Let’s Make It Happen!
So you’re in the thick of managing your project. You’re probably juggling quite a few tasks as we speak, but this section can provide guidance wherever (and whenever) you may need it.
Managing the Project
You’re onto some of the most critical phases of the project, which includes execution, monitoring and closure. Learn more about what each of them require:
The execution phase
This stage is where the meat of the project happens. Deliverables are built to make sure the project is meeting requirements. This is where most of the time, money, and people are pulled into the project.
As previously mentioned, a kickoff meeting is held to mark the official start of the execution phase. A kickoff meeting agenda might look something like this:
- Introductions: Who’s who?
- Project background: Why are you doing this project? What are the goals?
- Project scope: What exactly will you be doing? What kind of work is involved?
- Project plan: How are we going to do this? What does the roadmap look like?
- Roles: Who will be responsible for which elements of the project?
- Communication: What kind of communication channels will be used? What kind of meetings or status reports should your team expect?
- Tools: What tools will be used to complete the project, and how will they be used?
- Next steps: What are the immediate action items that need to be completed?
- Q&A: Open the floor for any questions
The controlling and monitoring phase
This phase happens in tandem with the execution phase. As the project moves forward, the project manager must make sure all moving parts are headed in the right direction at all times and in a coordinated manner. If adjustments to the project plan need to be made due to unforeseen circumstances or a change in direction, they may happen here.
During the controlling and monitoring phase, project managers may have to do any of the following:
- Manage resources
- Monitor project performance
- Risk management
- Perform status meetings and reports
- Update project schedule
- Modify project plans
At the end of this phase, all of the agreed project deliverables should be completed and accepted by the customer.
The closing phase is a critical step in the project management life cycle. It signals the official end of the project and provides a period for reflection, wrap-up, and organization of materials.
Project managers can:
- Take inventory of all deliverables
- Tie up any loose ends
- Hand the project off to the client or the team that will be managing the project’s day-to-day operations
- Perform a postmortem to discuss and document any learnings from the project
- Organize all project documents in a centralized location
- Communicate the success of the project to stakeholders and executives
- Celebrate project completion and acknowledge team members
The Importance of Collaboration in Project Management
Before we get into building a collaborative team environment, let’s discuss why collaboration is important. Without collaboration, your company will stagnate. It takes a team’s combined ideas and work to pull off a complex project, to innovate, and to come up with the product that beats the competition.
Collaboration is important for two main reasons:
Internal team collaboration increases productivity
When internal teams use tools and work processes that make communication and collaboration more efficient, goals can be met faster and better quality work can be produced. Internal productivity increases with smoother collaboration.
Some proof: A study by McKinsey & Company shows that implementing collaborative processes and networking tools improved productivity by 20-30% in global software development teams.
And California chipmaker Xilinx reported a 25% increase in engineer productivity by using tools that encouraged peer-to-peer collaboration.
Collaborating with external stakeholders increases innovation
When you seek feedback from your customers, partners, and vendors — aka your external stakeholders — and are able to use their feedback to improve your product or service, the customer’s actual wants and needs will better align with your product’s features.
Today, companies who try to do everything in-house are limited — It’s impossible to be good at everything all the time. They need outside ideas and feedback to grow. The same works for your project team. When teams work together, they can achieve amazing things.
What Makes a Successful Project Team
Your project team can vary depending on project scope and skills needed, but the elements of a successful project team are more or less consistent across the board.
- Strong team leadership. Every team needs a leader who can bring out the best in their teammates. Understanding each of your team members’ individual strengths and how to bring them out is vital to the success of the team as a whole.
- Clear goals and purpose. When the roadmap and goals are clear, it’s much easier for a team to see where they’re going and how their contribution will matter down the road. Encourage them to rally around your cause with a clear vision.
- Standardized operating procedures. When conflicts arise or a task needs to be assigned, teams need to know how to take action. Creating standard processes and workflows, along with clear roles eliminates confusion and empowers your team to blow past roadblocks.
- Diversity. Time and time again studies have shown that diversity improves performance. A strong project team will include a variety of skill sets, as well as a diversity of race, gender, and cultural backgrounds.
- Bonding time. Finding time for project team members to get to know each other and build a rapport helps build trust, breaks down barriers, and opens communication lanes. Finding time for team-building exercises and to celebrate victories, no matter how big or small, can go a long way. Getting everyone in the room at the start of the project for a kickoff helps everyone stay on the same page from the beginning.
Project Management Collaboration Tips and Techniques
It can be easy to lose sight of collaboration best practices with deadlines looming overhead, but implementing them throughout the entire project will help optimize team performance.
Make meetings more efficient
While meetings can be a valuable time for collaboration, unnecessarily long meetings can be a collaboration killer. When scheduling a meeting, remember these tips:
- Lose status update meetings and use a software tool instead.
- Only invite people who are absolutely necessary. Don’t waste other people’s time.
- Create a goal-oriented agenda and stick to it.
- End your meeting by clarifying everyone’s next steps.
Try a more effective brainstorming technique
Brainstorming meetings can help spark collaborative thinking and great new ideas. But when brainstorming goes wrong, it can actually discourage team members from contributing — or even worse, make them feel like their opinions aren’t valued.
When embarking on a brainstorming session, try one of these techniques to make it more effective and empowering:
- Brain writing: The team leader shares the topic with the team, and the team members individually write down their ideas. This creates a safe space for everyone to come up with ideas individually before any discussion begin.
- Figuring storming: Think about how a person such as your boss, a famous celebrity, or a successful CEO might handle the situation. It’s like role playing, but with a creative problem in mind.
- Brain-netting: Create a communal folder in your project management platform where your team members (especially remote workers) can jot down ideas and share them with the entire team.
- Rapid ideation: Clarify the ideas and solutions you want your team to brainstorm. Set time limit and have your team come up with as many ideas as possible using whiteboards, post-its, or plain pen and paper.
- Round robin brainstorming: Gather in a circle and have each person offer an idea in turn, while a facilitator records each idea. Discussion starts only after everyone’s had a chance to share.
- Starbursting: Challenge the team to come up with as many questions as they can about your topic. Start with the 5 Ws: who, what, where, when, and why.
- Stepladder Technique: Once the topic is shared, everyone leaves the room except two members of the team. These two discuss the topic and their ideas. Then, one new member is added and will contribute his/her idea before the original two share theirs. Repeat the process until everyone from the original group is back in the room.
Resolve conflict quickly
Conflicts are inevitable when collaborating on group projects. They’re emotional, sometimes dramatic, and often exhausting. But when conflicts get resolved, they lead to stronger relationships within the team, a better understanding how to collaboration and opportunities for growth.
Some pointers for resolving conflict quickly:
- Keep calm. It’s not always easy to keep your emotions out of a conflict, but approaching a conflict rationally will help in the long run.
- Pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal communication. What you say matters just as much as what you don’t say. They say more than half of perceived communication is done nonverbally through body language.
- Keep your language and your tone neutral. The intonation of your voice can be just as important as the words you’re speaking. Remaining neutral can help you get your point across without ruffling more feathers.
- Avoid threats and accusations. Accusations and threats typically take situations in the opposite direction you want to head. Rather than escalating the conflict, take a breath and listen to what the other person has to say. Understanding their side of the story will help you see things from their perspective.
- Be generous. Keep in mind that resolving the conflict is more important for the working relationship — and your team’s ultimate success — than “winning” the fight. Persuade those in the conflict to let go of grudges and forgive and forget.
How to improve collaboration in the workplace
While effective collaboration will ultimately stem from the willingness of your project team, there are several tips and techniques you can use to encourage them:
Build a collaborative work environment. Organize an open work area away from personal workspaces where team members can meet and work together for the duration of the project.
Encourage effective remote collaboration. Have an always-on video conference system in place so that remote team members can be reached any time while they work.
Use tools for sharing. Effective collaboration requires the right tools and technology. At the bare minimum you will need a real-time chat tool, a project management/task management tool, a knowledge base tool, and a file sharing tool. Better yet if you have one tool that can do all of the above.
Encourage engagement everywhere. Line the hallway and meeting rooms with whiteboards and encourage team members to draft plans and brainstorm ideas on them. Reward those who contribute.
Tips for Effective Team Management
Now that the project is underway, it’s your job to keep everyone motivated, on track, and working together. Motivational speaker Brian Tracy said it best: Successful people are simply those with successful habits. Your team’s productivity habits are the magic ingredients to your project’s success. If you have the right team habits in place, your team will complete the project on time and collaborate without much friction.
Even if your team doesn’t have the right work habits now, you can help them build new, more productive behaviors. Just remember that it takes anywhere from 66 days to 8 months to cement a new habit. And proceed with sensitivity — after all, we humans are quite resistant to change.
Here are 5 ways you can help your team build new habits:
- Lead by example. Define the habit you want the team to practice, then do it yourself. Be the role model. Your team will follow your lead when they see the benefits of this new habit on your daily work.
- Find your early adopters. Get assistance from your team evangelists — the enthusiastic team members who can quickly adopt new tools or new behaviors and can help but spread it to the rest of the team.
- Use small wins to gain big victories. Small wins can motivate the team to keep going the rest of the way, even though it may seem difficult at first. Celebrate progress no matter how small, and encourage team members to keep up the good work.
- Motivate your team. Intellectual reasoning won’t always work without some emotional heft behind it. Give your team incentives to practice this new habit. Make it fun.Turn it into a game. Be creative.
- Blend new habits with old. It’s always easier to transition to new habits when you piggyback on older, existing behaviors. It makes the new habit feel more familiar and ensures a more natural transition. Identify behavior your team is already doing well, and help them take it to the next level.
Learn more about these 5 tactics to increase team effectiveness in our free ebook: 5 Strategies for Forming Team Productivity Habits.