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When it comes to planning for a major initiative, such as a merger integration or ERP implementation, a lot of time and effort goes in to determining the proper project management methodology, defining team roles and responsibilities, creating and maintaining project plans, and providing status updates to executives. And rightfully so. All of these tools are necessary to see the initiative through to completion.

The project manager (PM), while often involved in planning, is ultimately responsible for a successful execution. No matter how carefully frameworks and plans are put together, when the starting gun goes off, a certain level of chaos is inevitable.

So how does a PM maintain control, ensure project success, and maybe even retain their sanity? Focusing on the basics and establishing core fundamentals is a good place to start. Below are some suggestions, in no particular order, that have worked well for successful project managers.

(Author’s note: Some of the fundamentals listed have been proven to work. Others made the list assuming that the inverse of what did not work most certainly should work. You get the point. Enjoy.)

Manage Your Time First

  • Be selfish about reserving time for performing your tasks. If you aren’t, you’ll find your team members will be more than happy to consume your calendar.
  • Learn the signs of stress and figure out a couple of ways you best relieve it. Then do it. Is it running? Go for a run. You think you don’t have time, but you’ll actually get more accomplished if you manage stress and stay healthy.
  • Tackle the day’s most arduous task first. It will consume your thoughts all day if you don’t.

Maximize Your Day

  • Mornings can be the most useful. Take advantage of the calm before the day’s storm to catch up, organize your thoughts, and plan for the day.
  • Prepare to miss lunch. Keep a stash of granola bars, yogurt, or other snacks around to get you through a long day.
  • Come to terms with unread emails in your inbox. You know the priorities at any given time, so prioritize reading and replying to emails accordingly. Get the rest from your team meetings, even if you have to endure hearing, “I sent you an email…”

Practice Good Managerial Skills

  • Get to know your team members. Understand their differences and what motivates them as individuals.
  • Give your team the necessary autonomy to take ownership of their roles and work streams. If a team member doesn’t step up to the plate, have a conversation about why. Likewise, if a team member is taking on too much work or overstepping boundaries, have a conversation.
  • Solicit frequent feedback from key team members. Ask what’s working well and what isn’t, and listen. Make changes based on their responses.

Understand that the end of a project will be the most hectic. Remind your team of each project milestone that has been met. Keep a list of preferred food delivery vendors and your corporate Amex nearby at all times. Good luck.

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