16 Smart Project-Management Strategies Every Tech Leader Can Use
Task and project management is a must-have skill in the technology industry, especially for tech leaders. Most are handling multiple projects and demands on their time, so it’s important to be able to prioritize and get everything done.
As some of the top professionals in the field, the members of Forbes Technology Council have spent years cultivating their project-management skills. Below, they share their go-to project-management strategies.
1. Let your team own the projects they’re passionate about.
One management strategy is to create an organization where people apply or sign up for the projects that they are passionate about. This requires that leaders end centralized management and disperse responsibility, creating a self-managing organization. Those who are passionate about a project manage it from beginning to end, often completing projects faster and with better results. – Sergei Anikin, Pipedrive
2. Set milestones and goals as a team.
A lot of tasks we end up focusing on are more related to activity than productivity. To make sure our focus is on productive tasks, the entire organization must be aligned on the organization’s goals and the tasks everyone must do to contribute to those goals. Once everyone understands their function, setting and focusing on milestones to accomplish larger tasks leads to better progress. – Randy Watkins, CRITICALSTART
3. Have a central communication tool.
The first and most important step is to define the goal of the project and clarify expectations. All modern project management comes down to managing expectations. The circulatory system of modern management is communication channels. The key communication tool is a task-management system combined with a knowledge base—something like Jira with Confluence. – Dennis Turpitka, Apriorit
4. Create an Eisenhower Matrix.
I look to Eisenhower for inspiration, and I utilize an Eisenhower Matrix daily. I make four boxes with “Urgency” on the x-axis and “Importance” on the y-axis. This allows me to bucket tasks into four categories: “Urgent/Important,” “Urgent/Not Important,” “Not Urgent/Important” and “Not Urgent/Not Important.” It’s a powerful way to figure out what needs to be done when. – Michael Zaic, Wild Sky Media
5. Hold regular standup meetings.
Quite a few principles fall under the agile project-management framework, but the one I find the most useful is having regular standups. In these meetings, team members go over what they’ve done and what they’re going to do, as well as if any roadblocks are in their way. This allows employees to go over every project they’re working on to give regular updates. – Kison Patel, DealRoom
6. Manage customer expectations.
Customers are notorious for adding to the scope or making changes to what they want. One of the best ways to deal with it is by managing the customer’s expectation of what they will get. This may mean that, as a manager, you will need to tell customers that their request is out of scope and requires a modification to the contract that may affect cost and/or timelines. – Michael Hoyt, Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.
7. Treat your days like sprints.
Time management is essential. I treat my days as sprints with specific time blocks for each activity. I leave two blocks in the afternoon to return to what I need to for additional review or followup. I set specific times for emails, phone calls, meetings, etc. And, importantly, I do not let them interfere with each other. – Wesley Crook, FP Complete
8. Monitor and address positive and negative risk.
Organizations with agile projects should realign their risk perceptions. Although negative risk must be carefully managed, teams should embrace positive risk to maximize business value. Risk matrices, risk burndown charts and risk-modified user story maps should be included on agile walls and must be adjusted to help teams identify, monitor and address both positive and negative risk. – Christopher Yang, Corporate Travel Management
9. Hire smarter people and nurture new leaders.
There is no greater joy as a leader than seeing those you have nurtured surpass you in talent and success. That is your lasting legacy. Hire people smarter than you and nurture their leadership abilities. There is the old adage of, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.” Develop a robust team of leaders and allow them to succeed. – José Morey, Liberty BioSecurity
10. Prioritize projects that move the needle.
Tech leaders are constantly juggling multiple projects and initiatives at once. But you need to select and prioritize projects that will make the biggest difference. Nonessential projects can actually result in productivity loss. Selecting the right projects is actually a skill that comes from an understanding of business strategy combined with a data-driven approach that will impact key performance indicators. – John Shin, RSI Security
11. Leverage managed services.
If you lead an engineering or development group and your tasks include maintaining toolsets, managed services can be a godsend. The same is true if you’re a systems or application administrator. Any service provider worth their weight can take things off your plate like admin and implementation, user training, troubleshooting, support issues, and the like. – John McDonald, ClearObject
12. Maintain a culture of accountability.
Even before specific task- or project-management skills come into play, it is important to maintain a culture of accountability. Start with yourself. Meet your own commitments and admit mistakes. Define your expectations. Ask for commitments. Be open to feedback. Coach people on how to be accountable and to hold others accountable, and understand what the consequences should be for poor performance. – Steve Pao, Hillwork, LLC
13. Lay out the details ahead of time.
Describe all the details and lay down all the plans even before the project is launched. This move is often underestimated, but it can really go a long way. Laying a solid foundation for projects will ensure that you are not going to need to manage them daily. If your team knows what to do, the process will be smooth and successful. – Daria Leshchenko, SupportYourApp Inc.
14. Stop micromanaging your team.
Let your team members take full ownership of their areas of responsibility. Keep them loaded at 70% to 80% to reduce stress levels and enable creative thinking. To ensure effective delivery, avoid any kind of micromanagement and tactics control. It’s ruinous for both sides. All in all, make sure your team always understands your “what” and can bring you their “how.” – Aleksandr Galkin, Competera
15. Limit distractions during your ‘focus time.’
Multitasking is a myth. To do deeper work, you need to limit distractions. To do that, you need cultural and individual practices that allow people to go offline for chunks of time and that respect that time so that folks feel comfortable turning off distractions and digging deep. This singular and serial focus allows you to “multitask” more because you are not constantly switching tasks. – Amith Nagarajan, rasa.io
16. Implement good status-reporting practices.
As a tech leader, I need to know the high-level details of the project (schedule, timeline, whether it’s on track, if anyone needs my help removing an obstacle, etc.). That way I stay updated, know when I need to get involved and can keep my schedule moving forward. We use the Entrepreneurial Operating System to keep our status reports and meetings on track. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
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