Whether you’ve just been handed the reins on your first project or you’re a seasoned pro, knowing how to manage things is a combination of art and science. There are aspects of the process that can apply to everyone, but also parts where a good manager will know how to tweak things so it suits their team and their project. Here, Tameday gives you an outline on how to better manage things in the future.

 

Know What the Start and End Points Are

If I’m stuck on something, Stack Overflow is one of the first sites I hit up. And of all the questions I’ve seen on there, only one has really stuck out for me. The user summarised what they were having problems with. Then they wrote ‘Results I Expected’ (followed by a single sentence) and ‘Results I Actually Got’ (followed by another sentence). And lastly, some of the things they tried.

The reason this stuck out to me was because it was clear they had an excellent idea of what their starting point was and where they wanted to end up. They were able to recognise the muddled spots in the middle and how it needed to be fixed, and precisely where it needed fixing.

When it comes to your own project, take a few minutes and assess where you are right now. Look at your team and identify what skills and strengths you have, but also potential weaknesses there might be. And then identify what a realistic goal and timeline of when the end is. If you’re trying to come up with a Facebook rival with a team of three developers, it’s going to take you a while. But if you’re trying to fix a bug on an already-existing app, then the timeline and resources are going to be much smaller.

 

Figure Out a Plan With Your Team

Do you remember sketching outlines for your school essays? It usually went something like this:

  • Intro: About five items — the first point is the most general introduction, while the last point sums up the intro.
  • Meat: The second item in your intro is the first item you’ll flesh out, whether that takes up a paragraph or a page or whatever. Each point in your intro gets its own paragraph/page/section. Give two or three supporting arguments per item, and address potential counterarguments with your points.
  • Summary: Essentially rewrite your intro, but with different words. It’s a different way of going over the same thing, and show that you’ve supported the arguments you made by briefly outlining the solutions for each.

The planning section of your project should look pretty similar. Make an intro that goes over each important part of the project, then use the ‘meat’ to get into each task in more detail. But unlike an essay, your outline or to-do list doesn’t necessarily need great detail written out. Instead, this is what the meeting itself is for as you get to explain things to your team and allow them to ask questions and get clarification.

This is the point where you’ll also assign members to various tasks on the project and write out your expectations on when things both big and small should be completed. It’s also a good place to sketch out how long each part will take (and out much it’ll cost the client).

 

Anticipate Roadbumps

I never did formal education to get both my driver and motorcycle licence, and in some ways I regret it. I was so eager to get out on the road that I didn’t want to be cooped up in a classroom when I could be learning everything firsthand. But what I regret about that is I had to learn what to anticipate by actually experiencing it.

For example, the first time I ever drove in white-out rain I panicked a little. The rain was falling so hard, my wipers couldn’t clear the glass in time and I could barely see the car in front of me. I ended up parking on the shoulder to wait for the rain to die down a bit and thinking over my options. Had I gone to school for that, it would have definitely been a topic that would have come up — along with what to do in that situation.

Since then, I’ve experienced just about every condition possible: I’ve driven in blizzards, up and down mountains, had a tyre blow out, and come across deer on unlit highways. I’m fairly confident of how to handle situations, but I’ve also been lucky in many of them that I guessed right.

Your project goes along the same path. The more obstacles you can imagine, the more prepared you’ll be to handle them when they inevitably crop up — and they will. No project goes perfectly according to plan and you will have to deal with little bumps along the way. How you anticipate and handle them will often dictate how smoothly everything goes.

 

Debrief at the End of It

Last summer, I took sailing classes. At the beginning of each class, the instructor would go over the things we would practice in the water. And at the end of it, we would go over how it actually went and what we did wrong and what we would have to improve for the future.

This part is super handy because it makes your team accountable for both the good AND bad things that went on. The things they did right, they’ll continue to do them in the future and only get better. And if there were obstacles or mistakes, this is the time to address them so they don’t get repeated in the future.

 

Final Thoughts

The next project you’re managing, don’t leave things to chance and make sure you’ve got the right software to help you through it. While Tameday won’t have a pillow and hot cup of tea for those rough days, it will have just about everything else you need.