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Five Important Tips For Managing Project Plans

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 7/26/2013

According to business experts and respected authors, successful project management professionals share five common characteristics.

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    Successful Project Managers Have Five Things in Common

    Although it’s easy to fill a list of best practices in project management with dozens of ideas, successful managers tend to agree on some common traits. Five of the most common best practices in project management, according to business experts and respected authors, include:

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    1. Building a Project Management Plan

    Launching a project without a formal statement of work is like setting off on a cross-country road trip without a map. Yet, many novice project managers do just that every day. As one of the best practices in project management, experts agree that creating some kind of document at the start of a project protects teams from “feature creep” and from accountability issues throughout a work process.

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    2. Choosing the Right Project Management Tools

    Just like you wouldn’t roll out a Sherman tank to kill a fly, you might not need a project management system that costs thousands of dollars to handle a simple set of tasks. Likewise, a global project with hundreds of team members may require more than just a few conference room whiteboards. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being seduced by the latest and greatest productivity fad. However, one of the best practices in project management is the ability to assess a project and select the right set of tools to keep it on track.

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    3. Distinguishing Project Definition from Project Management

    Novice project managers can easily get sucked into the trap of “fixing it in the mix.” Although some projects may present themselves with challenges that will modify the outcome of a team’s work together, every project should be clearly defined before work begins. In most cases, project managers can avoid shifting expectations by creating a list of “nice to have” and “need to have” elements in the project management plan. This way, if time and resources permit, some of the outlying requests can still be met.

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    4. Getting Consensus on Project Goals

    In too many organizations, project managers begin work before making sure that every stakeholder understands the desired outcome. As a result, teams can wind up facing the wrath of stakeholders who claim they were promised certain results. Therefore, one of the best practices in project management is spending time with each stakeholder (or group of stakeholders) and reviewing the project plan. This way, project managers can address concerns and avoid confrontation later in the timeline.

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    5. Tracking Progress and Preparing Contingencies

    Most project managers understand the importance of tracking progress, especially during resource-intensive projects. However, one of the best practices in project management involves looking ahead to critical milestones and projecting on-time deliveries. Adjusting resources on the fly to keep projects on schedule is one of the most critical skills of any project manager, yet it can easily be overlooked by company leaders. Project managers who hold themselves accountable for getting things done on time and on budget tend to find their work far more fulfilling than team leaders who constantly find themselves “in the red.”

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    Discuss Your Own Best Practices in Project Management

    Since these five best practices just scratch the surface for project management professionals, join us in the discussions forum and share some of your own success stories! We’d love to hear about your own best practices.