October 22, 2014

At the Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit, I took part in an off-the-cuff conversation about advice for starting project managers. Putting aside the jargon, tools and methodologies, I grasped for concise, memorable recommendations. I found myself describing ideas that I later realized were already encapsulated in general cliches. These well known sayings represent important management techniques that help keep a project on course.

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Ensure your team can break down broader features and requests into more digestible tasks. Without a well defined scope, expectations will vary widely, and the final implementation is unlikely to meet the identified needs.

When In Doubt, Throw It Out

If there’s any uncertainty of whether a feature is a launch blocker or of high priority, it isn’t. Items can be thrown out of a particular sprint, a release, a project or the product as a whole.

Leave No Stone Unturned

Strive to be present for every piece of communication. That means every commit message, every email, every meeting, and every chat ping. At the very least, be aware if communication happens without you, and follow up with all parties to know the results. There is no such thing as too much information so long as the project isn’t dragging as a result.

Call a Spade a Spade

Deliver uncomfortable news as soon as possible. The longer it waits, the more the problem may grow, and the more time and budget it could take to work it out. Ensure that everyone is prepared for the worst outcome. Regularly give updates and confirmation whether or not things are following predictions. This should be easy to monitor if you leave no stone unturned.

Look Before You Leap

Make sure your team is all on the same page before taking the plunge into any feature or broader task. Everyone having the same definition of success avoids downstream conflicts.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Take the time to get to know the team you’re working with. This means your client and their stakeholders too. Even a two minute team check in that sets aside project details creates common ground. A team that knows one another knows how best to communicate, which makes for higher efficiency, happier people and successful projects.