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If you’re taking your first steps as a project manager and feel like you’re in way over your head with all the terms, acronyms, and best practices, Wrike has put together a great guide to help you develop your leadership skills. 

Wrike is a project management platform with real-time workspace collaboration, discussion, and document sharing tools. 

The post "Free Online Project Management Guide for New Project Managers" originally appeared on Wrike's blog. The post has been republished below with permission. 

Start With the End in Mind

Take a look at your requirements, your project goals and objectives. What does your final deliverable need to look like? What benefits should it provide? Some examples:

  • If it’s a physical object such as a building or a household product with very definite materials and clear stakeholder expectations, it may benefit from a sequential methodology such as Waterfall or Critical Path.
  • If it’s a software product or an app that is not set in stone yet, a flexible Agile methodology may be just what the project needs.
  • Is environmental sustainability a core value of the organization and essential to the delivery of your product? Then look at PRiSM.
  • Is rapid development of a minimum viable product the most important thing? Then look at one of the process-based methodologies such as Lean or Lean Six Sigma.

Assess What’s Already Working

But don’t forget to look at the work processes you already have in place that have brought your team success in the past. What kind of work environment does the team excel in?

  • If they thrive on collaboration, incorporating new ideas as they work, and even last-minute pivots due to changing needs, then consider methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, XP, or APF.
  • Or do they prefer an orderly, structured plan that accomplishes tasks sequentially? Then look at methodologies such as Waterfall, Critical Path, and Critical Chain Project Management.

 

Get Into the Right Team Habits

  • Embrace different learning and communication styles.

Some cultures value in-your-face confrontation, while others would prefer to stay in the background until asked for their opinion. Get to know each team member’s preferences so you can engage with them as effectively as possible.

  • Always recap the main points of the meeting.

And always make responsibilities and next steps crystal clear for each team member.

  • Involve the quiet.

Find ways to get their feedback, especially if they prefer to stay in the background during group discussions.

  • Incorporate humor.

Don’t necessarily make jokes about everything, but a light mood always helps people open up and improve work relationships.

Make the Project Kickoff Meeting Successful

  • Establish vision and deliverables: Set a common goal for everyone. Lay out what needs to get done and by when.
  • Identify team and set roles: Who does what? Create a list detailing this and include contact info for easy communication.
  • Develop initial project plan: Have a decent plan in place but finalize details with your team at the kickoff.
  • Define metrics for success: How will the project be measured? What will make it successful? Set expectations early.
  • Identify potential risks and bottlenecks: Prep the team for potential roadblocks and have a process in place so that these possible problems can be taken out quickly.
  • Establish logistics for team communication: How will you update each other? Establish a consistent process (daily, weekly meetings) and determine the technology for it.
  • Choose work process or project management methodology: Establish the best practices your team will follow.
  • Decide which tools you’ll use: Ensure everyone has the tools and knows how to use them.
  • Schedule the kickoff meeting: Entire team and stakeholders must be there, even if via video conference or phone.
  • Set agenda, and prepare the slides for the meeting: Send the agenda ahead of the meeting so no time is wasted.

Help Your Team Self-Organize

  • Arrange a short intro meeting. Introduce the concept of self-organization and help the team understand the benefits. Ask if there’s anything they’d like to improve in the current process. Then let the team know how you are going to implement this concept.
  • Set sensible milestones and checkpoints. Split the workload into small, actionable tasks. Team members may set their own internal deadlines to help them meet overall project goals, but also set external milestones so progress can be tracked.
  • Let people leverage their talents. Once milestones are set, allow the team to decide what tasks to are required for the next cycle of work and let team members choose the tasks they want to be responsible for. This way they can pick tasks that play to their strengths.
  • Don’t interrupt people once they start. Don’t get into the details of how people do their jobs, and try not to switch priorities during the process unless emergencies occur.
  • Facilitate the information exchange. Have a transparent communication structure for the team to update one another as well as a way to bring you in if issues arise that need external help. Make the team run regular internal meetings to inform everyone what each member is currently doing.
  • Avoid a culture of blame. Accept that failure is part of the process and instead of assigning blame, focus on the steps needed to achieve success.
  • Regularly review and readjust the work process. Use team meetings as a great opportunity to review how self-organization is working for your team and make readjustments if necessary.

Work Management and Collaboration Tools

A. Project Management and Productivity Software

You will need something that makes teamwork efficient, allows for assigning and organizing tasks/projects, and eliminates the need for back-and-forth emails regarding work. Because this software will be the backbone of your projects and the place where work discussions will take place, it will need to be flexible enough to accommodate the different ways your team works. And of course, it should be a tool that makes you more productive — ideally it’s a tool that helps you manage your work, instead of you constantly having to manage the tool.

B. Real-time Instant Messaging Tool

You will need a tool that allows people to talk or video chat with remote colleagues in real time. It’s an integral part of any meeting to hear your colleagues, and even better if you can see them (non-verbal communication is just as important).

C. Knowledge Base Tool

This is where you store the combined wisdom of the team, accessible by all members via a searchable database. Think internal blogs or wikis. The knowledge base tool will allow processes to be documented and expertise or best practices to be recorded and shared with the team so knowledge is accessible to all.

D. File Sharing Tool

In order to get collaborative work done, you will need tools to share files. This tool should allow you to easily save, sync, and share files with the team. Apart from attaching files to emails (which is highly discouraged since it leads to many problems and much time wasted), there are many other options available. 

General tips for collaborating with your team

In order to make collaboration a reality, you have to prepare the team both physically and mentally. Some tips:

  • Make the space conducive to collaboration
Organize an open work area away from your cubicles (if you have them) where team members can meet and work together for the duration of the project. Or have an always-on video conference system in place so that remote team members can be reached any time while they work.
  • Use tools for sharing
Effective remote collaboration requires the right tools and technology. At the bare minimum you will need a real-time chat tool, a project management/task management tool, a knowledge base tool, and a file sharing tool. Better yet if you have one tool that can do all of the above.
  • Encourage participation
Stand during meetings: participants will be more alert and less prone to daydream. Line the hallway whiteboards with plans and ideas and ask colleagues to contribute their ideas. Make your wikis public and reward anyone who contributes something new.

Tips for Better Virtual Meeting Communication

Yes, it’s more difficult to communicate with people when you’re not face-to-face, but we now have easy access to technology that makes virtual meetings doable. Just make sure you keep up good virtual communication habits:

  • Don’t repeat yourself over and over again
    This happens when people who aren’t listening ask you to repeat the question. To avoid this, make sure you say a person’s name before asking something.
  • Always introduce yourself
    Never assume everyone knows what you sound like or look like. Always tell people who you are. Hopefully others follow suit.
  • Have a backup technology to count on
    Skype might go down. Or Google Hangouts may decide not to work properly. Have a contingency to fall back on.
  • Set proper etiquette in place
    Ask people to mute themselves when not speaking. Have guidelines for your calls or video meetings.

Tips on Managing Project Risk

  • Determine “Risk Tolerance.” 
    How much risk can you take on before you consider abandoning a project? This is an essential conversation to have with your stakeholders. Decide on: whether they want to be informed when risks happen? Or whether you have authority to act immediately. Agree on the strategy and the response.
  • Use a Risk Matrix to Decide Which Risks to Manage. 
    Some risks are so low-impact that they aren’t worth your time. In order to be efficient, decide which risks to manage. For example, if a risk has a high probability of occurring, but impact is low (say it would add $200 to your project costs and your budget is $50 million) you may choose to ignore it if counteracting the risk is an inefficient use of your time and resources. You can use a risk matrix tool as a way to visualize which risks to manage.
  • Evaluate Your Risk Management After Every Project. 
    At the end of your project, step back and consider which parts of your strategy were successful. How effective were your triggers in forewarning risks? How effectively did you react to those triggers, and were you able to successfully prevent any risks from affecting the project outcomes? What could be improved for the next project?

4 Steps to Managing Scope Creep

When an item that might cause potential scope creep is identified, you need to manage it before it can affect the project in a negative way. Follow these four steps to properly assess and act on it:

  • Check the Statement of Work (SOW): 
    See if the item is in the list of deliverables in your project’s Statement Of Work. Is this request part of the original deliverables? Was it explicitly stated in the SOW?
  • Determine impact. 
    Figure out the impact that the item will have on your project as well as your organization’s business.
  • Estimate cost. 
    Determine the additional cost it will take to include the item as part of the project deliverable.
  • Present to the change committee. 
    If indeed the item is scope creep, it must be presented to the people responsible for change, as determined by your change management process — the project change committee. Present the impact and estimated cost of the item. The change committee can decide whether to reject the item or approve adding it to your project (and potentially lengthening your timeline) after they have the full context of the request.

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