Project management techniques are essential when establishing a new project and building a team around it. While you might work with familiar faces from your existing team on many new projects, sometimes new projects require project managers to build an entirely new team or bring in new members to expand an existing team.
Managing project teams should be smooth sailing if you have the right people for the job. But conflicts and issues can arise, and when they do, they must be dealt with swiftly to prevent them from impacting your team and their work.
How to Manage Project Teams
If you’re wondering how to manage project teams, below are eight project management tools and techniques small businesses can use to create a cohesive team or mould an unruly team into a competent one.
Observation and conversation
The Observation/Conversation technique is well-known in project management. It is a technique that provides a direct way of viewing a team performing their jobs and process in their familiar environment – it’s also known as “job shadowing”. First, observe the group and its members before opening a conversation and establishing relationships with individual members.
Establish an “open-door policy” with your project team – meaning they can approach you with queries or concerns whenever they need to. An open-door policy encourages effective communication between yourself and your team and stimulates healthy discussion in the workplace.
Project performance appraisals
Project performance appraisals are usually annual or semi-annual meetings between you as manager and a team member to go over their performance for that time span. A project performance appraisal is a good time to discuss the team member’s performance so far and offer feedback.
Now is the time to explore further learning opportunities, gaps in knowledge, and training needs. You should discuss strengths as well as weaknesses and set goals with them to help them progress and grow their career – both as an individual and within the team.
Ahead of performance appraisals, it’s good practice to ask for 260 feedback from the rest of the team and other employees within the company with whom the employee has worked closely.
First-hand feedback is invaluable for you as a manager to understand your employees’ attitude and approach to work, and whether they are a strong team-player or not. While you might work well with these people day to day, other company members may have valuable insights that can help them learn and grow.
One unfortunate yet inevitable part of managing project teams is the conflict that can arise between team members. Conflicts within teams can disrupt processes and hinder your project’s progress, and they can make working environments unpleasant for everyone.
Conflict management is a skill that all project managers must master. It involves handling confrontations tactfully and constructively and encouraging resolution between coworkers when there is an issue.
As a project manager, establishing policies for conflict management is a good idea. Not only will this create a consistent process to stick to, but it means you’re prepared before an issue ever arises and won’t be caught unawares. This project management technique is a necessary tool for all small businesses managing a workforce.
QuickBooks Time can help you understand bottlenecks in a project and get alignment on how or what processes need to change to avoid issues from the outset. Such tracking software can also mitigate friction between employees as it provides managers with a great overview of the project tasks and timelines to ensure the team is working how it is supposed to.
An issue log is a simple list or spreadsheet that helps a project manager track issues that arise while working on the project. An issue can be defined as any unintended impact which directly affects your project timeline or your team’s performance. Issues might be unexpected delays, conflicts between project members.
An issue log should have sections to include:
- Issue number
- Issue details – what exactly happened.
- Category – this can help you to spot patterns if the same kinds of issues keep occurring
- Assigned to – the person responsible for fixing the issue
- Raised by – who raised the issue
- Priority – how soon does the issue need to be fixed
- Date – so you can track how long the issue took to be resolved
- Status – ongoing or resolved
- Comments – space to include any additional details to keep on record
An issue log is a great project management tool because it creates trust both within your team and with stakeholders that you’re managing the project effectively. It also allows you to look back on past issues to help resolve current problems.
Waterfall and agile methodologies
Managing project teams means providing them with the proper blueprints to build the project components correctly. Both the waterfall technique and agile project management methods help project managers map out the project work into separate phases and deliverables. These methods are used in software development projects to systematically define the steps and phases necessary to complete all project objectives.
The waterfall model depicts the project plan tasks and deliverables in a linear fashion, or sequential order. Each project team member has distinct tasks to move the project forward and reach the end goals. The agile model cuts a project into developmental parts, allowing for change and simultaneous collaboration between parts.
Where the agile model is flexible and can be approached in many ways, the waterfall methodology is rigid, where one task must be completed before the next can begin. The project’s nature can help dictate which of these techniques to use to map out project work and govern project members accordingly.
Work breakdown structure
The work breakdown structure, or WBS, is a more detailed version of the waterfall and agile project management techniques. Project management professionals use the WBS to construct a hierarchical skeleton of the entire project, categorized by tasks and deliverables necessary to move from one phase of the project lifecycle to the next.
Creating a WBS should happen at the planning stage of a project. Once created, managers can use this framework to track the project’s process, and manage project members based on their responsibilities and deliverables.
Critical path model
Where the waterfall and agile methods approach a project by its tasks and phases, the critical path method deals with the scheduling of the project. Professional managers will create a critical path analysis to schedule the required project activities within a predetermined time frame. This tool can help managers ensure that project members are completing all necessary tasks on time and within the parameters set out.
Using Project Management Techniques Alongside Software
Using the right software tools and techniques for project management, including conflict resolution and team building within businesses, is an integral part of managing people. Quality software like project and time tracking apps can improve your ability to manage team members and project tasks.
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