In the LMS world, there are a variety of different projects ranging from the largest, such as a full system implementation, to the smallest, such as building out new course content. And don’t let the project’s size fool you. Just because a project is small doesn’t mean it’s not complex.
No matter what the industry, in all projects there is a common thread and that’s people. Project management success means success with people. So whether you’re a seasoned project manager, a novice, or you’ve never thought about project management before, there are some practical tips that can easily be put into practice to make even the smallest implementations a success.
Planning is one of the elements of project management that often gets skipped – and often due to time constraints. However, a good project plan is the key to getting your projects done on time and within budget. Developing a project plan is not just an exercise of thinking through and documenting all the steps necessary to complete the work. A project plan can include documentation on how the project will be conducted, how communications will happen, what resources are required, how risks will be managed, how changes will be managed, and more. Through this process, risks can safely be identified and mitigated or even prevented before they occur.
Project planning can take many forms, depending on the complexity of the project and the requirements of the organization. But don’t get hung up in the paperwork. Be practical – build project planning documents that fit the project well, help you track progress, and enable you to reach consensus. Teams perform more cohesively and more efficiently when there is a clear project plan that provides clear expectations, deadlines, and goals.
Project Managers must communicate with all project stakeholders from day one. You may think that’s a no-brainer, but surprisingly it’s a common mistake. Project managers often forget to ask questions like: “How am I doing?” Every stakeholder needs information about the project. Bottom line: Stakeholders are people – and people feel valued when you talk to them. Talk to them regularly – talk to them about what’s important to them regarding the project – ask them for feedback and advice.
Use written communication to define the work to be done, who will do it, and when. Don’t assume – define the work clearly and get consensus. Use verbal communication to encourage, compliment, and build up your team. Be mindful of your nonverbal communication. This can be as simple as encouraging happiness with a smile. Enthusiasm is contagious. Be courteous, concerned, and considerate.
Last but certainly not least, be authentic. Let’s face it – people are smart – they know when someone is being genuine and when they’re not. You may not always have a choice about who is on your team, but you always have a choice how you treat them. Authenticity leads to trust, respect, loyalty, and ultimately better performance. Teams will go the extra mile for an authentic project manager that they can trust.
The role of the project manager is changing. Projects traditionally have been viewed as organized work to achieve a certain goal. However, today’s projects are more like “journeys” or collaborations that contribute to the organization’s strategy and growth. As leaders of these new age implementations, project managers must employ stronger leadership practices.
Good project managers lead by getting out of the way. Project managers lead by serving their teams, removing obstacles, and making sure they have the tools they need to complete the work. This doesn’t mean project managers can’t wear multiple hats. Often project managers have their own work assignments in addition to managing the project itself. Keeping focus on the work they are assigned and getting out of the way so that other team members can complete their tasks is much more effective for the long term than the “hero” project manager who tries to do everything.
Documentation is another element of LMS project management that often gets skipped – due to time constraints or simply because we fail to see its importance. As mentioned above, project documentation enables project managers to reach consensus on the work to be done by communicating clearly and consistently to all stakeholders. But another big benefit of documentation is to share knowledge.
Often documenting is viewed as an extra task to be done when time allows. However, those who view documenting as an element of their day to day work will build a legacy of knowledge that can be shared across the organization now and for years to come.
With documentation from previous projects, a project manager can quickly learn the organization’s standards and practices regarding how they conduct projects as well as general templates for their own project documents.
There is a wealth of information available regarding the science of project management, its methodologies, standards, and practices – all of which provide tools and techniques for effective project management in any industry. But the secret to project management success is perhaps more about how well a project manager can relate to people. Practicing good communications, planning, leadership, and documentation are just a few ways to foster positive and productive relationships with your team members – which will lead to project success as well.