Project Management Guide

Project Team & Work Management

Navigating team and work management is a key skill in today’s project-driven world. Whether it’s a small team effort or a major project, knowing how to manage people, tasks, and tools effectively is essential. This guide covers everything you need to know about managing teams, from different management styles and the vital skills every leader should have to the importance of choosing the right communication and collaboration tools to keep everyone on track.

A project management team is essential for turning your project vision into reality. As the manager, you play a pivotal role in leading this diverse group of individuals who are dedicated to achieving the project’s goals. From the outset, your ability to manage, motivate, and understand the dynamics of this team will greatly influence the project’s success.

Constructing the right team is more of an art than a science. It typically includes:

  • Project Manager (You): You are at the helm, steering the project to success. Your responsibilities encompass planning, execution, and closing of the project. You are the bridge between the team and the stakeholders.
  • Core Team Members: These are your go-to experts, each bringing specialized skills and knowledge critical for various aspects of the project.
  • Stakeholders: These can be anyone from clients and investors to internal departments impacted by the project. Their input can provide valuable insights that shape the project’s direction.
  • Support Staff: They handle the logistical and administrative support, helping to clear the path for the core team to focus on technical tasks.

What project management team structure to choose?

Selecting the optimal structure for your project management team is crucial for fostering efficient workflows and ensuring successful project outcomes. Here’s a closer look at each structure to help you decide the best fit for your project:

  • Functional Structure

This structure organizes the project team based on functions or departments, such as marketing, finance, or IT. Team members report to their respective department heads, who manage specific aspects of the project related to their function. This setup is ideal if your project tasks align closely with departmental functions. It allows team members to focus deeply on their areas of expertise within their existing departments.

  • Matrix Structure

In a matrix setup, team members have dual reporting relationships – typically with both a functional manager and a project manager. Perfect for projects that require pulling expertise from various departments. It offers flexibility and enhances resource utilization without uprooting team members from their functional groups.

  • Projectized Structure

This structure is entirely oriented around the project, with team members reporting directly to the project manager. In this setup, all resources are dedicated to the project, and their primary allegiance lies with the project rather than a functional department. When your project is complex and needs undivided attention, this structure works best.  

  • Hybrid Structure

A blend of functional and projectized structures, this is suitable for projects that need both clear departmental input and dedicated project focus. It allows some team members to be dedicated entirely to the project while others divide their time between project tasks and functional responsibilities.  

Roles and responsibilities across a project management team

As a manager, your challenge is to knit diverse roles into a cohesive unit that communicates openly and collaborates effectively. A clear understanding of each role within your team will help you find the best fit for the job and improve your overall project team management.

Project Manager

As the project manager, you are the linchpin of the project, responsible for its overall direction, coordination, and completion. You set project goals, plan and schedule activities, manage budgets, and ensure all project milestones are met on time. Your leadership is key in motivating the team, resolving conflicts, and making pivotal decisions that affect the project’s trajectory. You also act as the primary communicator, regularly updating stakeholders on the project’s progress and navigating through any issues that arise.

Business Analyst

The business analyst plays a critical role in bridging the gap between IT and the business. They are responsible for gathering requirements from stakeholders and translating them into detailed, actionable project specifications. The business analyst helps to define the project scope and continually refines it to ensure alignment with business goals. They are also involved in validating the functionality of the end product against the requirements, ensuring that it meets all user needs.

Project Coordinator

Project coordinators support the project manager by taking on administrative duties that ensure the smooth execution of the project. They handle tasks such as documenting project plans, scheduling meetings, and maintaining project files. Project coordinators also assist with resource allocation, track project progress, and communicate updates to all team members. Their organizational skills are vital in keeping the project on track and ensuring that all team members have the resources they need to meet their deadlines.

Technical Team Lead/Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Technical team leads, or subject matter experts provide the technical direction for the project, leveraging their deep expertise in specific areas such as software development, engineering, or content development. They are responsible for overseeing the technical tasks of the project, solving complex problems, and ensuring that the technical solutions implemented align with the project objectives. They also mentor junior team members, fostering skill development and ensuring quality standards are met throughout the project lifecycle.

Quality Assurance Manager

The quality assurance manager is crucial in maintaining the quality and integrity of the project outputs. They develop and oversee quality standards and procedures, conduct regular tests and reviews, and ensure that all project deliverables meet the pre-defined quality criteria before being handed over to the client. Their role is integral to minimizing errors and ensuring the project meets all requirements and regulations.

Risk Manager

The risk manager focuses on identifying potential risks that could impact the project’s success. They analyze risk factors and develop mitigation strategies to prevent project delays and cost overruns. Regular risk assessments allow the risk manager to keep the project team and stakeholders informed and prepared for possible issues, ensuring that proactive steps are taken to minimize their impact.

The rest of the project team members

Besides the core roles described above, a project management team may include a variety of other specialized roles depending on the nature and scope of the project. These team members play specific, crucial functions that contribute to the project’s overall success:

  • Designers: In projects that involve creative visual elements, such as software interfaces, marketing materials, or product design, designers are essential. They are responsible for creating visual concepts that meet the project’s specifications and are appealing to the end-users.
  • Developers/Engineers: For technology or engineering projects, developers and engineers are the backbone of creating the actual product. Whether they’re writing code, building machinery, or setting up systems, their technical skills are vital for turning project plans into reality.
  • Content Creators: On projects where content development is key, such as in publishing or content marketing, writers, editors, and other content specialists are needed. They produce, refine, and ensure that all content aligns with the project’s objectives and audience expectations.
  • Marketing Specialists: When a project’s success depends on market acceptance, marketing specialists come into play. They strategize and execute marketing plans to ensure that the project reaches its intended audience effectively, enhancing visibility and driving engagement.
  • Sales Professionals: In projects that directly involve product sales, sales professionals are crucial. They use their skills to ensure that the project’s outputs are not only ready for the market but also successfully sold to customers.
  • Customer Support Representatives: For projects that will result in products or services requiring ongoing support, customer service representatives are essential. They are trained to handle inquiries, troubleshoot issues, and provide support, ensuring a positive customer experience.
  • Legal Advisors: Legal advisors are involved if a project involves complex legal considerations or requires compliance with specific regulations. They provide guidance to ensure that the project does not violate any laws and is protected against potential legal challenges.
  • Human Resources Specialists: Particularly in large projects that involve new hires or significant changes to workforce management, HR specialists play a crucial role. They handle the recruitment, training, and sometimes the organizational changes that accompany major projects.

As a manager, understanding and navigating the various styles of team management is critical to unlocking the full potential of your team. The proper management style can boost productivity, foster innovation, and help you achieve your project goals. Let’s explore some of the most common types of project team management to help you find the best fit for your team’s unique dynamics, objectives, and culture.

Autocratic Management

In the autocratic project team management style, you will make decisions unilaterally, holding most of the authority and responsibility.   It can be efficient in situations requiring quick decisions but may limit team member engagement and creativity. Remember to balance efficiency with empathy; while it’s important to provide clear direction, be mindful not to stifle your team’s creative voices.

Democratic Management

Adopting a democratic project team management style means you’ll share decision-making with your team, acting more as a facilitator than a traditional boss. This style values each team member’s input, fostering a culture of collaboration and mutual respect. While this approach can enhance team morale and lead to innovative solutions, be prepared for a slower decision-making process as you navigate through everyone’s contributions.

Laissez-faire Management

In a laissez-faire approach, you’ll give your team considerable autonomy over their tasks and decisions, providing support and resources as needed. This hands-off project team management style can unleash high levels of creativity and innovation within your team. However, it’s vital to ensure that this freedom doesn’t lead to a lack of direction. Regular check-ins and clear objectives can help maintain focus and momentum.

Transformational Management

As a transformational project team manager, your role is to inspire and motivate your team by fostering a shared vision and focusing on personal development opportunities. This approach can lead to heightened engagement and stellar performance. It requires you to be not just a manager but a compelling leader who can sustain your team’s drive toward excellence.

Transactional Management

Transactional project team management relies on clear structures, roles, and rewards to drive performance. This style is practical for achieving specific, short-term objectives. To prevent it from becoming too rigid or impersonal, try incorporating recognition of individual achievements and tailoring incentives to match your team members’ motivations.

Servant Leadership

As a servant leader, you’ll put your team’s needs first, focusing on their well-being and development. This leadership style is about empowering your team, sharing power, and helping each member achieve their highest potential. It’s a powerful approach to building a strong, cohesive team committed to the project’s success and personal growth.

Are you good at project team management: a personal check-list

As you navigate the challenges and triumphs of leading a team, you must understand whether you have the skills required to be a good team manager. We gathered a list of questions by answering to which you can get a better understanding of the areas requiring improvement from your side. Consider this checklist not just as a tool but as a companion in your journey to becoming an exceptional project team manager.  

As you ponder these questions, remember that being a great team manager is a journey of continuous learning and improvement. Each day offers a new opportunity to enhance these skills, strengthening not just your team’s performance but also their satisfaction and growth.  

Communication: the heart of your team
  • Do you communicate clearly and concisely, ensuring everyone understands their roles and the project’s objectives?
  • Are you practicing active listening, truly understanding your team members’ feedback and concerns?
Leadership: your guiding light
  • Can you inspire and motivate your team, setting a compelling vision and leading by example?
  • Are you decisive when necessary, guiding your team through challenges with confidence?
Conflict resolution: the bridge over troubled waters
  • Are you adept at identifying and addressing conflicts fairly, ensuring all parties feel heard and valued?
  • Do you approach conflict as an opportunity for growth, leading your team to stronger bonds?
Organizational skills: the framework of success
  • Do you effectively plan, organize, and execute projects, managing time and resources wisely?
  • Are you capable of balancing competing priorities, ensuring the smooth progression of projects?
Adaptability: navigating the winds of change
  • When unexpected challenges arise, can you adjust plans and find creative solutions?
  • Do you encourage flexibility within your team, fostering an environment that embraces change?
Empathy: the soul of your leadership
  • Do you show genuine understanding and sensitivity to the needs and feelings of your team members?
  • Are you creating a work environment where everyone feels supported and valued?
Decision making: the core of direction
  • Are you making informed decisions promptly, considering both team input and project requirements?
  • Do you stand by your decisions, providing clear reasoning and support to your team?
Delegation: empowering your team
  • Do you know how to delegate effectively, entrusting tasks to team members while empowering them to take ownership?
  • Are you mindful of matching tasks with the appropriate team member’s skills and development goals?
Providing feedback: fostering growth
  • Are you providing timely, specific, and constructive feedback that encourages team members to improve and grow?
  • Do you celebrate successes and address areas for improvement with kindness and clarity?
Problem-solving: the engine of progress
  • Can you quickly identify problems and employ critical thinking to analyze issues and devise effective solutions?
  • Are you fostering a culture of problem-solving within your team, encouraging innovative thinking and perseverance?

When you’ve established your team and the project plan, it’s a good time to look at the tools that your team will need to be successful. Working across spreadsheets and email is not an efficient way to spend your time. The right tools will enable your team to save time, be productive, and achieve their goals.

The most important tool you can get your team to use is project management software. The kind of software you choose depends on the types of projects that your team works on, the methodologies you like to use, and the size of your team (s). There is a lot to think about, so we’ve put together some resources that can help.

Further Reading:

Before your project gets going, you want to let your team know what channels will be used for communication. The reason for this is because you don’t want things to be missed. A missed message about something that needs to be done or is ready to be passed on the next team could temporarily derail your project. This is especially important if you have remote teams like we do and need to have video conferences often. For basic real-time communication for teams, we like to use Slack. As expected, we use Birdview to provide real-time access to project info. You’ll need to choose reliable tools, and lucky for you, the options are endless.

It’s also important to think about where your team is storing all of their documents. You want something that is secure and reliable. At Birdview PSA, we like to use Google Drive for all of the big stuff. Each team has their respective folder with everything organized in an easily searchable way. You can also use tools like Dropbox Paper, Quip, Evernote, Microsoft 365 for sharing files across departments and teams.

Why collaboration matters

Now that we’ve taken a look at and chosen the tools that your team will need to be productive, it’s time to take a deeper dive into collaboration and how it can help you succeed. When people work together, they are more productive. In a 2015 study conducted by the New York Times, executives said that profitability increases when workers are persuaded to collaborate more. When you collaborate with your external stakeholders, you’ll find that your team’s creativity and problem-solving abilities increase. Many minds are better than one.

Navigating common project team management challenges

As a project manager, you’ll inevitably face a variety of challenges that can test your leadership skills and team cohesion. Recognizing these challenges early and having strategies in place to overcome them is key to maintaining project momentum and team morale. Here are some common hurdles you might encounter, along with advice on how to navigate them effectively:

1. Communication breakdowns

Challenge: Effective communication is the lifeblood of any project, but it’s often easier said than done. Misunderstandings, information silos, and lack of clarity can lead to errors and delays.What to do: Foster an environment where open and frequent communication is encouraged. Utilize various communication tools that suit your team’s needs and ensure regular check-ins and updates are part of your project routine. Always clarify tasks and responsibilities clearly–never assume information has been understood correctly without confirmation.

2. Scope creep

Challenge: Scope creep–the expansion of a project beyond its original objectives–can derail even the most well-planned projects, leading to resource strain and missed deadlines.

What to do: Define project boundaries clearly from the outset. Involve key stakeholders in setting project goals and reviewing them as part of your ongoing project evaluation. When changes are necessary, assess their impacts comprehensively and adjust project plans and expectations accordingly.

3. Mismatched skill sets

Challenge: Sometimes, a project’s needs evolve, or initial assessments miss the mark, resulting in gaps where the team’s skills don’t align with the project requirements.

What to do: Conduct regular skills assessments and provide training opportunities to fill gaps. Be flexible in reassigning roles to better match the evolving needs of the project and the inherent strengths of your team members.

4. Team conflicts

Challenge: Differences in personality or work style can lead to conflicts within your team, affecting morale and productivity.

What to do: Don’t ignore conflicts, hoping they’ll resolve themselves. Address disagreements openly and constructively, aiming to mediate and find mutually acceptable solutions. Foster a team culture that respects diversity and encourages empathy and understanding among team members.

5. Burnout

Challenge: Intense project demands can lead to team burnout, risking productivity dips and increased turnover.

What to do: Keep an eye on team workload and stress levels. Encourage a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic deadlines and ensuring team members take needed breaks and vacations. Recognize and celebrate achievements to boost morale and keep the team motivated.

6. Resource allocation

Challenge: Limited resources, whether time, budget, or specific skills, can restrict your team’s ability to deliver on project objectives.

What to do: Plan resource use meticulously and monitor it regularly. Be proactive in identifying potential shortages and advocating for what your team needs. Prioritization is crucial–ensure that critical resources are allocated to high-impact tasks first.

Proven project team management and collaboration techniques and strategies

At the heart of effective team management lies your ability as a manager to bring diverse individuals together, harnessing their unique skills and perspectives toward a common goal. This involves not just delegating tasks and setting deadlines but also fostering an environment of trust, open communication, and mutual respect. Let’s explore a variety of techniques and strategies designed to harmonize the efforts of diverse individuals into a unified force for achievement.

Setting clear team goals

Imagine your team as a crew of skilled sailors navigating the vast ocean to reach a treasure island. Your map? Clear, achievable goals. Start by charting your course: define what success looks like for your project, breaking your ultimate objective into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals. Ensure every crew member knows the map by heart and understands their role in the adventure. Regularly check your compass, adjusting your course as needed to stay true to your destination.

Teamwork makes the dream work, but it can also be the most challenging part of your job as a project manager. Setting up communication guidelines is a good place to start. Communication guidelines should include things like:

  • The channels being used to communicate
  • The time frame for when team members should respond to each other
  • Who to contact if you have questions regarding different parts of the project
  • Rules for Conflict Resolution

It would be useful if you put all of the guidelines and info in an accessible folder so your team can refer back to them as needed.

Further Reading:

Remote collaboration

Working with people from all over the world is common practice for businesses these days. At Birdview, we’ve been working with remote teams since we got started, and we’ve become experts at working with team members who are thousands of kilometers away. This does not mean that we don’t face challenges. Juggling time zones and work expectations requires strict communication practices, as well as choosing communication tools that everyone is comfortable with.

Further Reading:

Remote work best practices

Remote work has become an integral part of the modern workplace, offering flexibility and challenges in project team management in equal measure. To navigate this landscape effectively, consider suggesting the following best practices to your team members:

  • Set up a productive home office

Dedicate a specific area of your home to work, ideally in a quiet, well-lit space. Invest in a comfortable chair and desk, and ensure your setup includes ergonomic considerations to prevent strain or injury.

  • Maintain work-life balance

Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Stick to a routine that mirrors a traditional workday, including starting and ending your work at the same time each day. Make time for breaks, and step away from your work area during non-work hours.

  • Use digital tools to simulate an office environment

Leverage communication and collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams to stay connected with colleagues. Virtual office platforms can create a sense of presence and community among remote teams.

  • Stay organized and prioritize tasks

Utilize project management tools such as Asana, Trello, or Jira to keep track of tasks and deadlines. Prioritize tasks daily to stay focused and productive.

Communicate with clients

Since organizing your inbox can sometimes become a task in itself, Birdview’s message boards allow everyone to keep track of all relevant conversations, be it comments, requests, or changes under each task or project. Click a project and receive up-to-the-minute conversation information without searching through thousands of emails. Additionally, all messages are stamped with the correct time, date, and name to know the “who”, “what”, and “when” of all correspondence instantly.

Client Communication

With Birdview, clients can access project message boards as well, giving them an avenue to quickly ask the project team whatever questions they have and receive responses in real time. This easy access to the project team assures clients that their project is progressing well and that the team is answering their wants.

Learn more:

Get frequent status updates

Sometimes, our tendency may be to avoid confrontation, overlook issues in the hopes that they will go away, or delay tasks that seem unpleasant or stressful to us. This practice is the exact opposite of what is productive in project team management. It is a big mistake to wait until the last moment to find out that the project you thought was going well is actually suffering from a critical problem. Therefore, you should encourage your team to report any and all issues and delays to you as soon as they become aware of them.

Delays to you as soon as they become aware of them. Now, you might be thinking, ”How can I convince my employees/teammates to blow the whistle on themselves basically?” This is a valid concern; rarely do people consciously make the decision to admit weaknesses or problems when it comes to their own performance. What you can do to overcome this issue is to encourage a team culture that rewards timely updates and doesn’t punish for delays/problems if they are reported early.

At Birdview, we have spent a significant amount of time pondering how we could make status updates as effortless as possible and came up with the three small buttons you see on the “My Assignments” page next to each task. With one click, each employee can update a task as being a-okay, raise a non-critical issue for discussion, or suggest a new end date if the issue is a serious one.

Resource Capacity Planning

Monitor team workload

In successful projects, the project team works effectively to their full capacity but not further. Monitoring team workload ensures you don’t overburden members of your team with more work than they can handle. Since an overworked employee may feel too demotivated to complete the extra tasks assigned, it’s important to be aware of everyone’s current assignments.

Encourage Monday morning Goal Setting & Review (GSR) updates from all team members. Employees write a quick document that reminds project managers what they have to do in the coming weeks and gives them a chance to flag concerns about the size of their workload, if necessary. By holding the GSRs on Monday morning, team accommodations can be made quickly in the week. Visibility of tasks is a very important step in accountability, and GSRs go a long way in doing that.

Keep a whiteboard for your team in the office with a list of the weekly or monthly project tasks. Ask each team member to write their name beside what task they are working on. Displaying who is accountable for what is a public form does two good things. First, it acts as a reminder for everyone to know the project’s current tasks and who is undertaking them. Second, it encourages each team member to do his/her share on time and to the best of his/her ability.

Promises made in public (like writing your name next to a task) strengthen task commitment and encourage action. This is evident in all aspects of life. Have you ever felt embarrassed about failing your new diet after you told your friends you were committed to losing weight? Did you ever feel an extra surge in motivation to quit smoking after telling your spouse you could do it? Don’t hide away team to-do lists; post them prominently in common staff areas so the big-picture goal is always in sight.

Resolve conflicts

Conflicts within teams can happen, and when they do, it’s your job to quickly resolve them and get everyone focused on the end goal again. Conflicts are also not always a bad thing. If you look at them as positive experiences for your team to grow from, everyone can come out of them stronger and more focused than before.

Promote mental health and stress management

Promoting mental health and managing stress are critical for sustaining team performance. Encourage regular breaks, provide resources for mental health support, and foster an open environment where team members can talk about stress without fear of judgment. Initiatives like flexible work hours, mental health days, and activities that promote work-life balance can make a significant difference in team well-being and productivity, thus improving your team management.

The art of making sure things get done

Accountability is crucially important for the success of your project. But sometimes a lack of accountability isn’t the fault of your team members or your clients but the methods of task management. Read on to learn the best practices to avoid potential conflicts and those “I don’t remember saying that…” responses sometimes heard from project team members or clients.

Confirm and accept assignments in writing

The first and most important piece of accountability advice is to never accept or assign verbal requests. Document any tasks that you are delegating or that you’ve received to eliminate any confusion or forgetfulness on the part of either party regarding what needs to be done.

Stop assigning tasks in casual conversation. Always email assignments to team members. Documentation, at least in the form of email, provides a formal outline of the task that can be referred back to by all involved parties. If there are any questions regarding a deadline or expectations, a written document can quickly end all “he-said, she-said” debates.

The same intolerance for verbal assignments applies when you receive a project from a client. Request that your client document all project requirements by writing out project expectations in full. Keep a copy for yourself, and get your client to do the same.

After meetings, send an email to the client or team with the discussion summarized. Ask for confirmation that your interpretation of the meeting was factual. Email confirmation removes any potential for uncertainty regarding the agreed-upon assignment. Furthermore, it provides an approved original project plan for reference if the need arises.

For A+ accountability

Birdview helps you with team accountability by sending out automatic notifications that alert the appropriate person on a team as soon as a request or assignment is reported. These instant notifications allow for timely transfers of information, to ensure all team members are informed of new requests as soon as they happen.

Birdview also encourages accountability between the client and the project team by allowing the client to enter his/her requests right into the project database itself. This allows all requests to be recorded exactly as the client envisioned it, and there is unity across formats if there are multiple requests from the same client.

Additionally, Birdview’s audit trail keeps a record of everything that is happening in a project. It helps improve accountability by providing a point of reference in case someone forgets something and establishes evidence in case things go off-rail in a project. Needless to say, both sides benefit from an audit trail, so that relationships are not strained by someone forgetting to record a critical piece of information down, or requests being slightly altered due to incomplete memory.

 

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