20 Project Management Tips & Tricks: New Project Manager Advice
Welcome project managers one and all to this curated list of project management tips and tricks. Here you’ll find insights and advice for all things project management.
We’ve got 20 amazing items on this list, covering all stages of project execution, i.e. before, during, and after. Read on and see if you find out anything you didn’t know you needed to know.
Who these project manager tips can help
Whether you are new to project management, or you’ve been a certified project management professional (PMP) for a long time, you can always benefit from checking out useful tips and tricks for streamlining projects and delivering excellent project results. After all, being on time and within budget will never go out of style.
Of course, for first time project managers, they can hardly afford to skip this list of great project management advice.
20 project management tips and tricks
Let’s get down now to the mega list of 20 actionable project manager tips and tricks, plus some great advice to remember when running projects and managing work.
Below is a quick run down of the list, broken up into tips for before the project begins, during the project life cycle, and after the project has been completed.
Before the project begins
1. Center your project goals from the beginning of the project plan
2. Consider hiring a PMP
3. Define milestones and iterations
4. Clarify your project team member roles
5. Elicit ideas from everyone involved during kickoff
6. Pick a project management methodology
7. Decide early on which project management software everyone will use
8. Use project management templates
9. Set project task priorities and figure out task dependencies
10. Have a risk management and change management plan
During the project life cycle
11. Break down big problems into smaller ones
12. Trust the team and delegate new tasks to them
13. Keep project records and documentation of everything
14. Continually manage project stakeholder expectations throughout the life cycle
15. Turn mistakes into learning opportunities
16. Regular communication through meetings and one-on-ones
17. Avoid perfectionism and scope creep
18. Test project deliverables
After the project has been completed
19. Evaluate the project and apply lessons to future projects
20. Celebrate milestones and project success and reward the project team
Center your project goals from the beginning of the project plan
A successful project management process is all about aligning the client or company’s needs with the entirety of the project scope. This means that all manner of project planning right from the outset should always be guided by the ultimate project objectives. This includes things like the project budget and project schedule.
For those managing projects, they will have the responsibility to always keep these goals in mind even while the project team gets to narrow their workflow and focus on their tasks and activities.
Consider hiring a PMP
A PMP is a project management professional, and it is a certification that is given by the PMI, or Project Management Institute. Not every project leader must be a certified PMP. However, when it comes to a more complex project, it might be a good idea to make sure you have a certified expert leading the project team.
This is even more so the case if you plan on implementing a project management methodology like Scrum, or framework like an agile approach, where there are certain skill sets a PMP will be sure to have to best put these practices into action.
Define milestones and iterations
Milestones are like little goals along the way throughout the project life cycle. They are a great way to measure project progress, as they are often tied to timeframes, costs and reaching a milestone normally means the project status is ready to advance.
Iterations can be milestones or project stages where you produce a deliverable that is not the final product but perhaps a workable light version of the end product. Effective project management makes sure milestones and iterations are clearly spelled out in a project scope.
Clarify your project team member roles: RACI
There is no greater factor for ensuring project management success than the project management team members. Though everyone on the team will be proficient in the same things, each team member will also have their own specific skill sets.
Some may have hard skills like being coding pros and others will have soft skills like being great communicators. To streamline the project, each team member should know exactly what their roles, tasks and responsibilities are.
You could even follow the RACI matrix, or responsibility assignment matrix, where for every task, everyone will know who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed.
Elicit ideas from everyone involved during kickoff
Teamwork should always begin with open brainstorming sessions where there are still no rules and no restrictions. Everyone on the team, from programmers to marketers, should feel free to contribute ideas even if it is an out-of-the-box idea for their areas of expertise and specific project management skills.
When you combine both the know-how and creativity of a mixed project team, you will have a more diverse understanding of the ways to plan your project roadmap.
Pick a project management methodology
There are PM frameworks, like the agile approach, and then for each framework there are more specific project management methodologies.
For example, Kanban and Scrum are both PM methods that fit into the agile framework, whereas the waterfall or critical path method do not fit into the agile approach.
A project manager or PMP should decide early on which framework and method to have their team apply during the project, and to make sure everyone on the team is aware of how these methods work and that they are ready to use them.
Decide early on which project management software everyone will use
Once the framework and methodology have been chosen you should now get to work choosing which project management tools to use. This could be software that helps with things like time tracking and other time management tools. It could refer to which internal communications and document file sharing apps you’ll be using.
Project management software is really useful for, among other things, its virtual dashboards that can offer interactive Kanban boards for task management, project timeline Gantt charts, and up-to-date reporting based on real-time project information and other data.
Use project management templates
Most of the best project management software out there offer project management templates. It is certainly a strong work management tip to check out the templates, choose one or several, and to take some time customizing them if you need to with custom fields and metrics.
Project templates can be used for budget and expense tracking, resource management to understand team workloads, or even templates to manage sprints if you’re doing Scrum or Scrumban.
Set project task priorities and figure out task dependencies
Every project is broken down into a series of tasks. Sometimes things must proceed very sequentially and linearly, as in when you use the waterfall method. Other times, many tasks can be worked on simultaneously without much need to coordinate between team members with different responsibilities.
Either way, a top project management rule is to understand the relationship between tasks. Dependencies tell you which tasks need to be begun or completed before others can be completed or begun, and priorities help you order tasks and help organize any procurement that must be done and in what order.
Have a risk management and change management plan
There’s an old joke: How do you make the gods laugh? Make a plan. Well, project and work management demand planning, but what are equally important are contingency plans and plan Bs.
Every project plan must be aware of potential risks and to consider what mitigation options are available if any of these potential risks come up. Alongside risk management is having an equally important change management plan in place, particularly in agile project management.
This allows project managers and teams to be ready to shift taks activities and priorities without losing much time. Change management helps adjust things like scope, timeframe and budget, otherwise known as the project management triangle of constraints.
Break down big problems into smaller ones
This PM tip can be applied to the stage before a project begins but also equally to when the team is already working on their project tasks. It is related to risk management and other unexpected problems and roadblocks.
The idea being that good project management problem-solving is all about understanding a problem, no matter how big or complex or daunting, and figuring out how to parcel it down into manageable tasks. Once that is done, no roadblock or problem will seem too huge to derail the whole project.
Trust the team and delegate new tasks to them
Throughout the project life cycle, and every day on the job, a project manager must trust their team and be totally transparent with them and accountable. This means when orders come from above, don’t just pass them along, but explain why they are necessary.
Also, be prepared to listen to them for their perspectives on why things might be better or worse if done differently. Most importantly, though, is that when unexpected problems arise and new tasks must be done to deal with these problems, don’t think that because you're the manager you should do them all yourself.
Be ready to delegate new tasks on the fly to your team, and trust they can handle them.
Keep project records and documentation of everything
Luckily today, we have project management tools that offer features like project archiving, document sharing, messaging histories and more. The point here is that everything is data and all data should be recorded, organized and easily accessible.
This is useful for when dealing with stakeholders who may not be too great at recalling their own needs or requirements. Great documentation and versioning is also useful for analytics, reporting and planning your next projects.
Continually manage project stakeholder expectations throughout the life cycle
When we think of stakeholders, we might first think of the client, but stakeholders mean everyone involved, including the team, the company executives, and even the end users. With some methods like the waterfall, there are clear stages for when you communicate with stakeholders, but with agile approaches, it is less strict.
Either way, stakeholders should never be left out for long, especially the client stakeholder. Managing expectations means letting them know as soon as possible if there will be any delays in producing deliverables or if the budget might have to be exceeded. You do not want to surprise stakeholders when it’s too late.
Turn mistakes into learning opportunities
Accidents happen. However, a great project team does not use accidents and mistakes as excuses to reprimand, punish, shame, or to exile the offender from a project.
Every misstep or miscalculation or oversight can become a productive learning tool for the person who made the mistake, everyone on the project team, and even the project managers themselves.
You might not have the time to turn every mistake into a workshop, but maybe between projects you can do such a thing.
Regular communication through meetings and one-on-ones
Every single advice article for managers will tell you constant communication is king, and this is certainly no different for project managers. If you’re doing something like Scrum, you’ll have daily stand-up meetings which is great, though any project team can have some sort of daily meeting.
Managers should also have regular face-to face conversations with their team members individually. Here, you can go beyond talking about the tasks and project at hand, and also hear them out on their struggles and pain points, and figure out if their skills might be best applied to other areas of the project.
Avoid perfectionism and scope creep
Scope creep is a phenomenon where during the project life cycle, the client, other stakeholders, or even the team are constantly adding things to the product backlog, or finding new ways to improve the end result, or otherwise just constantly extending the scope of the project regardless of schedule or budget.
This is especially the case with agile approaches. You want to perfectly execute the client’s requirements and demands, but you do not need to make an absolute perfect thing every time because that does not exist and will only let the scope creep out of control.
Test project deliverables
Testing and verification are essential stages of almost any project management method. This is the kind of PM tip and trick that should be obvious, though one would be surprised how often project managers and teams skip this part or rush through it because they are too excited to finish the project.
After the work is done on an iteration, increment or final deliverable, the work of testing begins, and one should be humble about judging the results. It is also advisable to test regularly throughout the project and not only when you are close to the end.
Evaluate the project and apply lessons to future projects
These final two project management tips refer to when the project is officially done. Hold a project retrospective meeting. Get every stakeholder possible involved.
Find out what worked well, what did not, what people might have done differently, who excelled in their role and who might be better fitted to a new role. All of this information is incredibly important when it comes time to plan the next project.
Celebrate milestones and project success and reward the project team
This is one project management trick that is almost always welcome by everyone. When the project wraps up, have a wrap-up party. Have fun. Let your team know how much you appreciate their input and hard work.
Giving rewards to your team is a great idea, and it does not need to be remunerative rewards either. Be very free with giving praise to your team and be specific about it.
Example, don’t just say, “Great work Alice.” Say, “Alice, your suggestions for how to get out of that roadblock were incredibly helpful. Thanks!” Make sure everyone on the team gets some acknowledgement.
Our conclusion on these project tips & project management advice
That’s the end of this list of top project management tips and advice. We hope you keep these 20 tricks in mind when preparing, planning, executing and delivering your projects.
To get the most out of these tips and insights, consider getting a CRM with project management features, or a dedicated project management tool. Essentially all the ideas on this list, from using project templates to task dependencies, are best implemented with digital tools that make work and information accessible from everywhere.