June 18, 2013
Happy Projects = Happy People
Through my 15+ years of managing digital entities I have come to realize that I truly love what I do. This is not just a job to me but a personal investment to make everyday a good one. I strive to make sure those around me are positive, smart, and invested.
Through the projects I work on and the teams I build, I have an opportunity to enrich lives. I have the chance to give back to society through new technologies, beautiful design, or just everyday interactions. Of course this positive spin can only be seen through the lens of perfected project management. With strong project controls in place, the success of a project becomes dependent on team building, forecasting, managing expectations, and building relationships.
Define the requirements and approach as a team
As it may be challenging to know all the requirements of a project at the start, there certainly needs to be some assumptions up front. More importantly, the approach needs to be agreed upon by the team. People want to feel heard, especially if they’re going to be responsible for the work. Our clients hired us because we employ the best and the brightest in the industry. Each member of the team should have a role in defining the approach.
Create an informed and structured plan to manage budgets and resources
- Create a high-level plan - before getting to the day to day details of a project plan, you should assess the project at a high level and determine the deliverables. This should be a visual view of tracks showing overlap, parallels, and dependencies. Keep resources at a department level, show time over weeks, plot deliverables, group weeks by project phases. Get team buy in.
- Allocate resource hours against deliverables over time - resource names on the y-axis, time in weeks on the x-axis detailed with milestones. Begin plotting hours of resources per week based on the milestones per week. This is a helpful view for resources to confirm and commit to the hours they are allocated to. PMs estimate time for a living, not designers or developers. We need to help them understand how a pool of hours breaks out in order for them to make an informed commitment.
- Actualize resources - using the above template to actualize gives great insight into how the remaining budget will be spent. Tasks can then be prioritized based on remaining hours per week, instead of looking at a lump sum.
- Resource allocations - aggregating the above view across multiple projects provides the ability to see assigned resources over time across all projects. The report includes resources, projects, assigned hours and total assigned hours per week across all projects. Full report includes all employees with a 6 week forecast. This reports gives department leads insight into what’s going on and what’s to come.
Focus on communications and relationships
Managing expectations is a skill that can be applied both professionally and personally. People hate to be disappointed. In both project and client management this is critical. Whether through weekly status meetings or daily scrums it is important to explain all the expectations of a particular resource. With clients, the more detail the better. Tell them what they can expect from a team. What exactly is going to be presented at a review? Will it be interactive, does the client need to download anything in advance, will there be any issue with colors, resolutions, cross browsers? These are the details that will lead to successful presentations. Take the time to talk to the team about specific details before client interactions.
Understanding clients better gives us an opportunity to adjust the team’s style to suit their needs. A client that is frustrated or non responsive must have some basis. Try to understand their lives and environments to determine what’s going on. We all live busy lives so let’s try and lighten the load by making projects as easy as possible. When sharing extranets, send password reminders. If print-outs are needed, Fedex them in advance. Sometimes it’s just the little things that can make someone’s job easier.
As a project manager, you need to manage your own expectations, as well. When it comes to managing internal teams the biggest complaint I receive is “I’m not a babysitter”. Well, I’m sorry to tell PMs this, but you are. You are managing resources, deliverables, and expectations and you need to check in on these at all times. You need to ask questions, poke around, and get your answers. You can’t have the expectation that the answers will come to you, you need to go out and get them. This is the sign of a strong PM.
Bring on the happiness
A motivated and cheerful team yields positive cohesive results. When people enjoy what they’re doing they put their heart and soul into their work and produce products they can be proud of. Take the time to get to know people. Acknowledge when they work late or go the extra step. Always say thank you. And grabbing a drink together now and then can never hurt.
The PM has a responsibility to build relationships, strengthen teams and make sure everyone is as happy as can be. As a project manager, you are at the heart of project happiness. Your positive influence can have a ripple effect on all involved: teams will be satisfied by successful work, clients will be promoted for increased revenue, company stakeholders will enjoy financial gain, and end users will have a great experience. Its a win-win for all.
Through the years I’ve worked with all sorts of people and agencies. But my career highlights are all centered around building award-winning products with people I respect and admire. These are the people I consider my friends who have helped me launch a career I can be proud of. And these are my drivers everyday to make projects successful.