Summary: It’s common for new project managers to be excited as well as nervous while handling their first project. By following some proven tips, you can start on the right foot while keeping mistakes at bay.
New Project Managers: Making A Good Start Is The Key
A study shows that 59% of PMs manage between 2 and 5 projects concurrently, and 15% of PMs also manage more than 10 projects at the same time . These figures can give you jitters if you’ve just started as a project manager in this highly challenging and lucrative field. Don’t worry, it’s okay to be excited and nervous at the same time.
As a beginner project manager, managing your first project can be overwhelming. You have to seamlessly connect with a team of individuals from different backgrounds and steer their collective efforts towards achieving shared goals. It’s now that you realize the stark difference between theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
All the information you grasped in classes, online courses, and books takes the backseat in the face of your first real-world project management experience. You are looking forward to making a strong first impression but have no experience or practical knowledge of project management. How should you go about this new role in the most efficient way possible while keeping mistakes to the minimum?
I have listed some tried and tested project management tips to help new project managers handle new projects effectively, minus unnecessary stress and anxiety. Let’s get started.
7 Proven Tips For Newbies To Succeed At Project Management
1. Don’t Pretend To Be “Mr. Know-It-All”
Being a project manager does not necessarily mean knowing everything about this vast, dynamic field, especially with zero first-hand experience in your kitty. Remember that you can’t get it 100% correct the first time, so don’t hesitate to ask questions and take suggestions from others.
I’ve seen many project managers trying to appear overconfident and pushing things through because they think they know it all. This ignorant behavior breeds resentment in your project team. So, it’s in your (and the team’s) best interest to see this as a “learning” phase where you can invite people to share their knowledge.
2. Define Project Scope
New project managers must define the project scope at the onset, as the average project goes through 4 formal versions of scope. Without concrete goals and a clearly defined project scope, it’s likely that project creep will occur due to ongoing changes or uncontrolled expansion of the project’s deliverables.
The project scope should include specifics like:
- Specific project goals
- Deliverables that need to get done
- Tasks to be completed and their assignee’s
- Milestones for each deliverable
- Estimated costs for the project
Excessive scope creep is the main reason so many projects fail as they exceed the set budget and miss deadlines due to constantly changing deliverables.
3. Use The Best Project Management Software
This one is a no-brainer. New project managers should use powerful yet easy-to-use work with management and team collaboration software in this digital age characterized by speed, efficiency, and flexibility. The tool will help them plan, organize, execute, and collaborate on projects with other team members from anywhere, on any device.
It is recommended for new project managers to choose a project management software that offers a wide range of powerful features so you and your team can manage various aspects of work in one place. Some essential features that any project management software includes but are not limited to online proofing, time tracking, recurring tasks, forms, chat, file management, task management, etc.
4. Foster Clear And Effective Communication
Can you imagine managing a project without good communication? Sounds terrible, right?
Project management calls for you to communicate frequently with your team members, clients, and other stakeholders. According to a report, 75-90% of a project manager’s time  is spent communicating. It’s important that the message is delivered to the right people at the right time, through the right channels.
Depending on the type of information to be delivered, new project managers should smartly use various communication modes like chat, real-time updates, video conferencing, email, etc.
5. Assemble A Cross-Functional Team
My team comprises people from diverse backgrounds, varied skills, and, more importantly, different perspectives. It has helped me avoid groupthink and soloing as unique ideas flow in from all team members.
I suggest that new project managers can implement the following tips to have an ideal combination of personalities and skills to ensure maximum job effectiveness and minimum friction:
- Evaluate the soft skills of each potential team member to assess how well they can work with others.
- They should have a basic knowledge of Agile and Waterfall project management methodologies.
- Choose people that align with your project requirements and organizational goals.
- They should be enthusiastic about their job roles and how their efforts contribute to the overall success of the organization.
6. Avoid Multitasking
When I started my innings as a manager, my enthusiasm for the new role made me work on multiple tasks simultaneously. I wanted to do so much in so little time. However, I noticed that multitasking reduced the quality of my work and only made me more stressed.
Studies have shown that switching from one task to another results in the loss of productivity, attention, and focus. I am sure you would not want to face such a grim situation when trying to ensure a good beginning to your career as a new project manager. Remember, multitasking doesn’t work.
Take one task at a time, fully devote your time and attention to it, finish it as planned (high quality, minimal errors), and then take another task.
7. Perform An AAR (After-Action Review)
Yeah, I know you are so eager to move on to your next project as soon as you are done with your first. Hold on! A new project manager should know that once an eLearning project is completed and delivered, it’s important to conduct a project AAR (after-action review) or project post-mortem.
This exercise lets you understand what went well with your project and what did not, and how you can learn from these mistakes to improve your team’s performance in the next project.
AAR puts forward questions such as:
- Was the project completed as planned? If not, then why was there a difference?
- What worked well, and what didn’t work? Why?
- What would you do the same, and what would you do differently?
An effective project AAR has two components – Individual responses and Group responses. Individual responses can be recorded through surveys, questionnaires, or interviews. A group meeting lets every team member voice their opinions and respond to others’ remarks.
The Final Thought
You can’t escape it. Your first project will likely give you sleepless nights as you face different challenges without practical experience. However, this happens with every project manager.
The key is not to make things overly complicated for yourself. Focus on getting your basics right and implement the project management tips mentioned above to make sure you overcome initial hiccups and carve a niche for yourself in this highly competitive and progressive career field.