Effective project management practices

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Effective Project Management

  • Themes?
  • making sure have clear roles and responsibilities
  • documentation
  • communication across time and space
  • power dynamics
  • efficiency
  • tools
  • managing buy-in over time with multiple stakeholders

Methods of synchronous and async comms Way to track who is responsible for what, maybe it's task mgt, maybe it's who is who Way to share docs and artifacts or people to comment on Agreed upon decision making method Client Asset management, like contacts, client documentation

Need a shared understanding of what the project is and its scope

How to handle changes in group dynamics when a project with no money gets a chunk of money.

Need clarity in decision making structures, regardless of what that structure is. What constitutes a decision? Must be done before there's pressure to do so.

Collective assignment of responsibility can be better than collective responsibility. That role can and probably should switch periodically with up-front understanding of when and how.

Valuing all types of labor necessary for a collective project is required, but project management is often devalued in collective contexts.

More efficient for debate to happen before a meeting--an item must be on agenda a week before meeting. Enables people to weigh in at appropriate time--core project management skill. Some people debate better over text/email instead of vocally, which can also help with language issues.

Know when to bail out, when to let go, to prevent meetings eating up budget.


  • How to bring in a PM to a team that hasn't had one

If ramp up for PM on existing project can bee too much. Have them make sure nothing falls between cracks for first while so they can get a feel for things. Important for designers, devs, to have connection with client but PM was first line of contact. As a client, when someone like PM gives regular, consistent updates provides ongoing peace of mind. Super valueable to client. PM helps keep project on scope and deadline, holding everyone to the agreed schedule. First and last eyes on schedule, work out first round of kinks before showing rest of staff. Collect and compile feedback to send to agency resolving potentially discordant feedback. Makes sure everyone understands what's needed to stay on schedule. Make sure PM is values-aligned with the team. Role of PM is make client and agency successful. Should be designer/dev's best friend. Cultivate what your needs are, PM gets that and maps to culture of client. If have discreet PM instead of direct with project team, client might feel worse because feel can't talk with the team. Can run interference between technical people and client to help with differences in terminology--great translator. PM should know everything broadly about the project, knows who to talk to on deep questions.

Emphasize to client: don't blame the process. Sometimes clients have to recover from a bad vendor. May have to tweak what you'r doing, but doesn't mean PM or process is bad.

In a way you're a benevolent bull shitter. Easy to get a bad PM because it's a social skill. Can be a from-below service position to move things along instead of gatekeeper or controller. Core skill, when in meeting wrapping up, "My understanding of feedback you're giving me is X." Ability to synthesize what people saying and reflect it back to them. Plan for recap time at end of meeting.

Think critically about project, stage, client to know who should be in meetings with clients.


  • To keep track of decision making through time

Establish strong process. Know and agree ahead of time where storing this info. Track all internal decisions somewhere, even making a ticket for decisions made on the phone. Decisions with client should also get documented similarly, but if a change of scope make a signed change order that describes subtractions, additions, changes to cost. Change orders enable managing resources of project in clear communication with the client. Manages expectations.

Need clear intentional process for communicating how and when the deliverables are going to change. The how may differ from project to project.


  • Volunteer Management

Can be hard to tell volunteers what to do, especially when they know more about a subject area than the project management. Like they're there for volutary application of extreme expertise. Helps to match needs.

Extreme example: someone had years exprience as software dev was working on project, nothing seemed to be getting done. If anyone questioned them on it, response was lots of technical jargon which can shut down the questioning and halt the process. Getting someone else with the expertise to weigh in can cut through the jargon and provide more independent but knowledgeable perspective.

Setting temporary draft values or working agreement for a project or sprint can help iron out issues. Provides temporary shared constraints. Reminding someone they don't have to do something means they can shed guilt and bow out. That way not stuck with people poisoning an org who don't want to be there.