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Project Management Tips: How to Run a Development Team

Project Management Tips How to Run a Development Team

The software development work environment is dynamic and challenging, and the role of the Project Managers is even more so. The so-called PMs juggle and balance between many tasks and responsibilities, team dynamics, stakeholder expectations, fitting within budget and delivering on time. And, there is no single magic formula on how to do the job right.

The good Project Manager gains wisdom through experience – whether it is a big achievement or a small failure, he/she knows that lessons are learned with hard work. But there are few principles that everyone can follow in order to successfully manage a team of developers, designers, QA engineers, and more.

In this article, we will share some advice from our experience and project management tips on how to run a development team better.

1. Focus on Meaningful Communication

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. – Plato

It may sound like a cliche, but the key to delivering well planned and executed projects is meaningful communication. As a project manager you should be easily accessible, listen to your team with attention and create a trusting environment where team members can voice their concerns. You should make sure everyone understands the project goals, and steps of actions, while at the same time encouraging them to share information about delays and problems, and seek advice.

Communication may come in different forms and through different channels, being more or less formal. At the end of the day, it is not the “how” that matters, but “what” that counts – what was communicated, and what was understood. As a Project Manager you should encourage communication, but as well make sure this communication conveys clear messages and brings value to the teamwork organization.

Being an example to everyone, you should be able to communicate effectively and you should strive to teach your team to do the same.

foster meaningful communication

Source: Unsplash

There are a few tips to help you achieve the above:

  • Be polite but straightforward. You know what you want to say so just say it. Don’t try to sound smarter or impress with words. Don’t expect your teammates to understand subcontext, hints or hidden messages.
  • Ask good questions. Asking questions helps you create mutual understanding of the situation. Moreover, it allows you to start a discussion where new ideas and better solutions can form.
  • Encourage. Problems occur, people make mistakes. Make sure your reaction is firm but positive. Explain and discuss the issues openly and without shaming.

Furthermore, use each situation as a teachable moment, discuss ways of improvement, and help your team grow through sharing and caring.

2. Set Up Proper Organization

For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned. – Benjamin Franklin

It goes without saying that a good organization is the basis of a well-delivered project. No matter if you work on an IT project, or you just want to re-decorate your house, you need to create a plan, organize resources, and track progress.

The best way of achieving results is by defining goals, setting clear timeframes, and regularly checking resources. There are many project management tools that can help with this process and it is up to each Project Manager to set up their own system. Some PMs are more flexible, others prefer a more traditional approach using a lot of rules and procedures.

However, the most important part here is not the system of processes but how effective it is. In the role of a Project Manager it is your job to find the balance and make sure that all the rules and tools actually help rather than slow down the work.

Proper Organization

Source: Unsplash

There are a few tips to help you achieve the above:

  • Make sure everyone sees the benefits of each rule or procedure. If you manage to show your team the added value of the structure, they will be more inclined to follow it.
  • Don’t over-complicate simple things. Before imposing a new procedure, think of your end goal. Ask yourself how this can be achieved in the easiest possible way.
  • Make sure everyone understands their role and responsibility. This will improve visibility and make internal coordination easier.

3. Nourish Teamwork

No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it. – H.E. Luccock

It doesn’t matter how many good professionals you have on your team if they don’t work together effectively.

As a Project Manager you should foster an environment where team relationships are based on commitment, cooperation, and trust. You can build such an environment by encouraging clear communication and promoting accountability. It is your job to ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives.

Nourish TeamWork

Source: Unsplash

There are a few tips to help you achieve the above:

  • Make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of priorities. This way you will avoid situations where each team member pulls in different directions.
  • Be aware of different personalities. While you should consider everyone in the team equally important, you should not treat everyone the same. Maybe someone needs less direction, others prefer more details.
  • Regularly check if the workload is evenly distributed among team members. This strengthens morale and motivation and contributes to a fair working environment.
  • Make sure that team members listen to and respect each other. This one is tricky, but you should always try to keep an eye on the group dynamic. If you feel that the interaction between the team members is poor, you should investigate the cause of the problem.

4. Encourage Learning

Learning never exhausts the mind. – Leonardo da Vinci

People take a job because they think they can do it. People stay at the job because they realize how much more there is to learn there.

As a Project Manager, or any type of manager in fact, you should strive to create a culture of continuous learning. Encouraging employees to develop knowledge and new competences benefits everyone – it improves efficiency and productivity, which in the end increases profit.

Most of all, employees feel that they are being invested in. Thus, they trust that they are being valued, which strengthens their loyalty and increases the overall satisfaction of the work they do.

encourage learning

Source: Unsplash

There are a few tips to help you achieve the above:

  • Dedicate time and resources to training activities. It doesn’t matter if you are going to organize them in more or less formal way, with external help or in-house, you should provide exciting and challenging assignments. And, make sure you train both hard and soft skills.
  • Foster a culture of shared knowledge. Everyone’s experience is different. You should strive to create as many opportunities as possible for people from different teams or levels of seniority to interact.
  • Plan according to the needs and make training easily accessible. Ask feedback, and make sure the training you provide will really benefit your employees in their day-to-day job. Ensure easy access to the training schedule, agendas and resources.

5. Invest in Self-Improvement

If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. – Unknown

While the above principles are related to the business procedure and team management, this one relates to your own personal growth as a Project Manager. You should remember that it is also your obligation to learn and develop as a person and in professional alongside your team. You should set challenges for yourself, explore new techniques, and invest time in improving soft skills. After all, to be able to provide the best support to your team, you should be the best version of yourself.

invest in self improvement

Source: Unsplash

There are a few tips to help you achieve the above:

  • Use your experience, but adapt to new situations. You should not expect that everything that you have used as tools and practices in your previous job will work at your new one. You should not even expect that everything that you do today in your job will work the same in the future. Always adapt to the environment you are in.
  • Leave your ego to one side. You should accept that you are not perfect and that you don’t know it all. The moment you accept this, you will become more open to absorbing new knowledge. Use every situation as a learning opportunity. Use every team member, or even the clients, as teachers.
  • Take breaks. A lot of things are happening. Everyone needs something from you. However, if you are overwhelmed, stressed and tired, you will not be able to help anyone. Take breaks and clear your mind in order to be more productive and efficient.

Wrapping up

Being good at managing a development team requires a specific set of skills and qualities, but experience is the greatest teacher. Project Managers should always look for new ways to improve their work and the processes they are responsible for, so that their teams can achieve expectations, be motivated and happy.