While the final outcome of a project is certainly due to the efforts of many different people, the effectiveness of a project manager can disproportionately sway the success or failure of any endeavor. You may not always have control over who the members of your team will be on a project, the only variable you can control is you. Enhancing your skill and knowledge as a project manager is one of the best ways to ensure your project runs smoothly and successfully. How to Become a Successful Project Manager Developing effective project management skills takes work and dedication. This list of five proven project management tips are principles you can start using today. They are vital for the success of any venture. Incorporate them into your day to day dealings to maximize both your achievements and those on your team. #1. Be an Information Leader One of the most important roles you’ll play as a project manager is key decision maker of the team. Whether you’re directly overseeing the performance of a particular task and guiding its entire progress, or you’re simply delegating to another, any choice (within reason) that needs to be made about the project should go through you. And that means you need to become a pro at gathering all the pertinent information before you decide on an issue. Consult experts. Do your own research. Consider all the angles of an issue and take the time to truly investigate a problem before making a decision. The more information you have about a topic, the better able you’ll be to make data-driven decisions that are not only effective, but justifiable to the stakeholders as well. When managing a project you should always be asking questions. The only way to provide everyone with the information they need to be successful is to have the answers to any problems that may arise. The more questions you ask, the more answers you’ll be able to provide later. Never has anyone said – “I wish I’d asked less questions!” #2. Plan It Out A meticulously crafted and extensive plan is the foundation on which a successful project is built. It not only provides your entire team with a clearly defined direction, but also helps you identify possible issues that may pop up down the line. Before you begin to create a plan, gather everyone involved and assess what their questions or concerns are and discuss similar projects along with any knowledge gained from working on those that could be beneficial to the current project. Defining project details, setting up time-sensitive deliverables, and identifying key stakeholders are just some of the necessary steps in creating an effective project plan. The more information and effort you put into your project outline before starting, the smoother the development is bound to be. Encourage others to read over the plan and offer their input. Are there areas that are confusing to them or leave them needing more information than provided? Your plan should be meticulous enough that the project can continue to run seamlessly even if you are not there to oversee it. You can’t always be available to field questions but your plan should be a guide on where to look for the answers. #3. Keep It Organized Impeccable organization is one of the most important predictors of success. Selecting appropriate project management software is just the first step. The best software won’t make a difference if you don’t understand how to best leverage its features or you fail to use the tools consistently. It’s important to use the right tools for the people and the project. You can’t expect the same tools to work equally well from one project to the next. Project managers should also apply organization strategies to areas like communication, by using mediums that can be revisited later for clarification, such as email and meeting minutes. Organization when it comes to communication means documenting everything so it is accessible. Meetings should be recapped with action items highlighted and sent out. Cloud storage has replaced the ledger folders of yesteryear but the folder should still contain every piece of information related to the project – email chains, project updates, etc. What’s more, detailed accounts of processes and obstacles will help you determine what contributed to the success or failure of a project and learn from your experience. A failure to keep the accounts can lead to history repeating itself. #4. Set Reasonable Goals Setting and tracking project milestones throughout the course of the development is absolutely integral to the project’s overall success. They’ll not only provide key performance indicators (KPIs) to help chart progress, they’ll also give your team a defined direction and thus boost productivity as well. Setting vague or unrealistic goals, however, can have the opposite effect entirely, which is why you need to make sure your goals adhere to SMART guidelines. Keeping a growth mindset in mind create goals which are attainable but challenging. Employees relish the opportunity to rise to a challenge and prove their capabilities. Their success is a positive indicator o your abilities as a leader. #5. Anticipate Setbacks Risk evaluation is a crucial step in effective project management and should be implemented during the planning phase, as well as throughout the project life cycle. Before committing to a specific solution, take the time to consider the ways it might go awry, which aspects of the project will be affected, and how to recover from problems. Often overlooked but equally vital is to include places for testing and time delays due to any errors or issues that may come up during the project. Your project plan needs to be based upon a realistic and achievable timeline. Additionally, maintaining strong organization and goal management will aid in recognizing and evaluating new risks as the project progresses. Having a risk mitigation plan in place beforehand will also help you create a realistic timeline and prepare for problematic issues ahead. All parties involved should sign off on a change form any time the project scope or sequence deviates from the original plan. Timelines should then be adjusted accordingly allowing for additional testing and revisions as needed. Effective Project Management: The Key to Success Given the level of responsibility and accountability that comes with overseeing a project, the role of project manager can be quite overwhelming. The role wasn’t just handed to you though. You’ve earned the title and have the necessary skills to be successful. It’s important to remember that in addition to managing a project you are also managing people. Anticipate what their needs will be and provide them with the tools they need to deliver a worthy project. Gather information, take time to plan, use technology to stay organized, set reasonable goals, and proactively manage risk for your best chance to succeed.