June 29, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

The Simple Trick To Improving Your Workflow

By Benjamin Brandall

Workflow improvementWhether you’re managing a schedule or organizing your time, there is one simple trick to improve your workflow for any and all tasks.

While working remotely I’ve tested more methods than I can count for boosting productivity. From software to diets to exercise and beyond, there’s one simple trick which has stood the test of time and I would like to share that with you.

You need to be following a process. What are the benefits?

Processes remove uncertainty

First and foremost, when you document workflows in a process you’re removing any uncertainty for the person working through it. As long as you provide ample instructions to go with your back checklist template (enough to tell them what to do and how to do it), there’s next to no reason for them to slow down mid-task in an attempt to remember the next step.

Put it this way; if you’re working through a process from memory you’re largely leaving success to chance. If you want to manage the project effectively, you need to have a reliable way to make sure that no steps are being skipped to maintain a consistent high quality.

Speaking of consistency…

You’ll have a consistent, measurable method

Again, rather than leaving the consistency of your team to chance you’re providing them with explicit instructions which they can easily follow. That means that rather than letting human error into your work and relying on memory, you have a consistent, documented process which is followed every single time you need to complete a particular task.

This same consistency is the only way that you’ll be able to effectively track and compare the results of various projects. If you’re running with a vague, half-solid method then the steps taken will likely vary in some way from one project to the next, making it incredibly difficult to pin down why a particular project succeeded or failed.

In turn, this will make it much harder to replicate your successes and avoid previous failures. Without knowing exactly what method was followed, there’s every possibility that you won’t even know what’s being done wrong.

Documented processes can be optimized

Being able to track your projects as they progress with a consistent method also means that when things go wrong you should be able to trace the fault back to your process. If a deadline is missed or a task not completed satisfactorily, it’ll be because of either a fault in the process or because the person working didn’t follow it.

Once you’ve documented your workflow and created a consistent approach, it’s easy to improve and to avoid disaster in the future.

Optimizing a process is a cinch. All you have to do is sit down with the people who worked through it, talk through their experience with the process, compare that to your results, and then you should be able to identify the section which needs improving.

For example, a particular step in the process could need more detailed instructions, a piece of software may need replacing, and responsibilities may need making clearer to increase accountability.

Documenting your workflows is the best way to improve your productivity and effectively manage your team’s projects efficiently. Whether you documenting processes using a special app or jotting them down in a pen-and-paper file, try it and see for yourself how easy it to improve your workflow.

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About the Author:

Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street, where he writes on startups, SaaS, and workflows. In his spare time, he runs Secret Cave, a blog about obscure entertainment and internet culture.

Why Goal Setting is Important to Project Success

Through the power of goal setting, project managers can set objectives for their teams and watch them accomplish their mission. Goals need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

There are several benefits to SMART goals, like when project managers outline their expectations by keeping them out in the open. In so doing, they increase the probability of employees and team members being successful by up to 70%, thanks to regular check-ins, updates and group accountability. This statistic is supported by the recent research of Dr. Gail Matthews.

SMART goals help project managers effectively create the focus and drive that employees and organizations need to constantly operate as high performers. High-performing organizations successfully complete an average of over 80% of their projects.

Through SMART goal setting, priorities become clear. There is a clear and specific focus that employees of all levels are committed to. Along with clarity and focus, the motivation of being able to measure progress in light of milestones achieved, further bolsters the positive effects and total results of SMART goal setting.

Discover more on the power of goal setting and the benefits of SMART goals in project management in the following Infographic, as supplied by Brandeis University who offers a Masters Degree in Project Management.

 

SMART Goal Setting

Brandeis University M.S. in Project and Program Management Online

Soft Skills for Project Managers

By Linky van der Merwe

Often in Project Management courses there is a big emphasis on the technical skills, also called ‘hard skills’ which are the occupational requirements that project managers need to do their jobs effectively. This would include the creation of tangible deliverables like a project schedule, project budget, status reports etc.

Soft skills for PM'sSoft skills complement hard skills.  Soft skills are the important interpersonal skills you need as a project manager to accomplish work through other people.  Soft skills are essentially people skills – the non-technical, intangible, personality-specific skills that determine your strengths as a leader, listener, negotiator and conflict mediator.

Developing your soft skills is equally important, but is often left to project managers to find suitable courses that would equip them with adequate soft skills like Leadership, Conflict Management and Emotional Intelligence.

Soft skills development

Why would you ask, are soft skills that important? Soft skills refer to behavioural skills – a sociological term relating to the cluster of personality traits and behavioural competencies that characterize relationships with other people.

Since projects are delivered or executed through people, your soft skills are like the glue that will hold the project team together when the going gets tough, for example when projects fall behind, or immovable deadlines are looming, or the normal stress coming from project delivery and dealing with issues.

At the end of the day a project manager wants a balance of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are more technical in nature where as soft skills are intangible and less visible. Soft skills are typically employed without the use of tools and templates. Soft skills can be taught, but they are typically honed by years of experience.

How to improve soft skills

When you set out to improve your soft skills as a project manager, there are 3 key things you need to remember.

  1. Make the commitment to learn and improve
  2. Put yourself in situations where you can practice various soft skills
  3. Evaluate your progress and adjust as needed

At this point you may be wondering if there is a finite list of soft skills to focus on as a project manager. According to my research there are at least 11 soft skills that should be part of your make-up as a professional project manager. They are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Team building
  3. Motivation
  4. Communication including active listening
  5. Influencing
  6. Decision making
  7. Political and cultural awareness
  8. Negotiation
  9. Conflict management
  10. Emotional intelligence
  11. Problem solving

Over the years I’ve published many articles on various soft skills. For more interesting articles with practical advice on developing your soft skills, continue reading about Leadership, Team build, Communication, Decision making and Emotional Intelligence.

If you are new to project management and you are serious about developing yourself as a professional project manager, please look at the Fast-track Growth Program which was especially developed for people like you in mind. It’s an online, self-paced training program for busy professionals which will give you the essential elements for project delivery. It’s the fastest way to grow critical Project Management competencies like technical and interpersonal skills, and becoming a confident project manager!

Book Review: Project Management for SME’s

By Linky van der Merwe

A Book for SME’s

PM for SME'sWhat you’d expect from a book that is written with small businesses in mind, is very practical advice and insight with regards to the application of project management as a discipline in the Small Business sector. The author, Gren Gale, is stating that a badly run project can significantly impact a business’s bottom line, in the case of a small business, this can be fatal. He also believes that a professional approach to project management will give a small business a competitive advantage over its rivals.

The aim of the book is described as a guideline for how to control and manage projects effectively. It is meant to support staff of small to medium-sized companies who are charged with coordinating one or multiple projects. It concentrates on projects where the spend isn’t massive, but the stakes are high.

The book is divided in 5 chapters and in chapter 2 it covers all aspects of project delivery from the Business Case, to analysis, design, build, test, implement and closure. Chapter 3 goes a bit deeper into project governance in terms of covering governance, risk and issue management, change control, quality and portfolio management.

Chapter 4 covers important soft skills that Gren believes are required for managing projects in small businesses, namely communication skills, people management and crisis management skills. In addition, Gren explains the Agile approach thoroughly and also how it is different from the well-known Agile methodologies.

Project Management experience

The in-depth knowledge and experience of Gren Gale comes through in the clear language and well defined concepts. I believe it is a good source of information for your typical small business managers who are also responsible for project execution. It provides a glossary and a set of required documents at the end, with the option of procuring templates at a discount.

After reading the book, the reader will know how to do projects the right way and which pitfalls to avoid. It can also convince the reader that proper training is required to do project management effectively and that it should not be done using ad hoc ways without the discipline of a consistent methodology.

Conclusion

My initial impression was that the process around project management should be simplified, and that the details in the book can leave a person feeling overwhelmed and perhaps not up to the task of managing projects without proper training.

Regardless, I can recommend the book to managers in small to medium-sized companies who are responsible for running projects. If they follow the principles, process and advice laid out, they will have a much better chance of being successful with project delivery and giving their businesses the competitive edge that well implemented strategies can bring.

To get your copy of the book, please visit Project Management for SME’s.

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