Project Management: DOs and DON’Ts of Managing a Project Team

Categories: Management Tips
Updated July 2020

Project management isn't solely about managing projects, it's also about managing a project team. And being a good project manager isn't only about delivering successful projects. It's also about being a good manager of your team. Or maybe it's still about acing the projects you take on because it's really the people in your team that make all the acing possible.

To keep you on top of your game, look through these DOs and DON'Ts of how to manage a project team. Are you doing all the DOs? Are you doing some of the DON'Ts? We hope you do. And that you don't. 

The DOs and DON'Ts of how to manage a project team

The DOs and DON'Ts of managing a project team in project management. And some tips on how to manage a project team better!

DO involve the team in decision making

No one expects you to discuss every little detail with your team. You should have a clear vision of how you’d want things to go, but taking suggestions and ideas from your team can never be a bad thing. If their thoughts are not on the same track as your goals, explain to them where they are going wrong while painting for them the bigger picture. Don’t equate involving your team more as losing control. On the contrary, a study found that involving employees in decision making increased productivity, innovation, and employee morale. So sit down together, define your resource plan, and execute it as a team!

Read on: check out our infographic on how to build a strategy plan for some more ideas.  

DON'T have a meeting just to have a meeting

Never conduct a meeting without an agenda. If you can’t come up with an actual agenda, you don’t need a meeting. On average, employees and managers attend 3.2 meetings per week. The quality of these meetings is evaluated poor in 41.9% of the cases. It’s often because we forget that meetings should be about communication. Your team will enjoy and benefit from meetings that are about solving problems and planning out an actionnot just sitting around a table for the sake of a meeting.   

DO use software for scheduling and planning

How do you manage a project team without an organizational tool? You don't!

Resource planning software will help you to map out your team’s assignments, track project progress and draw your attention to possible problems. If you pick web-based software, your team can have access to it from any device and the updates you make to the plans will be live the second you make them. You’ll also have a better overview of what your teams do.  

No matter the team, resource planning software can keep your project team's projects on track and en route for success.

DON'T get sucked into the blame game

The blame game is a direct descendant of fear - fear of failure, fear of confrontation, fear of being in an uncomfortable situation. And its bitter fruit is what you see when no one is daring to take responsibility and everyone’s just bouncing around the ball of errors until someone that gets tired takes the blame. 

A better way to fix problems is being open to them. Things go wrong and whether it’s because of a simple human error or technical slip up, everyone will benefit if you as a manager have set up a standard not to blame. Yes, the intern did send out the forms with the wrong dates. Yes, the shipment you have been waiting for and needed yesterday is still delayed. You took a risk with taking on the project in the first place and now it feels like everything is going to south. Whatever it is - the blame game won’t fix it. But you can, if you put your energy into coming up with solutions instead of pushing around the blame.

DO set your team up for success

There’s a lot that you as a project manager can do, to give your team the upper hand. Starting from analyzing the projects that are finished, to allocating tasks to your resources that fit their skill set. Learning from your own mistakes is an old mantra but it’s still often forgotten. A project isn’t really finished until you haven’t drawn even the smallest drop of wisdom from it. Take that wisdom and apply it to the new project you are planning to take on. If there were gaps in the communication flow during the last project you were working on, try to understand what went wrong and fix your communication plan according to it. Have goals. Unclear objectives are one of the biggest contributors to failing projects. Make sure that you have enough free resources to complete the project, and whether or not their skills meet the needs of the project.

Read on: Resource utilization can help you better track your project success. Check out our blog post about resource utlization mistakes to learn from and see how to improve. 

Tracking resource utilization can help you make sure no resource is overburdened. And you know what the say about assumptions. "They make an ass of you and me."
You know what they say about assumptions, they make an ass out of you and me.

DON'T make assumptions

Assumption is the mother of all screw ups. It’s that easy. You assume the task you allocated to a resource is completed but its status hasn’t changed in the resource planning software? Ask the one that’s responsible for it. You assume everyone understands their assignments? Don’t assume. Be sure.

DO celebrate small victories

Especially, if your team has invested a lot of time and tortured a lot of brain cells to achieve a small victory. Is figuring out a bug in the software code your project’s goal? Probably not. Is it worth a pat on the shoulder and a sincere “Yay, good job!”? Definitely. And no matter how small the victory it never hurts to connect with your team.

Or use metrics such as project milestones to schedule a work BBQ or group outing. Not only will this show your team that you appreciate everything they do, it will be a good opportunity to help them blow off steam and regroup before the next big project.  

Don't let the small things go unnoticed. Show your team you care by scheduling some after hours social activities that can increase bonding.

DON'T overwhelm your team with TMI

This rule applies more to you personally than to your team. Don’t try to micromanage. Don’t make your team deal with details they don’t need. It can be hard to find the balance between what’s enough and what’s too much. Map out all the tasks that need to be completed in order to complete the project and allocate resources to those tasks. 

Set goals and milestones to keep track of the big picture. You don’t have to know every step your team members take to complete their tasks, you just have to have an eye on things that really matter. For managing information for your team, try out software that offers multiple levels of permissions, and use it for your gain. For example, you should hide any resource and task that isn’t connected to specific team members. If they are not involved in another project that you are managing, they don’t need to know the details of it.

DO ask for help 

Maybe the biggest DO of all!  When you're managing a project team, don't forget that you are a team. This automatically gives you backup whenever there's an issue. But help your team help you. Use tools that will up your communication game and improve project status tracking

Project and resource management tools can help you organize, prioritize, and strategize your entire project portfolio. And can make things like scheduling and the inevitable (and dreaded!) rescheduling fast and simple.

Do what's best for your team and your project management.

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