Managing a project team can be both challenging and rewarding. Project team managers are responsible for overseeing specific projects, although they typically do not directly supervise all (or even any) of the individuals assigned to work on these projects.
Eight Project Team Management Best Practices
The following best practices will help you manage projects effectively.
1. Create a Project Charter
It's important to define clearly the project at its outset so all team members are on the proverbial same page regarding its scope and boundaries. This can be done with a project charter, which is sometimes referred to as a project definition document. According to TechRepublic, this type of document should be a key "deliverable" produced as a team effort. They recommend including details such as:
- Overview of the project
- Project objectives
- Project scope
- Procedural approach
- Roles within the organization (which functions are represented on the project team)
2. Define Deliverables
Every project involves deliverables, which, according to Investopedia, can be defined as the "quantifiable goods or services that will be provided upon the completion of a project." For example, if your team is designing a training program, deliverables might include a PowerPoint presentation, an instructor's guide, handouts for the students, a quiz, an answer key for the quiz, a certificate of completion, etc.
The project leader needs to work with team members to define and document every deliverable required as part of a project and seek stakeholder approval to verify the team is on the rate track. ProjectSmart.co.uk points out that documentation for project deliverables must have "enough detail to enable someone else to produce them correctly and effectively."
3. Establish Clear and Realistic Expectations
It is critical for project managers to set clear and realistic expectations with project team members, as well as other stakeholders, at the beginning of a project. This may include expectations for communication, participation, responsibility for specific aspects of the project, available resources, meeting deadlines, and more.
Leaders also need to make sure the team doesn't lose sight of what's expected of them as the project progresses. As ProjectTimes.com points out, beyond just setting expectations, project managers must also "keep expectations current in the minds of all the stakeholders so that they don't lose sight of the final product while going through the project life cycle."
4. Establish Benchmarks and Milestones
Many projects are both large in scope and time-consuming, meaning a long time can pass between the beginning of a project and its completion. Effective project mangers understand the importance of establishing milestones and benchmarks that can be monitored, reviewed, and celebrated along the way.
- As stated on CIO.com, milestones and benchmarks provide a key way to identify problems that need to be addressed early in the process rather than discovering something isn't working after a lot of time and expense have already been invested.
- Reaching key milestones and benchmarks can also provide a sense of accomplishment and pride for the team. Celebrating these successes along the way to project completion can help keep team members motivated and engaged.
5. Build Team Rapport
When you are in charge of a project team, you will likely be working with stakeholders from throughout the organization who have been brought together for a specific purpose. They're not always members of the same team, and they probably have a supervisor who isn't you. However, it's just as important for them to become a cohesive team as it is for people who work side-by-side in the same department day-by-day.
As team manager, it's up to you to establish rapport with the team. As pointed out on Villanova.edu, successful project mangers recognize they are responsible for "developing positive relationships and open communication with everyone who is contributing to the project." This requires exhibiting appropriate leadership behaviors, as well as utilizing key team building strategies.
6. Avoid Micromanagement
While you need to stay well-informed on how the project is progressing, it's important to avoid micromanaging your team. According to RationalPlan.com, micromanagement involves "over-supervising each task..., not delegating tasks, and, ultimately, not trusting the team members and their competencies."
Micromanagement can be counterproductive and frustrating to team members - especially those who have demonstrated they have the skills and experience to do the work without overly close supervision. CIO.com recommends that project managers should hold regular meetings with members of the product team, but be sure to "allow them breathing room to work without feeling micromanaged."
7. Resolve Problems Quickly
Problems of varying degrees are bound to come up during a project. As TechRepublic points out, it's important to "resolve issues as quickly as possible." This is an area where it's important for the project manager to take the lead. Whatever issues arise, the project manager needs to be diligent in working through them as quickly as possible so they do not become impediments to the team being able to make progress on the project. This is just as true for problems associated with team conflict as it for issues that arise with equipment, suppliers, or other challenges specific to the work itself.
8. Be Agile
Planning and risk management can be important aspects of project management, but being too structured and rigid can be problematic in the rapidly changing business environment. The MIT Sloan Management Review indicates that complex projects in today's rapidly changing business environment require flexibility, pointing out that project managers can benefit from combining "traditional and 'agile' methods to give them more flexibility - and better results." ProjectSmart also recommends taking an agile approach, pointing out that "the formal documentation and processes involved in traditional project management can weigh you down." Agile project management is based on taking steps to ensure the team is able to adapt quickly to change as it occurs.
Project Team Success
While these eight best practices don't represent everything necessary to manage a project team successfully, following them will provide a solid framework for success. The time you invest in laying the groundwork for team success will help make sure the project outcome is effective, and that the journey is a smooth and rewarding experience for everyone involved along the way.