The Strategist

Nine tips for a project manager

04/18/2018 - 15:30

A right strategy will help a newcomer to uncover key concepts, answer typical questions and cope with the chaos surrounding many projects. Here are nine tips for inexperienced project managers.

Planning together

One of the common mistakes of young project managers is that they try to plan everything by themselves. For this reason, the team members are not always ready to accept their plans. Managers cannot think of everything; their estimates of time input for solving various tasks are usually erroneous, and so all their plans fall apart already at the start of the project. The first important rule in project management is that the team should help in the planning.

Leader, not the king

A project manager is not a king. First of all, he must be a devoted leader, in the deepest sense of the word. Leadership is the art of making others want to do what you think should be done.

Defining the problem

Each project solves a problem, but the stage of its formulation is often overlooked. This is a big mistake. The way of defining a problem depends on how you solve it, so that a correct formulation is of vital importance.

Assessment of work

How to prepare correct and well-grounded assessment of future work? Set an adequate level of detail for your estimates. If you are in the phase of project initiation, then it is sufficient to outline major components of the estimates. If you have already compiled a hierarchical structure of work and are at an advanced stage of project planning, you should break it down into smaller components. The smaller the units, the more accurate your estimate will be.

Three-point assessment method

The distribution of estimates by values gives common sense to the evaluation process. If we use only the worst-case scenario, then this raises unreasonably high ratings of the project. If the scenario is too optimistic, then we have a high probability of failing - everything should be right to achieve success. Evaluation is a guess, and an accurate estimate is nonsense

The three-point assessment method is often used to identify level of uncertainty in a project. A manager prepares three options, each of which is based on various assumptions. The first assessment is optimistic and is based on the best scenario. The second is pessimistic, based on the worst-case scenario. And the third estimate is the most probable. These three estimates help calculate the average standard. It is necessary to add three values, and then divide their sum by three. 

Fixing the results

People cannot learn if they do not receive counter information or a critical assessment of their achievements. If you run 100 meters every day trying to improve results, but never fix them, you do not know whether you run better or worse. You do not know what is stopping you and slows down the run.

Likewise, if you try to define deadline for accomplishing a task but don’t measure the real time necessary to solve it, you will never achieve progress. Moreover, you must record time in which a task is done on a daily basis. You will only make guesses if you do it once a week, and this will not bring benefits to projects.

Low price and best price

Do not focus on those suppliers who offer the lowest price. Sometimes this is not the best choice for a project. Does they have a history of trading with you, with your colleagues or your organization? Do an "investigation", send a few letters, make several phone calls. If you find out that this seller is often or always late with deliveries, and this purchase is important for your project, chasing lower prices can cost you success. If you purchase materials and find out that they are of low quality, immediately analyze what effect such incidents might have on the timing and cost of your particular project.


You do not need to plan (or schedule) in more detail than you can cover. Too detailed scheduling of a timetable is generally undesirable. It’s okay if you limit yourself to "large paces". Here is a good rule: no task in a schedule should take more than 4-6 weeks. For example, a 26-week job can be broken down into 5-6 sub-tasks. This method usually keeps people from endless shifts of work on the last days of project execution.

Analysis of work

You need to analyze the whole project in the closing phase. The goal is to learn necessary lessons that can be applied in the future. There are two questions: "What have we done well?" And "What do we want to improve next time?" Note: there’s no question of what was done incorrectly. It forces people to take a defensive position, and they will try to hide things for which they can be punished. Therefore, the analysis of lessons learned should never be conducted in an atmosphere of accusations and punishments.

based on “Fundamentals of Project Management” by Joseph Heagney

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