4 Ways to Exceed Expectations as a Project Leader
As a project leader the outcome of your project ultimately rests on your shoulders. You are the one who is accountable for on-time, to-budget delivery and meeting the scope of the project. You are also responsible for keeping all of your customers informed – both internal and external. But how do you manage your execution team, your executive team, the customer and other project stakeholders without losing your mind? All while also keeping up with risk management, key performance indicators and communication...
Today, I’d like to talk about four ways that you can exceed expectations as a project leader and get the most out of your team.
How to Exceed Expectations as a Project Leader
#1: Customer Engagement
Let’s start with engaging the customer. The customer is your ultimate boss. They fuel company growth and can make or break an organization. This is true regardless of your project or company’s size.
Every project that you manage involves knowing what your customer expects. It is important to ask them how they are doing and what problems they are facing. But more importantly, you must listen to what they say. This gives you an opportunity to hear their un-met expectations and determine how you can better solve their problems or concerns. The goal is to fill in the blanks, but not be too pushy.
Sam Walton once said, “Exceed your customer's expectations. If you do, they'll come back over and over. Give them what they want – and a little more.” This starts with knowing what your customer wants and expects.
Once your project is up and running, a common issue that arises is communication. In the 2017 Deltek Clarity report, collaboration and communication ranked as the third biggest project management challenge. The good news is that collaboration and communication ranked #1 in the previous year, suggesting that the PMO is finding better ways to engage with project management teams.
Imagine managing a project without any form of communication. Unless you’re producing something on your own and for yourself, it would be wholly impossible. Why? Because projects are often complicated with various layers of details, requirements, and decisions. Each step requires a new task to discuss, because it’s dependent on another task or decision—or even another person. Sure, you can make it so all of those decisions are funneled through your favorite project management planning tool, but just a plan or a tool won’t help you to complete a project successfully. In order to be a successful project manager you have to use your communication skills first, and the tools second. That’s right, PMs: if you’re not making a strong effort to communicate with your team, you will likely fail.
Another common reason why projects fail is related to visibility. All three tiers of the project team – executive management, project managers, and team members – need access to the right level of information at the right time. I refer to this as Right Data, Right Time, Right Role.
Executives often complain that they do not have visibility into all current enterprise projects. They often do not have access to the project schedules in real-time. Sometimes project managers present the plan at the outset of the project, then become gatekeepers of the schedule, claiming to executives that the schedule has not been updated recently and is not ready to be shared. Project managers themselves often lack visibility into all of the projects their resources are working on. Many times they share team members with other project managers, so they may not know exactly what tasks the resource is working on that day. And the most frequently heard complaint from team members is that they lack visibility on a day-to-day basis about the tasks that they are supposed to work on. If they are working on multiple projects at one time, they are often confused about task priority. The best way to overcome visibility challenges is with the right combination of tools, process, and people-based changes.
#4: Be Proactive and Accountable
Gathering metrics on a project is the most sophisticated project management process, and can be the hardest. Because metrics can be difficult to define and collect, they're usually ignored or handled poorly. All projects should be gathering basic metric information regarding cost, effort, and cycle time. However, you must also collect metrics that determine how well the deliverables satisfy the client's expectations and how well the internal project delivery processes are working. Depending on the results, you can undertake corrective action or process improvement activities to make the processes more efficient and effective.
In short, to be a successful, effective project leader, you must engage your customer, have open lines of communication, have visibility into project status and have an accountable team. By combining these key ingredients into your project management practice you will be better equipped to exceed expectations. Which ultimately leads to more business. During a recent webinar, I went into a lot more details on the topics above. I encourage you to check it out and let me know if any of the tipcs can help you at your business.
How to Exceed Expectations as a Project Leader
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