20 Tips to Bring Your Project Management Skills to the Next Level

Editorial Team

project management skills

When it comes to project management, small businesses often think of the high amount of work. Time is an ultimate resource for a small business owner and you are responsible for your staff and clients for spending the same.

Well, project management is not all about hard work. In fact, it’s about smart work. It also means timely delivery of projects, cutting down the costs, making the proofing process smoother, and keeping track on budget. Even though you don’t deploy specific practices, applying project management skills in business can save costs and take staff productivity and efficiency to the next level. Here are the tips to improve your project management skills.

1. Plan Again And Again If You Don’t Succeed At First

Planning plays a vital role in project management. Take your time to plan ahead to save your resources, schedule, and budget. Consider what will you need and what will actually go. Along with what you committed, also consider what will actually be required to achieve for you and your team. 

The key here is to gather the details. Assuming that you will climb that mountain once you start is the biggest mistake. Once you get there, you may not be ready for what comes ahead. Do you know when the contractor can just finish the part of their project? Will it need more staff, or is it really as easy as it looks? What is the time frame of the project?

Be sure to brainstorm these questions and you can set the right expectations for both clients and staff.

2. Consider Tasks Complete Only When They Are 100% Done

For tasks we have started but not completed completely, we take a lot of half credit, such as “Keeping the algorithm aside, because it’s the difficult part, I am almost done.”

If you are going this way, you may not be able to know which part has been done. You can break a huge activity in several small tasks and categorize each task as either pending or done or even nothing in between. It is like using small pebbles in terms of task planning.

Then, project tracking is based on the part of tasks that are done, not the actual completion. You may not want to say, “It’s almost finished, just….is left” if someone asks about the project.

3. Keep Track On Project Status Honestly And Frankly

Do you know where the main problem is? It’s when you don’t actually know how far you are behind the plan. It is vital to create an environment where your team feels safe to report the status honestly. Be sure to run the project on the basis of data-based, accurate facts instead of confusing optimism which often takes place from the risk of bad news.

Use metrics data and project status data to take the right actions when needed and to embrace what you can achieve. You can just manage the project well when you actually know what you can do and what not, where you are falling behind, and what issues and conflicts are there to deal with. Size, time, effort, status, and quality are the five main areas of measurement. Don’t use metrics data as the basis to judge teams for their performance.

Another way to keep track of project status is building and maintaining better workflows, which are now possible with two-way integration such as Trello Jira integration. This integration sync cards, comments, assignees, custom fields, issues, issue numbers, and much more, aligning technical and non-technical teams. Your team can save time gathering accurate data because everything is in the right place, allowing your employees to accomplish more projects.

4. Communication Is The Key

According to a survey, poor communication is the main reason behind the failure of 2 of 5 projects. You have plans but how you will share your plans with your clients and staff without proper communication? Can clients get proper updates on the status on time, rather than calling or emailing constantly? Can employees know what is expected rather than asking for tasks every day?

Regular, open communication is a must, most especially for remote and hybrid teams. Choose a project management platform that enables team members to seamlessly communicate information using different modes, including chat, email, and through calls. In addition, creating a communication workflow is the most important step to keep everyone aligned with tasks and goals.

Figure out the best ways to keep clients and employees in touch. It means a personal roundtable in the morning or weekly email to discuss what’s on their way. It may be keeping everything on a whiteboard or handling off the checklist. Integrate the communication strategy in the process of project management.

5. Choose The Right Management Tools

Not all businesses have the same project management needs. For example, you may need daily written checklists for running a coffee shop, but you need a cloud-based service for a design shop that has remote contractors. However, a lot of project management systems are digital and your employees expect daily schedules or morning supplies to be seen without walking in or calling personally.

Luckily, you can avail yourself free trials from many project management tools to learn what works best for the team. Your team can share updates and you can assign tasks digitally. Take a few tests for free instead of investing huge on first hand.

The essential features of a reliable project management tool include the following features: 

  • Communication And Collaboration: Some examples include project invites, collaboration chat boards, chat messengers, interactive discussion rooms, and more. 
  • Project Planning: This feature prevents confusion on the project list and deadlines. 
  • Update Task Feature: This feature notifies the user about projects near the deadline, finished tasks, etc. 
  • Project Monitoring And Reporting: Compare projects and monitor results using this feature.  
  • Project Cost Feature: Determine the allocated budget for each project using this feature. 
  • Open Integration Feature: For convenience, you can integrate your existing tools, like finance applications, with project management.

6. Have Firm Objectives Or Goals

From reducing wait times to improving average orders for each customer, the key here is to set tough numbers and be with them. Have clear goals for your employees and be sure they know exactly what they are expected for.

7. Don’t Overpromise

When it comes to setting firm objectives, don’t commit overly when you don’t expect to deliver. It may not be possible for you to know where to start. Things get easier when you know what you want to achieve in the next few weeks rather than everything which you need to complete by the next month. Set your team ahead with achievable wins with a realistic deadline on the way. You need to plan out the whole project properly.

8. Know The Concept Of MVP

MVP refers to Minimum Viable Product in project management, or minimum work needed to get a service or product ready for sale. It helps entrepreneurs to start learning as rapidly as they can. As a small business owner, you may definitely know to start up the hardest thing. Instead of polishing your business well and waiting for it to flourish, you need to launch the product in the market as soon as you can, according to the rules of MVP. It means you need to send your sample to the customers and ask for feedback.

For example, if you are a website designer and you worked on a single website the whole month to make it perfect and get the feedback that makes you start the project again, you could’ve just sent MVP version. MVP is basically meeting the main objectives of clients without adding more features and you might have spent the whole month gathering feedback and refining the work until delivering their actual needs. The key here is doing the work and learning along the process to improve your quality. 

9. Get Things In Written

So you’ve had a deal with a client or an employee, just to know they meant something completely different than what they have said before? Getting things on paper is very important in project management. Follow up with emails about verbal communications when it comes to deliverables and key takeaways. If you want to assign a new employee or change the tasks, write them down. You might want to ask all employees to note things down after sharing notes and meetings. Be sure to have clear communication with the clients and everyone is keeping track of decisions, communication, project needs, and expectations.

This way, you will ensure everyone is keeping track of their work and there is a culture of project management. You won’t need to ask, “When did it happen?” or deal with an upset client who claims that work was not delivered on time. You will be able to show why changes were made.

10. Check Your Existing Productivity

If a project is being delayed constantly, you will need to find the weakest link. Are supplies being ordered on time? Are you assigning the same people for the tasks which are not good for them? Do you need to automate the manual processes? There are certain project management programs that can digitally help you to manage daily tasks and improve productivity by syncing and updating new files, sending out reminders, and cataloging new emails.

11. Assign The Right Tasks To The Right Staff

When you have a small team, every employee is a project manager in your small group. Everyone has to send work on time and communicate well. Everyone should work as per the deadline. Find unexpected strengths in your team and choose the right people for the right assignments. Don’t choose the person who is used to delay the projects.

You may have a server who always shows up early to update the board. If one of your employees communicates naturally and builds an easy rapport with customers, assign them to keep track of other team members and ensure proper communication. Though you are handling the complete project management, be sure to assign the right task to the right people to ensure productivity.

12. Have Easily Achievable And Clear Goals

When you have assigned the tasks to your employees and when deadlines are set, make it obvious and keep the schedule easily accessible to everyone. It could be a Google Calendar, whiteboard, a scheduling app or a Trello board.  Keep everyone aware of exactly when they need to complete their tasks and when to expect the next steps from other staff on the same project.

13. Gather Feedback

Best leaders always ask for feedback. Seeking feedback doesn’t make you weak. In fact, it is the best way to know what is working for your staff or customers.  How would you know if you are going well but no one is there to tell you? Ask for feedback regularly, especially when you train your staff in a new program, after having a new policy, or starting a new program for project management.

14. Motivate Employees

As discussed earlier, project management is not all about hard work, it means smart work. People may want to work the way they are comfortable with and they don’t want to change. Explain how project management can make lives easier and embrace each stage along the process. Thank everyone for being on time for the meeting or offering rewards on small wins like free lunch.

15. Set Practical Expectations

Better communication, proper planning, clear goals, improved productivity, and sticking to the budget can be made possible with practical expectations. You cannot ensure success without setting realistic goals. If customers don’t know what you can give, you cannot offer better service. Be sure your customers know when to expect communication from you. If it takes weeks to order new materials, add the same to your process of planning, and don’t ask for something that won’t happen.

16. Accountability

Project management relies on everyone delivering their work on a timely basis and doing their jobs properly. As you assign work, it becomes clear. Everyone should be responsible for their part of the work. It doesn’t mean you should report on other staff due to lack of progress. You should also ask where they are having a problem.

17. Deal With Problems In Advance

No one likes to have bad news and no one wants to be a part of the conflict. But it is still always better to deal with issues before it’s too late. Set your schedule if deadlines are too strict. Tell the client if there is an issue and update the budget. Create a problem-solving culture, not ignorance.

Make an open policy where employees will be ready to report issues or offer suggestions. After identifying a problem, decide who will be in charge to inform your client, re-arrange schedules and how to update everyone else about the changes.

18. Organize Resources At A Place

If you have to provide your team with access to client files, where do you want them to go? There is no need to email again and again to get the latest document or to get receipts. Save time with the digital or physical filing system. For example, you can avail free or paid file sharing and storage from Dropbox and Google Drive. There are also project management tools available for users to edit and attach documents.

19. Host Debriefing

After completing the latest project, sit down and find out what worked well and whatnot. What you can do better? Did everyone has done well? Did deadlines need more time? What was the response from the customers? Set some time to work with these questions and know how to add them to the process of project management. Be sure to record how your skills have improved.

20. Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses And Embrace Them Well

You need to be honest with what you can do and cannot do like a good project manager. Can you hold meetings in the morning, or are you working with clients onsite? Do you love to plan out the projects, or do you want to leave details to someone else? Are you comfortable with email or phone?  Would you want to work for more time rather than managing?

The more you learn about yourself in the process, the better you can manage your services and employees. If you need to learn skills, do learn them by joining an online community or free classes.