Dynamics

Team Dynamics deals with all those underlying forces between the different people on a team that influences how a team operates. It can really make a difference on how a team reacts, behaves or performs. Ideally you want a highly cohesive and supportive team, working together to get the job done. However, many times due to team dynamics, you might have differences that impact performance and negative team dynamics. It’s these negative dynamics that you want to focus on resolving. These can really bite you.

I’ve seen team dynamics affected by many factors including:
• Existing relationships either impact positively or negatively the cohesiveness of the team due to perceived favoritism or real trust.
• Team members who have different personalities resulting in conflicts across the team, misunderstandings, and lack of trust.
• Physical forces can shift team dynamics such as resources located in different locations, being from different cultures, or simply on different schedules.
• Absences of leadership or shifts of leadership can change team dynamics.

So what can you do to help build a high performing team and improve the team dynamics such that you have a cohesive and supportive group? Here’s a few ways that I have found to be effective in helping build strong teams.

Understand Personality/Strengths. Recognizing differences in personality types as well as strengths of each team member can help you support and integrate team members more effectively. Tests such as Myers Briggs and Strengths Finder can support you with this. Have each team member take these tests and share the results as a team exercise so that everyone benefits from knowing more about each team member.
Build Trust. Work to build trust across the team. Foster an environment of trust and openness. Have team functions that are designed for individuals to get to know each other. If your team is virtual, create a team room (sharepoint, wiki, etc.) that supports profile information about each team member.
Have a common vision. When everyone is supporting a common vision and they know how they play a part in that vision, it creates a cohesive alignment that builds enthusiasm and support of the team. Showing the importance of the team as a whole (rather than individuals) helps to build this vision.
Environmental layout. Look for ways to bring team members together. If possible have them work in a common area/location. When not possible, have a common on-line environment where they can go and share information. If you have teams in multiple locations, try to do team meetings across the locations (not in one standard place) and encourage team building events.
Address conflict/issues quickly. When you feel the team dynamics is moving in a negative direction, address the issues quickly. Don’t just hope that they will correct themselves. As with any conflict, look for a win-win situation, one that is accomplished in a positive and supportive way. Support the team environment, gaining trust of the individuals, and showing a one-team concept (remember there really is no “I” in “TEAM”.) For instance, with the two individuals that are friends but causing some concerns of favoritism, be open and let the team know the importance of the team and not one individual. Also, talk to the two individuals, let them know others feel they are being excluded, and ask them to help build trust in the team and get to know others on the team.

How teams function (positively versus negatively) can have a real impact on the results of a project. So, remember to study your team’s dynamics, identify any issues head on, and work to create a cohesive, open, highly communicating, and supportive team to help obtain the results you want to achieve. Remember to value each member of the team creating an inclusive versus exclusive environment. Here’s to your success as a leader. Inspire your team to greatness.

How Do You Get Team Members to Come Prepared for the Meeting?

The Problem:

We’ve all attended meetings where participants were asked to read a document, do some research, or conduct some other “homework” prior to the meeting but very few people actually did it.  Obviously, the intent of assigning the pre-work is to ensure that all attendees are prepared which should result in a quick, efficient meeting… right????  Wrong!!!  Too often some attendees don’t complete the assignment as requested which drags down the entire group.  Before you lead your next meeting, consider these tips about assigning pre-work.

Consider these suggestions….

  • Give the group a choice about how to complete the prep (either outside or within the meeting).  You might say, “Everyone will need to review the requirements document prior to our review discussion.  We can either do it as a group and plan to meet for a full day or everyone can review it offline, and the group will meet for 2-3 hours to discuss changes.  Which approach does the group prefer?”  Most groups will opt for the shorter meeting.  This technique tends to work because the group was given the option to review the document during the meeting and they chose not to do that.
  • Assign specific team members to lead certain sections of the meeting (which would require them to have completed the pre-work).  When they know they will be asked to lead discussion, attendees are much more likely to have done their homework.  No one wants to appear unprepared!
  • Try to keep the pre-work brief.  The more complicated it is, the less likely attendees are to complete it.
  • Ask team members to email you either a list of questions or comments on the pre-work several days prior to the meeting.  This acts as a confirmation to let you know that they have indeed reviewed the document.  If you don’t get feedback from someone on the team, place a call to them asap to request their feedback.
  • Give attendees ample time to complete the pre-work.  If you ask them to review a lengthy document 3 days prior to the meeting, it may not provide ample notice.  Ideally, let the team select the due date for completion of the pre-work.  This buy in significantly increases the likelihood of compliance.
  • Discuss the issue of attendees not being prepared during the meeting debrief, and encourage the team to identify approaches to address the issue (e.g. incentives, “punishments”, etc.)

 

Are You Leading a Team…or Combing Spaghetti?

As a corporate trainer and leadership coach, I often consult with team leaders and executives who are at their whit’s end – completely frustrated with team members who seem to make their own rules, don’t deliver as promised, misunderstand or misinterpret tasks/requests, complain about unclear priorities, etc.  If that’s you, the good news is that YOU’RE NOT ALONE!!!!  Particularly in the early stages of team development (and unfortunately often during later stages as well), team leaders struggle with dysfunctional teams who simply aren’t “on the same page”.  My consulting experience has proved time and time again that the factors contributing to this dysfunction are definitely multi factorial (wrong skills sets on the team, poor leadership or lacking executive support, broken processes, confusing policy decisions, constant change, or poor organizational communications are just a few of the common culprits).  Because the causes of dysfunction are often varied, there is rarely one silver bullet solution; however, I have found one secret that seems to ameliorate many of these issues and has worked successfully time and time again….the Team Charter.  If your team doesn’t have one, it’s like a ship sailing without a rudder and don’t be surprised if you soon find yourself off course or as I often say…feeling like you’re combing spaghetti.

What is a team charter?

A team charter is a document that a team leader can use as an instrument to be facilitate discussion/consensus building on the fundamentals that really define the team, its goals and how the team will function to best achieve them.  Typical team charter elements can include the following:

  • Team Name – How does the team refer to itself?
  • Team Purpose – What is the team’s reason for existence?
  • Strategic Alignment – How does the team’s work support/relate to the larger organization’s goals?
  • Team’s Customers – Who are the team’s customers (internal and external)?
  • Team Objectives/Goals and Priorities – What are the team’s primary objectives and how are they prioritized?
  • Team Leader and Sponsor – Who is the team leader and who is the champion?
  • Key Stakeholders – Who are the key stakeholders that have an interest in the team’s work?
  • Key Deliverables – What are the team’s key deliverables or tangible work products?
  • Team Member Roles and Responsibilities – Who are the team members and what are their roles and responsibilities?
  • Team Member Time Commitments – What are the specific time commitment expectations for all team members?
  • Team Communication Plan – What are the communication rules for the team?  How often will we communicate and what forms will communication take?
  • In/Out of Scope Elements – What tasks/functions are in scope for our team and which ones are out of scope?
  • Assumptions – What assumptions are we making about our team and how it operates?  Are there any constraints or barriers that we should note?
  • Success Measurements – How will we measure the team’s success?
  • Risks – What risks should the team consider?  How can we mitigate those risks?
  • Team Ground Rules – What ground rules should we adopt about how we interact with one another, conduct meetings, etc.?
  • Signatures – Can we all commit to this?

When I share this best practice during my training classes, participants sometimes respond by saying that it sounds great, but they don’t really have time to cover all this with their team.  My typical response is that if you want your team to be successful, you can’t afford not to do it.  It’s one of those pay me now, pay me later situations.  If you review the list and think about previous team failures you’ve experienced (whether you were the leader or a team member), I’d bet that at least 75% of the failures can be directly or indirectly attributed to lack of clarity or conflict about one of these items.  Actually, this process is terribly common if you consider partnering situations with external entities.  Any time a group works with a vendor, there is a contract that clearly spells out all terms and conditions and both parties are expected to sign it.  You wouldn’t commit to any work with an outside entity without a signed contract so why do we engage internally all the time without having the same critical discussions?  We shouldn’t.

How to Develop a Team Charter

In an ideal world a new team leader would kick off the team by conducting a “team charter development session” – not too different from the kickoff meeting that a project manager would have at the beginning of a new project.  Again, the point is that it’s so important to have a meeting of the minds to ensure that everyone is on the same page in terms of understanding the team, its purpose, their role, etc. Since the team charter is broad and covers so many different topics, the reality is that it can take several meetings to work through all the elements.  However, don’t think of this as something that you have to do in addition to normal managerial work.  Instead, think of it as a guide helping you make sure that you’re covering all the key elements that could potentially derail the team if they’re left unclear.  The sample listing above provides the typical elements that you’d want to cover, but it by no means is hard and fast.  Feel free to edit the list to address the issues of most importance for your team.  However, I would strongly advise against removing too many of the elements.  I’m reminded of a quote that hung on my dentist’s wall while I got my cleanings.  It read “You don’t have to floss all your teeth – just the ones you want to keep!”  Similarly, you don’t have to discuss every element, just the ones where you want to ensure you have clarity and group consensus J

Please remember that when (I won’t even say “if”) you have conflict during these team charter discussions, that’s a good thing!  These are precisely the conflicts that you want to uncover and work through at the outset so that you can take action sooner rather than later.  For example, if you find that your time commitment expectation from “part time” team members is 20 hours/week but theirs is whenever they have free time, you want to discuss this early.  If you find that part of the team thought that international and marketing issues were out of scope for your team, but others thought they were in scope, again, you want to discuss it.  The team charter is so powerful because it’s like a crystal ball showing you where your team’s land mines are months or years in advance so that you have an opportunity to address and correct them early on.

Ideally, you’d conduct the session as a 2-3 day team workshop in an offsite location to encourage active participation and candor, but it can also be done through multiple shorter meetings, via conference call, or even over email if you have absolutely no other options.  Even with a 2 or 3 day session, you will likely need to assign members of your team to follow up on issues and/or work out details outside the session.  Many teams that I work with will have a multi day session initially, then assign action items to be completed after the session (oftentimes working through the details), and finally sign the document weeks later once the details have all been finalized.

Why do we need signatures?

Would you enter into a lease agreement or business partnership without a signature?   Of course not!  Getting signatures is such a powerful part of the process.  First, it creates an entirely different level of buy in.  The reality is that when people sign something, they simply take it more seriously.  Also, it changes the dynamic of the team session itself when participants know that they will be expected to sign the document ultimately.  For example, they’re much more likely to speak up/push back when the team leader describes the target cycle time of 20 minutes for customer call backs if they feel that expectation is unreasonable or the current process can’t support it.  I’ve had a few clients who shared experiences with me where one person refused to sign it, and they felt that was VERY telling.  Like a flashing red light, it immediately showed them that they had a problem on their hands and they were so glad it had been revealed early in the process.

The team charter should be a dynamic document evolving over time as there are changes in team composition, processes, overall organization design, or other factors impacting the team.  In my experience I’ve loved having a team charter to share with new team members joining my team because it not only projects an image of stability and structure but also provides an opportunity for me to solicit their input and let them begin to feel part of the team.  What was agreed to by the former team won’t be shoved down the throats of new team members.  Instead, we will come together to discuss any areas that may need to be changed to incorporate feedback from our newly defined team.  Very often when new people join a team, factions or cliques develop – the “old team” and the “new team”.  The team charter can be a great tool to help avoid that phenomena and build a true sense of camaraderie.

Building a strong team is not easy.  In fact, if it’s done correctly, it’s a lot of work!  But don’t make the mistake that so many managers and team leaders make of thinking that their natural charisma should bring the team together and they will work together like a well oiled machine by osmosis.  The team charter can be your magic wand.  It won’t do the work for you, but it will guide you through the process.

Why are Lessons Learned so Important?

In today’s competitive business world, companies continually seek ways to improve performance throughout all areas.  This is especially true for project management.  Over the years we have seen organizations train more people in project management, require new hires to have or obtain the PMP certification, and conduct various seminars or events geared toward strengthening their core project management practices.  However, one of the most valuable tools for improving project performance is also one of the most overlooked.  As companies complete projects and hand them off to customers or operations groups, they often move hastily into the next project without ever completing one of the most important parts of project closeout: lessons learned.

How many times have we heard, “We need to get this project wrapped up and handed off because we have another hot one getting ready to start”?  Or how many times have we seen project managers completely or partially forego the formal project closeout process because they’re so eager to achieve project completion and claim success?  It happens far too often and leaves a giant void in the organization’s ability to improve their project management abilities.  Part of the project closeout phase is to formally document and archive the lessons learned from a project.  Why is this so important?  Think about one of the first things a project manager does during the initiation phase of a project:  collect historical information.  It is important because most projects share similarities with past projects and these archived lessons learned are a project manager’s best resource for researching what went right and wrong with similar past projects and greatly reduces the likelihood of encountering the same obstacles that past projects have encountered.  It also enables project managers to capitalize on what went right and enhances the chances of achieving project success.

Creating and archiving lessons learned should be a formal process.  Many times, if organizations do them at all, the lessons learned consist of nothing more than informal notes which other project managers and team members never have access to.  This defeats the entire purpose of this valuable tool and does nothing to improve the organization’s practices.  The project manager should schedule a meeting strictly for the purposes of capturing lessons learned.  The meeting should involve all team members, the project sponsor, and key stakeholders and should be well-structured like all other project meetings. There are various ways to capture lessons learned but discussion topics often include:

  • What went well or worked on this project?
  • What did not work well on this project?
  • What would you keep/change in the future?
  • Were resources adequate?  Too many?
  • Were systems/ technology adequate?
  • Were schedule, scope, cost realistic?  Did we meet goals of each?
  • Did we meet product/project deliverables?  Were they accepted by customer?

Once the lessons learned are completed, it is important that they’re accessible by other project managers and teams in some type of centralized data base or shared drive file.  Over time, the lessons learned repository continues to grow and enables project teams to prevent past failures and capitalize on past successes.   It also provides project managers and teams with a planning foundation for beginning any future projects enough so that they should never really have to start a project from scratch.

How Do You Help the Group Reach Consensus When They Simply Don’t Agree?

The Problem

Do you ever feel that you’re herding a group of feisty cats instead of leading a meeting because your team members simply can’t agree? Well, take comfort in knowing that this common problem plagues most meeting facilitators at one point or another. Indeed, if your group is disagreeing vehemently (but respectfully), that’s a sign of healthy conflict…congratulations, you’re likely on your way to some great ideas and solutions! Unfortunately as meeting facilitators, we often need to guide the group towards a consensus decision and oftentimes that just doesn’t seem possible. The good news is that reaching a consensus decision does not mean that a two hour session must turn into a two week session…or worse, a real knock down drag out. Let’s explore a few tips you can use the next time you’re faced with this situation…

Consider these suggestions….

  • Remember first that consensus does NOT mean everyone gets exactly what they want. It does mean that everyone can live with the decision and support it outside the team.
  • Develop a ground rule with the team about how the group will make decisions BEFORE you need to make those decisions. If the group has already reached agreement on the decision process, making those subsequent decisions becomes much easier (and less emotionally charged). For example, if the group has already agreed on the decision criteria and selection process before initiating the discussion of which employee gets the “Employee of the Year” award, this decision suddenly becomes much easier.
  • When you get bogged down in disagreement, separate areas of agreement and disagreement. Clearly identify and document areas of agreement to continue to move the group forward. For areas of disagreement, clarify the range of disagreement. (e.g. Mike, it sounds like you and Beth both agree that the current cycle time of 5 days is too long. It sounds like the area of disagreement is around just how much that should be reduced. Mike proposes 2 days while Beth thinks 1 day is a better target, so we have a difference of opinion of 1 day. Is that correct?)
  • Sometimes we can’t agree because we don’t have enough information and we’re operating based on poorly informed assumptions. Inviting key stakeholders to participate in the discussion (e.g. IT experts, members of the leadership team, HR or Finance subject matter experts, etc.) can often shed light on critical issues and help the group more easily expose the best alternative.
  • If you have a tendency to think the group may be quibbling over trivial differences, consider suggesting that they conduct the remainder of the meeting standing (until a decision is reached). This technique is sometimes used as an “out of the box” method for encouraging brevity and a spirit of compromise.
  • Use a facilitation technique that encourages collaborative decision making (e.g. affinity diagramming, dot voting, etc.) These techniques typically offer each participant a certain number of votes; then participants vote simultaneously and the option(s) receiving the highest numbers of votes overall is typically selected.
  • If you sense that the disagreements may be driven by personality conflicts or other personal reasons, address those issues offline in a more private setting with the individuals involved.

Project Management: 4 Tips for Managing Daily Tasks

Professional project managers know that managing different tasks and multitasking is a daily occurrence. This may involve managing and multitasking projects, delegating tasks, problem solving, and even managing team member tasks and projects as well…or maybe a combination of all of the above. If a professional project manager isn’t organized, he or she can become overwhelmed very quickly. Here are some tips for managing daily tasks…without the headaches.

  • Time Management. The first and probably the most important point to keep in mind here is time management. So what are some ways to practice good time management? This is different for everyone. You need to find out what works best for you and run with it. This could be setting a to-do list each day, keeping track of how long it takes you to complete certain tasks, categorizing the tasks that are top priority and that will require the most attention, and even how to efficiently spend down time.If professional project managers practice good time management methods, then staying organized and on top of tasks is much easier and more efficient.
  • Project Software. While practicing good time management is still key, project management software can help too. This can help keep track of tasks, prioritize them, keep track of deadlines and productivity, and even what other team members are working on and their deadlines.Luckily there are many different kinds of project management software available today. Some of the most popular include Zoho and Basecamp, however, different organizations and companies may use different systems. If your organization or company doesn’t currently have a central system in place, the good news is most project management software are web-based so you don’t have to worry about installing programs or acquiring multiple licenses for multiple machines, which can get expensive. In addition, many forms of web-based project management software are also free.
  • Delegate. If you reach a point where you are completely overwhelmed and can’t dig yourself out, see what tasks can be delegated to other team members. Don’t feel like you are failing as a project manager because you can’t do it all; everyone has limits. An inefficient project manager doesn’t realize his or her breaking point, which can lead to project and team failure.So if you recognize certain areas or tasks that another team member can help you with, don’t be afraid to delegate those tasks.
  • Stay Calm. Finally, what can project managers do to manage the hectic daily tasks? Remember to stay calm. The second you feel overwhelmed or like there aren’t enough hours in the day, relax and take a deep breath. Then dive into what you’ve got on your plate and prioritize those tasks first. Then just take one task at a time, at one step at a time. Once you’ve got a handle on things, you’ll be able to multitask much easier and conquer several tasks at a time.

Professional project managers know that managing tasks is a daily occurrence in a project management role, and perhaps one of the most difficult. It can be challenging to determine which tasks are the most important, whose project needs the most attention, and which project requires the most effort and resources. All in all, it’s important to remember these four time management solutions in order to effectively and efficiently manage projects…while keeping a level head, without the headaches.

The Successful Project Management Life Cycle

Each project has its own life cycle. That life cycle consists of five different stages. However, depending on the project, those stages and the tasks that occur within those stages can vary depending on the customer requirements and specifications. Each of these stages requires careful planning, consideration, and measures that need to be properly carried out through the entire life cycle.

The five stages within a complete project life cycle include the following: customer requirements or information gathering, planning and design, execution, monitoring and fact checking, and closing before releasing final deliverables. In order for project managers to fully understand the steps and what is required in each stage, here is a break down of what occurs in each stage:

  • Customer Requirements and Information Gathering. This is the first stage in every project life cycle. Gathering customer requirements can be a somewhat lengthy and involved process. This involves gathering information on a particular project’s scope, a customer’s policies and procedures, and just overall information on what the customer is looking to get from the project’s deliverables. What purpose does the project serve? What is the end goal or result?Gathering requirements can be accomplished by implementing several approaches, depending on the project, of course. Some data can be gathered by utilizing the participative or soft systems approach, which involves gather data in a quantitative manor, by utilizing graphs and charts and performing analyses on them. Another method is creating visuals for customers, or even prototypes to give customers an idea of what the outcome of a particular project would look like. This is an ideal approach for those customers who aren’t sure of what they want.
  • The Planning and Design Elements. Once customer requirements and project data have been gathered for a particular project, then the planning and design stage can take place. The planning side of this stage involves analyzing the project specs, putting together budgets, allocating resources, drafting schedules and project milestones and aligning those with deadlines, and even identifying and planning risk management.Once these steps are set in stone and have been documented and communicated thoroughly with team members, then the design element can begin. This stage is when a project manager can analyze how the particular project will be best carried out that addresses each customer requirement and provide the best deliverables.
  • Execution. The execution stage is when both the development and production stages are being actively carried out. This is where the bulk of the work is being done and is taking place and where the project specifications are being worked into the overall project. The design elements are being factored in and the output is being created.Behind the scenes, project managers are actively monitoring and controlling the tasks that are taking place within production, which can involve monitoring a series of tasks, making sure project milestones are being met along the way, and making sure all resources are working within budget constrains.
  • Monitoring and Fact Checking. This stage involves performing a quality control or quality assurance check on the “draft” form of the project. This may be a “testing” phase in the world of manufacturing or technical fields, or a fact check or a proofread in the world of publications and communications fields. Ultimately this is the step that verifies and validates overall performance factors before the project dives into the next phase before completion and delivery.This is also the phase when the project manager reviews all resources, scheduling, and budgets accordingly to make sure those areas of the project are being maintained.
  • Closing. The closing stage is obviously the last stage in the project life cycle. This is just about at the point when the project manager and team members all breathe a sigh of relief. Completion and freedom. However, before we get too excited, project managers and team members need to make sure all specs were properly met during the course, or the life cycle of the project’s design.The project manager will also perform their own “final project audit” or “final check” to make sure the project has properly adhered to all guidelines and incorporated all project specs appropriately and accurately. Once these steps are completed and the project management team is satisfied and confident with the overall results and outcome of the project, final deliverables are sent to the client.

These are the typical five stages that occur in any project’s life cycle. Of course the tasks and approaches taken in each phase greatly depend on the type of project, the organization, and industry in which it functions and operates, but if a project manager follows these five stages in each project, then he or she is likely to contribute to an overall successful project and satisfied customer.