Monday, November 28, 2022

How to Be an Effective Project Manager

 I have a confession: I do not have a bunch of project management experience. I have a lot of experience leading teams of developers and I have a lot of experience architecting applications and leading development. But I have mostly left project management to those people who are better at interfacing with product owners and who seem to have an easy time talking in large groups. That has historically not been me. However, more recently, I have moved into PM work and I have learned a lot in the process. I have also developed a strong respect for folks who do it particularly well. I hope one day to be among those. To that end, there are some things that I have learned over the last year about being an effective project manager. As a PM, I have had varying degrees of success over the last year, but these are goal posts. There probably is not anything groundbreaking here, but more a consolidation of my learnings. Ultimately, to be a successful PM, I think you need to know how to set clear goals for the project, how to understand the project, how to communicate with the team, and how to build trust.


Managing effective communication is a major component of any project. When you are not able to communicate effectively with your team, your project will suffer. The result is missed deliverables, inefficient decisions, and internal conflicts.

The Project Management Institute has estimated that 40 percent of all project failures are a result of ineffective communication. To prevent this from happening, you must know what to communicate and who to communicate it to.

For effective communication, you should always consider your audience. Depending on the audience, you may need to use different communication templates. Using a communication template is a good way to keep the information you disseminate consistent and accurate.

Effective communication also ensures that all key players remain aligned with your project’s goals. Whether you are communicating internally or externally, you need to ensure that everyone understands the project’s purpose. You should also be mindful about language barriers. At DBA we believe in working with the best developers we can regardless of their location on the globe. This gives us access to an amazing developer pool, but can introduce challenges in terms of communication. I believe the key here is to be open and honest, forgiving, and flexible. If you can do that, geographic distribution and cultural differences should not inhibit success.


Managing projects is a team sport, and building trust is a must. Without it, knowledge sharing becomes difficult and collaboration becomes nearly impossible. Building trust takes time, and requires consistent actions over time.

Developing trust in a team allows people to focus on the task at hand and rely on others for help. In addition, trust facilitates better communication and decision making.

Developing trust also creates a sense of safety and a collaborative environment. People who trust each other are more likely to take actions on face value, debate new ideas, and delegate more responsibility. By contrast, when people lack trust, they feel defensive and spend time protecting themselves. They also tend to have less innovative ideas and be less productive.

There has been substantial research on trust in project management that seeks to understand what drives trust and how to establish it. For me, I think it comes down to two things: facetime and respect. We need to spend time talking with each other to develop trust. Often, the topics of these conversations need to be non-work related things. We are whole people, and trust requires more than just a portion of us. We have to trust that the other folks on our team are aligned in our goals, and committed to successful outcomes.

Research has shown that there are two main situations where trust is needed. One trust type is based on whether someone can do the job or if someone can take care of their interests in a predictable manner. Another trust type is based on whether someone is trustworthy and does their job honestly. To be successful you need to be competent and the members of your team to know you are competent and even a competent engineer cannot be effective in a team if he is a jerk.

This leads into a similar point. In order to succeed, the project manager needs to strike a balance between leveraging his or her own strengths and leveraging the talents of the rest of the team. For example, a project manager should delegate work to team members with more experience while still providing less experienced team members with growth opportunities. A project manager must remain vigilant in their efforts to keep everyone on the team both productive and content.

Setting clear goals for your project

There are some areas where I have found that project management and people management are similar. For instance, just as in people management, creating SMART goals for your project is one of the most important tasks in project management. It helps to define the scope of your project, as well as the progress you are making, in a measurable and relevant way. This is an area that I failed to appreciate early on, but will absolutely pay close attention to moving forward. This allows you to both understand what is happening in the project and to make strategic decisions.

There are many different types of goals you can choose to set for your project. These range from specific, time-bound objectives, to broader, more abstract goals. The goals for any given project will vary and need to be defined in consultation with stakeholders. The goals you set should be relevant to your team, your product, and your company. The first two are obvious, but the third might need a little more explanation. DBA is an opinionated firm. While there are some consultancies out there that will take any project, DBA focuses on technological fit, principles, and probability for success before taking on new projects. With this in mind, defining success here is more than just getting the job done on budget. Although, project scope, time frame, and budget are significant factors in setting goals.

The best way to set goals is by using a step-by-step process. I have always found daunting tasks (like setting goals for an entire project) are much more approachable if you just define the first goal. That will often open the door to subsequent goals and in the end reveals the larger picture. This approach will ensure that each step of the way the goals are relevant and attainable.

Setting clear goals for your project is also important because it helps your team stay focused and aligned. It also helps you deliver a quality product, and ensures that the project meets its deadlines. It’s also important to establish an “open door” policy for your team. This includes keeping them informed about project progress and allowing them to contribute their ideas and insights. This allows for a more collaborative, productive, and successful project.

Managing expectations

Managing expectations is crucial to the success of any project. It is one of the project manager’s most important jobs to make sure that expectations are aligned with reality, which results in a happy customer at the end of the project. This is particularly important in a project where stakeholders have different expectations.

When managing expectations, it is important to follow a set of guidelines. This should include preparing a list of goals, defining roles and responsibilities, determining costs and identifying resources.

One place where I have seen failures in the past is in committing to unachievable goals. The project manager should never commit to delivering something that is not deliverable in the time window available. This will lead to a project failure and angry or disappointed product owners. As a PM, you have to listen to stakeholders, develop realistic expectations, and be prepared to counter unreasonable demands. The project manager should also record all stakeholder requests. This helps with the evaluations and gives an idea of how each stakeholder’s requests are influencing the project.

A good way to manage expectations is to make sure that each team member understands their own roles and responsibilities and also understands the larger picture. Often, a team member comes to the table with a vision of what the project will look like. That visions does not necessarily match the vision of the client and the PM is responsible for aligning those visions.

Agile methods

Whether you’re new to project management or looking to improve your current skills, you really need to learn about Agile methods for effective project management. These methods provide a framework to help organizations improve their delivery process and achieve better results. The methods also help teams develop better communication and collaboration skills.

Agile is a method that puts focus on the human factor and emphasizes flexibility. It encourages managers to create projects in short cycles, so they can be adapted to changes. It also favors customer-driven goals. But regardless of the methodology you choose, you can only make good choices if you are informed on what your choices are. Ultimately, your team will determine your process. A more experienced team is likely to need less formal process than a more junior team and personalities on your team will also dictate who kind of process you use for your projects. As a PM, you just need to make sure that the processes are organized smoothly and there is buy-in.

The Agile method is generally flexible enough to fit most situations as it puts user’s needs first, with shorter sprint cycles to ensure that users can get a return on investment as early as possible. It also emphasizes customer collaboration and regular updates to get feedback.


I know there might not be a lot of earth shattering information here, but this is just a take away of a few things that I believe are important when managing a new project. Perhaps it will be helpful for someone just getting into project management, or if nothing else it was a useful exercise for me to record what I have learned.

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