10 Tips for Project Managers
This past semester, I had the opportunity to be a Project Manager. I was enthusiastic to take on this role, but it was a completely new experience for me and I did not know what to expect. Many times I had to trust my own judgment because there was not a standard procedure or guidelines that I could refer to. After my successful experience, I feel as though I can provide advice to future Project Managers to ensure a smooth and productive semester! Here are my top ten tips over three key areas: team, client, and deliverable.
- Build a passionate team: Once my chapter received our three clients, the Project Managers gave a brief presentation on the company and members on the consulting track ranked their interest in each of the projects. This helped develop teams who were interested in the company even before the work began.
- Communicate: My team used GroupMe to communicate. Our chapter has weekly meetings, so my team would meet in person at these meetings to discuss our progress and work together. After these meetings I used GroupMe to send reminders on what work should be done before the next meeting. Additionally, I found it very helpful to create a work plan on Google Sheets that listed the dates of our meetings, the individual work to be brought to each meeting, and the major dates including meetings with the client and due dates for final deliverables. My team also used collaborative tools such as Google Slides and Google Docs so we all had easy access to information as we were working.
- Be a leader, but also a team member: My team had three other members, for a total of four people including myself. This small team did not leave any room for me to simply direct my team. Most of the time, I was a team member first and a project manager second. I did not hesitate to do research with my teammates which helped me become even more involved with the project. However, when it was necessary to be a leader, I made sure that I was always motivational, positive, and accessible should one of my team members have a question or concern.
- Be personable and confident: In my first email to my client, I did not know what to say. I ended up sending an introductory email which included my major, involvement, and interests. I felt that it would help the client to understand who he was working with. I think the client appreciated this and it helped make our initial call run smoothly. Additionally, it helped me feel as though the client knew me and allowed me to feel confident in my abilities as a consultant!
- Ask questions: One thing that I did not expect was to have to ask so many questions. I thought the client would have the project written down and ready to go for us, sort of like a case study in class. Then I quickly remembered, this isn’t class, this is the real world and not everything will be handed to me so easily. There ended up being a lot of back and forth between me and the client as I would ask questions, he would answer, I would ask another question to make sure I understood, he would clarify, etc. By the second and third calls, I become much more comfortable with this process, and I was able to walk away from the calls feeling as though I knew exactly what to do instead of walking away with more questions. If you think you have a question, ask ask ask!
- Communicate frequently: As Project Manager, I was the bridge between the client and my team. I sent weekly updates to my client via email and coordinated occasional calls with my client to discuss the details of the project. My client and I used Google Hangouts for these calls. Due to some wifi issues, we found that the connection was best when we turned off the video function of the call and only used audio (maybe this will help you too). At one point, the timeline that I had sent to the client got off which caused a delay in our final deliverable. Instead of ignoring this, I sent a brief email to the client to explain this because I decided it was better for the client to know and understand rather than be waiting for a deliverable that was delayed. The client was extremely understanding and supportive.
- Ask your client for his/her preference: My team’s project occurred in two phases, which meant two different deliverables. The client never specified what kind of deliverable he wanted, so we used a PowerPoint for the first project. For the second project, the client requested that we use Google Slides. One thing that is important to keep in mind is if you will be presenting the deliverable to the client, or simply sending it to him. If you are just sending the deliverable, make sure that you have enough words on the slides that the client will understand your recommendations and ideas without a formal presentation. (This is not an issue if your deliverable is a report.) Also, use the TAMID slide deck because it really gives your final deliverable a polished look!
- Frame the question: I touched on this in tip 5, but my experience led me to understand that working with a client is very different than being handed a case study in class. This tip is something that I gained most as a Project Manager who was used to being handed questions that I had to answer. In this situation, I was handed ideas that were big, messy, and could take on what seemed liked hundreds of directions. Before I framed the question, my team struggled to work productively and to organize our ideas. Once I sat down, created an outline, and communicated it to my team, our project become much more clear.
- Quality counts: For both projects, I never aimed for a set number of slides or statistics. Instead, I allowed my team members to do multiple phases of research, which helped fill in any holes and make sure we effectively supported our recommendation. We were able to choose the strongest information from all of our research, which provided quality research.
- Be flexible, be dedicated, be enthusiastic: My experience as Project Manager was incredible and not only provides me with an impressive talking point, but is also something that I learned from and am proud of. I know people tell me things like “I learned so much from this” all the time, but I hope you understand the potential you have to learn from this experience. You are truly a business consultant for an international client. Embrace it.