written by: Jennifer Daniels
• edited by: Carly Stockwell
• updated: 12/16/2013
It doesn't matter what your official title is or what department you work in, there are projects that have to be done all the time, and companies don't always have a certified project manager to handle them. How can the average person succeed in managing projects?
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The field of project management has changed over time to meet changing business needs. In decades past, when there was no such thing as a project management certification, it was common for various individuals from across an organization to find themselves managing projects when the needs of the business required them to.
Even today, after the development of project management certifications, there are still times when individuals without formal training will be temporarily required to take on the duties of a project manager. If you find yourself pressed into service as a project manager, here are a few tips you can use to help you succeed:
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Use Agile Project Management
Agile can be a perfect fit for situations where a certified project manager is unavailable. By shifting the responsibility for the success of the project from one individual to the whole project team, agile methodologies can remove some of the burden from an inexperienced project manager. Agile allows individual team members to select the tasks that best fit their skill sets, helping the project move forward without the need for you to manage every detail.
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Document and Measure Progress, but Don't Focus on Format
Keeping records of the project team's progress is one of the most important tasks you will perform as a project manager. You probably don't have an intimate understanding of advanced project management concepts like Gantt charts and workflow diagrams, but that's OK. The content of your reports is more important than the formatting. Come up with a basic reporting template that your team members can understand, and then use it consistently going forward. This simple solution may not meet the standards of an experienced project manager, but it will be sufficient to keep your project moving in the right direction.
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Schedule Frequent Checkpoints
Using "everyone's-a-project-manager" project management is a temporary solution, and should be recognized as such. Even if a project succeeds without formal project management, you shouldn't assume that your organization can go without it forever. Lack of structure will inhibit progress over the long run, so make sure you're scheduling frequent checkpoints to find out if an ad hoc project management style has taken your project as far as it can go. As you gain more project management experience over the course of a project, you should feel comfortable adding more structure and process to your project.
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Understand and Communicate Your Feelings
Project management isn't right for everyone, and the people who are enthusiastic about project management are the ones who are likely to be successful. If you've been forced to become a project manager and don't feel like it's a good fit for your personality, make sure you communicate these concerns to management. Even if there are no other options, and you have to take on project management responsibilities out of necessity, management can help find ways for you to overcome your initial reluctance, such as having you work with a mentor.