Project Management for Non-Project Managers: Tips, Tricks, and Tools

Tuba Sarosh February 6, 2023
- 7 min read

If you're currently in any management position rather than project manager (PM), you might be tempted to think that you have nothing to do with it, that it's someone else's problem. However, PM skills are more necessary than you might think. But don't worry about having to read lots of books to acquire them; we're about to hand out a guide on project management for non-project managers!

Solid management can help you meet your project goals and stay efficient and organized. To help you excel in your new duties, use these tips, definitions, challenges, and tools! 

What is project management?

Simply put, project management is the process of managing and planning a project to meet pre-established goals — for example, developing a new app, creating a thorough knowledge base, or finally moving away from the spreadsheet and into ITAM software. 

The role has become increasingly relevant to the point that the Project Management Institute predicts that by 2027, there will be 22 million job openings for project managers. Why? Well, the Institute also highlighted in a complementary survey that companies that didn't value project management experienced 67% of project failures. 

So, acquiring PM skills is quite relevant for those who manage projects as part of their regular job – whether or not they are called "project managers."

4 project management skills for non-project managers

If you're trying to take on the notion of project management for non-project managers, it all starts with learning specific skills. These are the most relevant ones to succeed when coordinating projects.

1. Project planning

A project plan is a skeleton or framework of the significant elements for successful project implementation. As a project manager, you should be able to create a project plan. Usually, it includes project scope, goals and objectives, timeline, budget, KPIs, stakeholders, and milestones. 

In general, these can be organized into five project management phases

  1. Initiation - Define the plan and objective of the project.
  2. Planning - Lay down the project roadmap.
  3. Executing - Carry out the tasks defined in the previous steps.
  4. Monitoring - Keep a check on how the project progresses.
  5. Closing - Officially close the project. 

2. Time management

When working on a project, it can be hard to prioritize tasks. However, with good time management skills, you can easily complete projects on time. So, create a project timeline, use productivity apps, eliminate distractions, prioritize time-sensitive tasks, and automate repetitive tasks.

3. Leadership

Whether or not you have been in a leadership role before, your team members will expect guidance from you when managing a project. You should be able to lead a team, delegate tasks, and motivate team members to work together to achieve project goals.

There are three main principles to leading effectively:

  • Create stars - Allow your team members to show their skills and achievements.
  • Have high standards - Hold your team members accountable for their actions.
  • Take risks - Adopt a critical mindset towards the things that companies do just because it's how it's done and take the chance to be disruptive.

4. Problem-solving

Problem-solving is the ability to identify and resolve issues that arise during the project and make decisions that are in the project's best interest. These issues can relate to the project scope, timeline, budget, or team dynamics.

A project manager with strong problem-solving skills can quickly identify an issue's root cause, assess the project's potential impact, and develop an effective solution.

3 project management challenges to overcome

Managing projects is one of the most significant business functions. However, any complex undertaking is fraught with challenges. So, here's a look at some of the most common obstacles and project management mistakes.

1. Lack of clear project objectives

Unclear project objectives are a common challenge that project managers face. For example, a lack of stakeholder buy-in may make it difficult to gain consensus on the project goals. Another reason may be that you work in a large organization where you need more authority to lay down clear project goals.

To gain clarity on the goals, you should meet with stakeholders to gather their input and buy-in on the objectives. You may also seek guidance and mentorship from experienced project managers.

2. Poor communication and collaboration

Proper communication and collaboration are essential for projects to run smoothly. However, if you haven't set up appropriate communication channels, it will lead to delays, errors, and a lack of accountability.

To overcome this obstacle, you should establish preferred communication channels, such as email, messaging, and collaboration apps. Additionally, you can utilize project management tools such as shared calendars, task lists, and document sharing to help streamline communication.

3. Inadequate Risk Management

Projects may not always progress as planned. Even after proper strategizing, things may spiral out of control. For example, the project scope might change and cost overruns. 

To prevent unexpected setbacks and delays, you should develop a plan beforehand to address and mitigate the risks.

5 tips for effective project management for non-project managers

To be honest, project management is a complex and challenging field that requires unique skills and qualifications. However, not everyone tasked with managing a project has formal training or experience in project management. Here is a list of project management tips to can implement for effective project management. 

1. Manage meetings effectively

Meetings are the life and blood of projects. They provide a platform to assign tasks, discuss issues, review project progress, etc. Hence, it's essential to conduct meetings properly. If they don't have a structure and go on for hours, it will derail efficiency and productivity. So, understand how to facilitate and structure an in-person and online meeting (maybe these tips on how to run post-mortem meetings can be of help).

2. Clearly define the goals and deliverables

The initiation or planning stage of a project is when you decide the goals and deliverables of the project. It's critical to understand why you're working on the project, the project's outcome, and the team members' responsibilities. When everyone on the team is aware of the project's objectives, it will ensure that the project stays on track. 

3. Manage stakeholder relationships

A project stakeholder is someone who is directly or indirectly involved in the project — such as executives of other teams, investors, etc. While working on a project, you may get too engaged and risk neglecting the stakeholders. 

However, doing so may result in project failure as they impact the project's success. So, make sure you know their interests and take regular feedback from them.

4. Create a detailed plan

A project plan should include the timeline, milestones, tasks, and assigned responsibilities to team members. Also, make sure to leave room for unanticipated tasks. 

5. Prioritize tasks

A project has many moving parts. As an example, a mobile app development project includes various tasks such as market research, UI design, marketing, app development, bug fixes, etc. Hence, identify priority tasks and project dependencies. Then, focus on tasks that are most time-sensitive to avoid any delays. 

Project management software

As a project manager, you will likely have a lot on your plate. In such situations, project management software can be a lifesaver. It will help you and your team plan, track, and execute projects. 

With the right tool, your team can work together seamlessly, stay on top of their tasks, and make data-driven decisions to ensure project success. So, here are some of the best tools you need to check.

1. Asana

Asana is project management software designed with a focus on collaboration. It helps users create tasks, assign tasks, set deadlines, and track the project's progress.

2. Trello

Trello is another tool that uses the Kanban board layout. It helps users visualize tasks and the progress of projects. You can organize and track projects with boards, lists, and cards. Compared to others, it only offers limited features, but if you're looking for a simple tool that's easy to learn, Trello is a great choice.

3. Basecamp

Basecamp is a collaboration tool that helps teams share files, hold discussions, and manage tasks. Some of its helpful features are to-do lists, automated check-ins, and calendars.

4. Airtable

Airtable is a powerful project management tool that helps teams collaborate in real time and streamline their tasks from start to finish. You'll be able to create projects, assign tasks, manage resources, track progress, and export data from Airtable - all within the platform.

Final thoughts

Successful projects are built on efficient project management. When tasked to lead a project, you might feel like walking on a tightrope. However, it's not as scary as it looks.

Use this information on project management for non-project managers to implement the right skills, use the most accurate tools, avoid common pitfalls, and successfully lead your project to completion. 

Read other articles like this : DevOps, Project Management, SRE, Service desk manager

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