Ten tips for managing projects well

1. Balance the workload to make sure everybody carries their weight. This will ensure that things get done and will help with morale, especially during crunch periods and long projects.

2. Assign work with the good of the team members in mind. Part of your job as a manager is to foster your subordinates' professional growth, so put projects and people together in ways that will do that (see Ten tips for managing people well).

3. Make sure everybody knows what the goal is. This isn't a matter of simply passing through the requirements you get from above. Those must be translated and reframed so they make sense to your team. You may not achieve unanimity about the goal, but you should get to consensus. That way, the group itself can help police those on the team who underperform or still don't understand what's called for.

4. Work backward from early deadlines, not drop-dead deadlines, to determine starting and ending dates for various phases. It's helpful if you can pad these dates by 30 percent. As with budgeting for building a house, when the time comes, you'll need the extra.

5. Make sure everybody is clear who owns what. That includes not only doing the work, but also communicating about it -- and taking responsibility for it. If something comes up (or fails to), you and everybody involved needs to know who to ask about it. Give this information to everybody in writing at the beginning, then update it as necessary.

6. Send out status reports against the agreed-upon schedule at regular intervals: not constantly, but often enough to keep up a sense of urgency and allow for much-needed celebrations along the way. Give positive feedback about things that were done well and/or on time. Request adjustment in quality or timeliness as needed. This keeps everybody well informed and on the same page.

7. Use the "predominance principle." Make sure your group is predominantly functional, predominantly positive, predominantly good at communicating, and so on. It won't be perfect, but the group should be predominantly focused on the work itself, not distracted by chasing its own tail.

8. Analyze problems and ask the team to help solve them. Problems will probably fall into certain categories over and over again. Figure out what those patterns are, and enlist the group in figuring out how to do things differently. For example, if there are persistent bottlenecks in one part of the process, get the group to figure out why, and how to prevent the problem, without allowing finger-pointing. The constructive solutions that come out of such discussions may surprise you.

9. Model constructive communication and accountability for your team. Subordinates have built in BS-detectors, and they want leadership. Be accountable for your own work, participate in the process, and set an example of consistently framing things positively and assuming the group can find a solution.

10. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Far more things go wrong in projects because of undercommunication than because of overcommunication. If you lead the way in communicating enough, others will step up and do the same.

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