Project managers are critical in achieving organizational goals and adding value by ensuring effective and quality output. Steady refinement has focused on process improvement, but new technologies, culture and remote workforces have led to the need for continued skill development. Successful project management today requires a project manager to embrace and stay updated with technologies and strategies to have a dynamic tool kit, bridging challenges in the current work landscape.
Continuous improvement has the benefit of helping identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks and problem areas within project processes. A project manager who keeps current with the latest practices will also support proactive risk management by regularly evaluating project performance and identifying potential risks or issues. Long-term improvement can span beyond just projects – it can involve changing culture and offerings. Embracing continued improvement can lead to the evolution of processes and the revolutionization of offerings. Let’s explore critical challenges, strategies for overcoming key challenges, tools for increasing productivity and practical project management tips.
Current Challenges in Today’s Landscape
Technology has opened many avenues for project managers to explore. However, many resist change or need help leveraging modern tools to enhance their capabilities. This is further compounded by the broader introduction of remote work, which has changed the work landscape. Remote and hybrid teams face different working methods, communication styles and cultures. Many organizations have also developed a preference for specific project management styles and have yet to pay attention to other forms that may be better suited to them. This makes it increasingly challenging to create self-organizing teams, which is the backbone of an effective, successful project management team.
These changes also impact a project manager’s ability to assess a project’s current state. This can affect their ability to accurately communicate the project’s status with stakeholders and keep projects on track. Along with being unable to assess the current state, project managers are having issues ensuring that company strategy and goals align. This causes inefficiencies and wastes time reaching goals with the wrong approach.
Growth Strategies for Project Managers
The continuous improvement path to meet the aforementioned challenges is centered around increasing team problem-solving, collaboration and relationship management to drive results. Continuous enhancement can manifest itself in many ways. Educational and professional experiences are building blocks of an ongoing development initiative by staying current on best practices and cutting-edge approaches. Due to a skills gap in the workforce, focusing on learning can help overcome deficiencies in knowledge. These learnings can be done by attending or leading knowledge-sharing workshops, training and certification courses. These experiences ensure that everyone is exposed to new and practical improvement methods.
Along with learning, creating and maintaining proper documentation is another way to assist project managers and teams. Comprehensive documentation, templates and standardized procedures allow for efficiency and consistency. This is achieved by team members having a reference point to refer to during uncertain or ambiguous issues. This documentation should also be placed on an easily accessible platform. Documentation should be living documents updated by everyone and provided during onboarding. Platform and tool selection is also essential to adopting a continuous improvement mindset. The right tools allow project managers to achieve and exceed the delivery of the minimum required output.
Once you have updated and added to your knowledge base, processes and application selection, you can focus on the two significant improvement outcomes. These two outcomes are to evolve and revolutionize. The usual understanding of constant upgrading is around changing. This manifests itself by improving processes and procedures. This is a significant outcome but may only have benefits internally and its value may only be seen by some. Once you evolve, efforts can be shifted to revolutionizing. This develops, creating something that is not currently offered or exists. This gives more value externally as more problems can be solved.
Tools and Technologies for Ongoing Improvement and Successful Project Management
A myriad of whiteboarding, prioritization, collaborating and planning tools exist to assist project managers in performing in a constantly changing work environment. A few of the most popular collaboration tools are Miro, Microsoft Teams, Slack, LucidChart and Notion. These applications allow a project manager to interact with team members while working on deliverables and facilitate problem-solving sessions to avoid wasted time and effort. The project manager can create an organized space where the team can work and they can monitor progress in real-time. This allows for transparency and accountability for each team member. Some applications may only do it some, or some may be better than others. In this case, leveraging multiple technologies and linking them by embedding links is an effective way of creating an effective collaboration process.
Alongside collaboration, there are some tools specifically oriented for project management. These tools include Jira, Smartsheet, Microsoft Project, Monday.com and Asana. These tools offer features such as progress tracking, timelines, task assignments, Gantt charts, attachments, automation and resource management. These tools give a project manager more control over managing a project. A centralized workspace with features that ensure effective organization and tracking is essential. This makes it easier for a project manager to quickly get an overview of projects and effectively communicate updates with stakeholders.
Implementing Processes in Your Organization
When executing a culture and process for process improvement, there are a few steps to consider to ensure it is straightforward and successful. The first step is clearly defining the initiative’s objectives, goals and success criteria. This ensures that everything is clear and precise on the purpose and expected outcome of the initiative. The next step is to develop an implementation plan. This plan should include a timeline, allocate resources and have clear responsibilities. Lastly, communicate the continuous improvement process’s purpose, benefits and expectations to all stakeholders. Ensuring stakeholder buy-in is essential. A properly socialized initiative will ensure that leadership supports the initiative and encourages others to participate. Communicating the value to end users will ensure that they take the time to participate and reap the reward of staying up to date.
Continuous improvement is an exercise of trial and error. It is thinking beyond the minimum requirements of a function and advancing into key differentiation and innovation within that function. With experimenting or trial and error, resistance to change will be a major roadblock to any new idea/initiative. To mitigate this roadblock, one must socialize the initiative by properly communicating its value with stakeholders and users and setting expectations that upgrading is an ongoing process that will need to evolve with time. Early communication and inclusion of stakeholders ensure that everyone has a say and feels invested. Having buy-in helps preempt any resistance, allows for ownership and fosters collaboration to keep everyone growing.
Embracing Continuous Improvement for Project Management
The work landscape constantly changes and a continuous improvement mindset and culture allow project managers to be ready for any challenge, leading to successful project management strategies. Those who are not up to date risk staying behind or using an approach unsuited to meet new challenges in today’s landscape can cause inefficient use of resources. If leveraged correctly, numerous tools exist in the marketplace, drastically increasing productivity and allowing project managers to take on more valuable tasks. Ongoing enhancement is a mindset not limited to process but should also be extended to education and technology.