As a project manager, your ability to establish a baseline will make or break your path to success. Your baseline identifies the methodology, documentation and application strategy to create an environment that both addresses your client needs and resource protocol.
Baselining means discovering your formal and informal environment by asking these questions:
- What expectations are there for projects?
- What software, internal systems or templates are available for you and your engineering teams to manage your work?
- Do you understand your teammates and know more about their views, qualifications and their workload?
- How is the company and group culture when it comes to change and expectations?
Identify those basic elements to tangibly apply your vision for managing the project.
Know When to Recommend a Course Change
One of my first projects as a lead PM was with a client that brought me on after having a string of PMs who only made incremental progress. The company was committed to a hybrid waterfall-agile methodology and had a lead designer that seemed to be unclear on the final product. After doing informal interviews, I recommended a project strategy change to an SDLC approach, which would provide better scoping techniques with built in commitment.
After six months of working with this update, the client was able to deliver a new internal tool to manage their opportunity rolodex for sales as well as complete a long withstanding security project that kept an industry certification. This was only possible after seeing the previous project managers’ agreeability to “go with the flow” without explaining downstream effects. The client wasn’t getting the results due to the short-sighted standard of having the ability to modify the work at every iteration.
With critical projects scheduled, they needed to establish the project goals and stick with them to completion. Using my experience in this instance, I was able to recommend a project management strategy that actually fit the client’s needs — instead of caving to an environment that tolerated relaxed standards. Talking to your client about end goals means that you can commit to what you will deliver and follow through with this charge at the onset of your project. Managing the expectations around your work will set up your team for the success you’re all capable of.
Remember to consider the tangible requirements at play: What software exists (or doesn’t), and how can you take advantage of that? Your ability to scope your work and plan your project contributes to the viability of your labor. Utilize and learn the current systems so you can improve upon them. Every client has their own way of doing things, so how can you add your industry knowledge to improve their workflow?
Tools You Can Use
I’ve had the pleasure of working within a number of diverse industries and picked up tools that can be applied despite the specialized field I might be working in at any given moment. Effective testing strategy is one area that I have been able to apply to my healthcare clients, while employing that same strategy with my performing arts and tech projects.
Overcommunicating is an example of a skill that works in most industries: sharing test plans, finding your super users, designing training classes with your most vocal and influential in the user base. These techniques all apply and bolster your outcome in the positive regard notwithstanding the project technology.
When you are unable to use this practice, what happens? Depending on the project, you will lose your ability to lead and respond to the client’s needs effectively. If you are not in control of the project, who is? Maybe a senior engineer who is set in their ways, maybe a junior developer who has wanted the chance to lead a project but doesn’t have the experience, or worst of all: no one. Leaving it to chance and abandoning your responsibility to be an active participant in the success of the project might be a sign you need to reinvigorate your love for project management.
Establishing your project deliverables and communication guidelines provides you the ability to set the pace and modify your project philosophy as your client needs. Developing the skills to clearly identify your program will strengthen your ability to address net-new technologies and development teams. And as a result, your expertise will shine — because you know how to apply your proven methodology to any and all new situations.