If your team experiences high-stress, anxiety, low morale, and burnout from continuous, fast-paced projects, you may wonder: what can I do to escape this situation? Before you go looking for a new job, know that all is not lost. As a leader and manager, there are steps you can take to fix the poor mental health of your team. These tips are based on advice from an extreme project management expert, and should help restore the health of your team. But wait! Did you read our first post discussing the basics of the fast-paced, extreme project management, and how to decide if it's right for your team? Go read it now and come back to this post when you're ready to learn how to be a great leader for your extreme projects. Leadership and Management for Extreme Projects For extreme projects, being a great leader and manager is even harder because the projects you lead change constantly, which means you must change constantly too. In his book eXtreme Project Management, Doug DeCarlo gives an in-depth overview of extreme project management. According to him, this methodology does not begin and end at managing work in a flexible environment; it also includes adapting your mindset to a new way of thinking and developing a new set of leadership skills. If you are a leader of extreme projects, and you want to work on improving your leadership and management skills, we have some tips to help you be a better leader for your team. Tips to rework your management style: 1. Set priorities. Set project priorities, tell the team why they've been prioritized that way, and if the project is cancelled, give them sound reasoning. If you have standards for determining project priority, your team will feel less frustration when project priorities shift. 2. Communicate constantly. In a flexible environment, projects change a lot. Do not keep your team in the dark. If there is an update, tell them what has changed and why — immediately. Waiting means there is a higher chance someone will have to redo their work in order to match the new requirements. Avoid high-stress situations by communicating every project change quickly and clearly. 3. Set clear roles & ownership. Extreme project management means that there is less hierarchy and time involved in decision-making. That means everyone needs to know exactly who has the knowledge (or ability) to make decisions. Ensure that roles and responsibilities on your team and within management are crystal clear. And give your individual team members the confidence to make their own calls if they see something that needs to be done. XPM is about spreading and sharing responsibility, not locking it into the hands of a few people. 4. Reward your team for a job well done. If you're working on a fast-paced project with changing requirements and ever-increasing scope, chances are you'll be awash in relief when the project is finally complete. As a manager, make sure you recognize the great effort it took to get from day 1 to the end. Celebrate the skills, problem-solving, and high energy your team exhibited during the project before moving on to the next. If your team knows you appreciate and recognize them, it will fight low morale and burnout, and motivate your team for the next challenge. Tips to adapt your leadership mindset: 1. Study your own temperament. Your temperament is a good indication of your behavior during projects. Great leaders learn how to remain calm under pressure, even when their extreme project team is stressed — which will certainly happen with these types of projects. Are you able to be the voice of reason in a difficult situation? Practice soft skills to create a good atmosphere for your projects; read books on better communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, and influencing people. Check out our list of books every manager should read. 2. Learn to accept change as good. Humans like stability; it's in our nature. With everything constantly changing, extreme projects put a lot of emotional strain on the people involved. But you can't resist changes to project plans if you want XPM to work for your team, so learn how to get comfortable with last-minute scrambles. If you can't fully get comfortable, at least be aware of your own resistance so that you can fight your tendencies when they rear their predictable heads. Remember: if your project is changing, it is probably for the better. Don't shoot down new ideas without considering how they can positively impact your final outcome! 3. Trust your team to be responsible, capable adults. If you come from traditional management styles, where all decisions are made slowly after being reviewed by countless people, XPM will probably make your head spin. Decisions are made faster, and without the red tape that comes with big companies and complex hierarchies. Trust your team (and yourself!) to be intimate enough with the project that they will make the best decisions for your project without requiring extra input each time. If you have communicated the project goals clearly and thoroughly, then everyone should be able to make informed decisions for the team. Leadership is a Constant Work-in-progress I argue that leadership and management skill sets are not the kind you can master — they are the kind that you constantly work to improve. People look to you to make the best decisions, to always know what is going on with every aspect of every project, and to remain calm under the pressure of intense project environments. You have to be a hero among heroes, and that is hard. In order to be the best leader and manager you can be, it requires constant vigilance and education. Are you leading an extreme project team? What tips can you give for being a better leader? Share your wisdom with us in the comments. Related Reads: 3 Lessons on High-Performing Teams from TED Talks 15 Books Every Manager Should Read Why Employers Value Emotional Intelligence Over IQ (Infographic)
Agile Project Management Certification Other organizations, like the Agile Alliance, have offered their own Agile certifications before. But the Project Management Institute, with more than half a million members and credential holders in 185 countries, is definitely the most influential organization in the project management space, so it’s pleasing to see PMI now officially recognizing the Agile mindset as a significant and undeniable trend in project management. Indeed, Agile project procurement management has come a long way from a novel approach to a mainstream project management methodology. It went beyond its mother field, software development, and is used in an increasingly broader set of industries nowadays. This certainly increases the demand for Agile professionals, and employers want to make sure that they are hiring the right person for the job. This is where certifications prove useful, and for those wondering how to become a certified project manager, they should consider becoming certified in Agile for future job prospects. That said, there are still lots of opponents to the whole idea of Agile certification. For example, one of the main arguments for Michael Dubakov, an author at the Edge of Chaos blog, is that there are so many factors influencing the management process that they make any certification impossible. “Your company is special. You have special people on the development team. You have special conditions, rules, and other external factors,” writes Michael. What do you think of PMI's Agile Project Management Certification? What do you think of the new PMI certification? Will you consider it for yourself or your employees? Please post your thoughts in the comments below.
While there are several types of project management roles and methodologies out there, they all overlap in some way. All project management roles, including project portfolio management, require extensive organizational and time management skills, with experience in resource allocation and budget management.
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 estimated project duration 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. Author Bio: 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.