Project management is a highly complex and complicated job. Because there are so many factors that come into play during every single project, project managers must be extremely versatile and skilled. Unlike developers, engineers, or architects that work on the technical side of projects, project managers, in addition to being familiar with all the technical details, also need to deal with the social and corporate aspects. On top of all that, they are often juggling several projects at once.
In addition to all this, project managers need to ensure that lines of communication between different departments stay open so that teams coordinate with each other and any potential risks that can sideline the project don’t go unnoticed. Naturally, all this complexity is a fertile breeding ground for a myriad of problems. Here are three major headaches almost every project manager faces, along with some practical solutions.
Headache #1: Project Schedule Updates
It goes without saying that every project needs a schedule, so that everyone involved can keep track of their progress and responsibilities, including milestones. It is up to the project manager to monitor all the activities of the team, update the project status, and act as the link between the team and any stakeholders, including upper management. However, all of this is an incredibly time-consuming activity for project managers, when their skills and expertise could be put to better use by having them do actual work on the project, instead of administrative tasks.
Solution: Automate schedule updates whenever possible, so that you don't have to waste time collecting them manually. Meeting with your team and asking each member for task status is time-consuming, especially when there are project management and collaboration tools available that allow your team to simply mark a task or milestone as finished and provide real-time status updates and reports. By saving time on administrative busywork, you can focus your efforts and expertise where it really matters.
Headache #2: Multitasking
With so much on your plate, multitasking may seem unavoidable. But it turns out that it actually impedes your productivity, negatively affects the quality of your work, and can create massive delays. A setback in one area will inevitably cause problems for any dependent tasks, which can't begin until the first task has finished, and so on. It quickly compounds and creates further delays.
Solution: Do what you can to limit the number of projects that are in progress at the same time. Try to keep no more than 25 to 50% of your projects running simultaneously to result in fewer delays and a higher quality of work. As a project manager, you will have a much easier job with fewer projects demanding your time and attention at once. You should also take advantage of the many online tools that can help you shoulder some of the burden. An instant message app like Slack allows for real-time communication, message archiving, and easy search, in case you need to recall specific conversation details.
Headache #3: Project Duration Estimates
Unless you have a working crystal ball on hand, (in which case, can we borrow it?) you simply cannot know how much time it will take to complete a particular task. However, you will need provide an estimate to stakeholders and clients, based on all the relevant information you have at your disposal. And you will be held accountable to that estimated completion date.
There are several different methods you can use to estimate how much time it will take your team to complete a project. But even if you assign proposed durations for each task, you may come up short with your estimate—which means your team will have to pick up the slack and make up for lost time. And aside from the stress, that can mean sacrificing quality, going over budget, or potentially slipping deadlines.
Solution: Instead of asking your team members to provide a single estimated deadline for their individual tasks, try a two-point estimation method. The advantage of a two-point method is that it allows you to miss your estimate, while providing enough of a buffer that you can still deliver the project before the final deadline. Note that this method still doesn't guarantee that you’ll be able to deliver every project on time, but it's still a safety net of sorts.
With these helpful strategies and tools, you’ll be able to plan and execute your projects better, and allow yourself and your team to function more productively, under less stress, and still meet (or exceed!) your client's expectations.
Diana Clark is a Digital Marketing Expert and Marketing Operations Project Manager works with her talented marketing team at Aussiewriter. She loves guiding people though their business practice and shares her ideas as a blogger.