7 indispensable project management tips

Roger A. Grimes

4. Nothing beats a room full of technicians
On the other hand, to meet certain challenges, nothing beats face time. When confronted with a befuddling technical problem, I like to get all involved technical people, each with his or her own expertise, in the same room. It's amazing how often an expert in one area can easily see the problem in someone else's area. We don't do anything in a vacuum. That little checkmark on the configuration panel that you didn't fully understand can mean the difference between success and failure. For obvious reasons, face-to-face meetings work better than videoconferencing or audio conference calls. Refer to this classic YouTube video if you have any doubt.

5. Micromanage as needed
This is one place where a project manager can shine. If any team members fall behind on their tasks, the project manager needs to get more involved. Project managers always say they don't like to micromanage. That's great for some team members, but others need the hand-holding and constant reminders, and they need to be identified -- and assisted -- early on.

6. Build in cushion time
I rarely see a project completed on its originally scheduled date. The only way around this is to tell the senior sponsor one due date and tell your entire team a different, earlier one. I'm sure some of you are rolling your eyes at the idea of an artificial deadline, but it's one of the only ways I know to ensure your team meets the real deadline.

I've seen some project managers put out an artificial deadline, then reveal the required drop-dead date. Don't do it. As soon as you reveal the true deadline, everyone's work pace will change to match the real due date, and you'll probably miss that one as well.

7. Make sure your lead technical person is the best available
Projects are a team activity. Unfortunately, some of the highest-paid technical people I meet either aren't very good or haven't completed a single project in production, even if they say they have. Their recommendations or mistakes often reveal that they're better at theory than practice.

On the flip side, technologists who have the most experience in the field are often cynical and negative. They can be headstrong and fight against success. True story: A senior consultant, helping to implement a product in a fairly common scenario, confidently told me that at least 70 percent of the computers involved in running his company's software fail on day one, and "there's nothing I can do." He was bragging about this. He said the failures were due to a slew of different problems, often because the managed client he was pushing was not configured correctly. Sometimes it was because of network problems, sometimes expired digital certificates -- and a ton of other reasons "not related to me."

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