Do's and Don'ts of Project Managment: 5 Habits of an Effective PM

I have been managed by a fair share of project managers and have acted as one myself over other freelancers on some projects — here’s what I have learned in the process.

Know what you want.

A project Manager who isn’t clear on what they want or what their client wants can cause an other wise cut and dry project to go completely haywire. Before giving instructions on step one, it is best to know your plans on steps 2, 3, 4, etc.

And in those cases where something unforeseen causes the plan to break at step three? You need a contingency plan as well.

Starting a project with a half laid plan is like a pilot taking up a jet liner without a flight path – its stupid and risky! Know every detail and be ready to make decisions on your toes. phrases like “i don’t know” and “I’m not sure” should not be part of your vocabulary, lets try “I’ll have my decision on this detail in the morning!” or “this is the approach we are going to take…”

Open up your ears, and your mouth.

project management isn’t for the timid. You need to be able to listen to your clients and make key decisions in their best interest – you are the expert – they have hired you for your expertise! Too often PM’s fall into the trap of simply becoming a telephone between the client and the freelancer, relaying what the client says to the designer/developer/writer and leaving it up to the freelancer to attempt to manage the project, which proves to be impossible with a middle man translating all of the feedback and instruction but offering no real management.

If you choose to outsource you work and take on the role of project manager, be ready to fill that role — other wise, simply refer your client to hiring someone directly.

Know your shit

Like managing anything else, It is important to have an understanding of what your team is doing. Now I’m not saying that every project manager needs to be fluent in web development to manage a web team – but you should at minimum understand the difference between HTML and PHP, know a widget from a framework and be willing to spend some extra time educating yourself on the tools being used if you’re not familiar with them.

Don’t pretend you know and think your team will be fooled, they will not be, and neither will your client.

“In my experience, this lack of understanding is the single biggest reason why projects delay and run over budget, why expectations are shattered and why subordinates find themselves frustrated and overworked.” – Tod McKenna

Don’t get personal

“At my job I project manage a lot of our projects, and something that I have seen hurt projects is to personalize them. To look at the players involved and identify their portion of the project with them as a person or how they work.

This can cause the team, and project goals to get lost in stereotypes, or pre-supposed ideas.
(i.e “well they are just saying that because they are engineers, so they only want to see engineering as the priority”) I been on both sides of this as a team member, and a PM.

The key is to see each member of the team as representing project needs, this eliminates personal feeling and opinions from hindering the project.” – Aaron Irizarry

Work as hard (or harder) than your team

Project Management is about delegating tasks, not ignoring the work. There no better way to create a bitter and ineffectve team than by not putting in your fair share of blood, sweat and tears.

At an old job I would regularly be juggling client calls, emails, design and production tasks while my art director spent half of the day shopping online and reading gossip blogs.

I have a PM / Boss that is writing a medieval “Lord of the Rings” type novel with herself as the main character. I know this because she does it in the office during work hours instead of meeting her deadlines. It’s awesome.” – James

Share your story

Have you worked under a PM who let the project get away from them? Have you struggled to effectively manage a team? Leave a comment and let us hear about it!