5 Productivity Hacks for Project Managers

The latest 2017 PMI Pulse of the Profession report reveals an upward trend in project management productivity that’s continued through the past few years. The findings showed that investing in project management pays off. Last year it paid in large ways. Organizations that invested in project management practices wasted 28 times less money than others. It’s no wonder companies burn spending through improper management. Project management could turn a chaotic project into a manageable one. Imagine your next project costing $10,000 instead of $280,000!

Other intriguing data revealed that for the first time in five years, more projects met goals and came in under budget. On the flip side, poor project management costs companies just under $100 million for every billion spent. That’s a significant amount of burn between these two stats!

If you find your team struggling with finding a project focus, some quick fixes can get everyone back on track. From encouraging individual teammates to collectively embracing new approaches, these hacks will not only make your team more productive, they’ll also make work more enjoyable for all.

So, let’s explore some productive project management hacks that you can implement today.

Time to Get Agile

The 2016 Pulse report pushed for a shift in thinking. One year later, and the results speak for themselves. Agile approaches drive 71 percent of the organizations polled. The overwhelming trend towards small, incremental builds is here. If agile methods don’t suit your team, consider a hybrid or blended methodology. One in five projects went this route last year.

Regardless what you use, make it competent. A competent strategy will make you ready to adapt when a project needs it. If you opt for a more rigid approach, you and your team could be in for a world of headaches without some maneuverability within your method.

Taking an agile approach means being a hands-on leader. Teradyne Engineering Manager Kevin Giebel told PMI about his company’s focus on agile. “The first and foremost challenge we have is trying to integrate agile into our existing project management framework,” Giebel explained. This integration includes pilot projects with a number of agile focused project managers. Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start small, take your time, and make improvements along the way.

Stay Goal Oriented with Communication

Seems obvious enough, right? On paper, yes. But once in application, many PMs and their teams tend to lose sight of communication. In doing so, they impact goals. Some team leads aim to keep meetings on track with methods like the Jeff Bezos’ famed Two Pizza Rule. By limiting the number of voices in the room, communication remains focused and on track. This is an excellent strategy but can be a challenge for larger teams.

Regardless of the room count, effective leadership stems from clear communication that reiterates goals and methods. Here are some ways you can get the ball rolling:

  • Minimize interruptions in meetings and chats. Stay on topic.
  • Keep side chatter off the threads, or relegated to specific conversations.
  • Turn off phone and email notifications in meetings whenever possible, and always close the door.

These subtle changes will improve efficiency. By keeping your teammates in the loop and focused on the tasks at hand, you get a more collaborative team that understands the goals laid before them.

Lead By Example. Delegate Work When Needed.

A work culture is contagious. To make it successfully spread, the Project Manager needs to be the prime source of motivation. Without a manager that handles time effectively, teams tend to decline in their performance as well. An efficient Project Manager knows when it is time to ask for help. It’s not that you aren’t capable of doing the work, it just doesn’t fit your current bandwidth. The PMI report found that 32% of survey respondents consider both technical and leadership skills a high priority – so show off with the tasks you can complete as manager and offload what’s bogging you down. That includes delegating tasks to teammates as well as outsourcing to freelancers as needed.

As Thrive Global’s James Philip recently mentioned, “Delegating can often lead to even more stress, but you have to learn when to let go.” He adds that, “You’ll just say to yourself: ‘if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself’ and you scurry away in a rampage to go get it done. The problem is, that isn’t helping you, the business or the team you’re trying to build up.” So, by not delegating you are harming your own efficiency and making the wrong impression on your team.

Imagine your work day if you tried these delegation steps:

  • Prioritize your work into pressing needs vs. the important needs that can wait a bit.
  • Be flexible – a common theme in project management!
  • Know when to cut loose a task. Some tasks will fall by the wayside if unimportant or not a top priority. Don’t be afraid to  trim your to-do list for optimal efficiency occasionally.

Work could be a bit smoother, right? Give it a shot. Your team won’t mind picking up the task when delegated properly.

Hire the Right People, then Encourage Them

Imagine a team that promotes learning and recognizes members for a job well done. That’s what a top team practices.

The 2017 PMI report revealed that top companies consider their team members high priorities. These organizations emphasize growth in technical, leadership, and business management skills. Jeff Zircher, Caterpillar Inc.’s Manager of Global Program Management, told PMI that his business’ focus was zeroed in on improving the talent pipeline when it came to project management. “We have a global team—spread across the world with different time zones challenges, cultures, and language barriers.” He elaborated, “there is a real challenge trying to maintain very similar expectations of standards or standard work.”

By hiring top quality workers and encouraging training, a Project Manager is sending the message that they want team members at their best. With all parties at their most knowledgeable and efficient, productivity thrives while everyone remains invested in the work. Once in place, remember, also, to encourage occasional breaks and recognize jobs well done. You’d be amazed how a small amount of praise impacts someone. PresentationLoad CEO Tom Becker-Schweitzer explained that, “Praise triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. Dopamine also contributes to innovative thinking and creative problem-solving! In essence, it’s not just a benefit to get praised, but managers and leaders also benefit from a better working team and an increased drive for innovation.”

Choose the Right Tools

2012 PWC poll found that 43% of Project Managers use no software. That number has surely dropped over the years, but that’s startling even for five years ago! Project Managers have a slew of tools to work with. It’s important to analyze your team’s needs and choose what works best for you. However, picking one can be tough. You only have so much time to demo and determine which tool is best for your project and you can’t get your team all aboard one tool just to have them jump ship for another one if it doesn’t suit your needs within the 30 day trial.

That’s why it’s key to keep your demo and research time to an efficient minimum. Tap into your personal PM community. If you don’t have one, join one. Read the forums. See what your peers prefer. If there isn’t an overwhelming consensus for a tool that matches your needs, demo a few of the best ones after doing some reviews yourself.

Speaking of an overwhelming consensus, you shouldtry Redbooth todayif you haven’t already. It integrates into your current tools like Evernote, Dropbox and Slack. Your team’s productivity will thank you for it.