30 Jul Project Management in Silicon Valley
Project Management in Silicon Valley
A while back, a group of us were trying to figure out what separates fast-rising Staff Engineers from Senior Engineers. We thought it counterintuitive that the answer wasn’t always tied to technical skills.
Instead, all the Staff Engineers demonstrated crucial leadership through the successful project management of their projects.
Interested in how we could level the playing field by giving engineers access to additional leadership training, we did lots of research with Northeastern University on what good project management is — trying to figure out how Product Managers and Engineers could leverage these skills, even without a dedicated project manager on the team. If you’re in a similar boat, or just want to take your leadership skills to the next level, please read our sanitized readout below. We hope you find it insightful or it helps you!
What is Project Management?
Project management is a business-critical job function that requires managing a project to achieve its outcomes. Organizations that can use project management successfully will ensure the timeliness and completeness of their projects and company goals. Officially, a project manager is responsible for initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing project objectives, but they also supervise a variety of fundamental tasks for chasing successful project completion, such as examining project budget, organizing a project team, setting a time limit, supervising deliverables, and interacting with stakeholders.
Want To Be a Great Leader?
Here are 10 tips to enhance your project management skills, even if you’re not a project manager.
1. Begin with an end goal in mind
Professor, Joe Griffin, makes it clear that successful projects require setting well-articulated starting and ending points. “Like a marathon runner envisioning the finish line, if you understand that arc and constantly envision your goal, you’ll remain true to it,” he explains. Keeping distractions aside and remaining focused throughout the execution of the job.
This is especially true in disruptive Silicon Valley, where unplanned
This is especially true in disruptive Silicon Valley, where unplanned work comes up regularly!
2. Understand your goal and learn to say no
According to Griffin, it is important to realize your ultimate objective before jumping directly to the tasks required to manage any project. For instance, you might experience a situation that forces you to change the direction of the project. Griffin advises his students to ask themselves, “What do I need to produce for these influencers to meet their expectations?”
“These items are considered ‘mission critical’ and, ideally, you should feel comfortable declining other requests. Really,” he says. You end up developing strategies and language required to express the practical goals of the work and how they ladder up to the project’s vision. This act will help you to keep everyone on track to achieve predetermined goals and save everyone precious time.
3. Be considerate
From a people perspective, it’s vital to take time to talk with colleagues and leadership about their lives in an empathetic way, so you can better understand how your team’s situation affects the project’s scope, deadlines, and commitments.
According to Griffin, it’s easy to be so focused on managing the tasks of a project that you don’t even realize that you’ve lost sight of how innate human motivation can be a limiting factor to the success of your project.
Here are some practical questions to ask to understand your team better: “When do you work best? What time do you reserve for personal commitments?” Then, be considerate so that you’re both clear and understanding of expectations.
4. Manage risks
Risk management is about decreasing the potential risks to the timely completion of a project.
“Risk management is hugely important to project management,” Griffin says. He explains the importance of risk management by offering an adult learner as an example who balance family and work responsibilities while trying to go back to school. He elaborates on how important it is to identify the risks in this example and to develop a “risk response strategy” that can be executed if the project is not progressing as planned.
According to Griffin, the simplest example of a risk-response strategy is to understand that you can’t work well at night; maybe you are a morning person. Furthermore, he says that you should plan a strategy to mitigate the risk of unproductivity. Set down morning time as your working time and let people know about it. Set up a timetable according to your desire and stick to it, even if it’s at 2 a.m. (Just don’t force others to comply with your schedule by sending them Slack messages at 2 a.m.!)
5. Avoid perfectionism
On any project, it’s human nature to aspire for excellence and perfection. However, several unpredictable factors have the potential to adversely affect performance. That’s why Griffin says that workers should focus on achieving predetermined goals rather than perfectionism. The project will be successful if it meets the general expectations of stakeholders. Griffin recommends concentrating on big-picture achievements, rather than decelerating the process by focusing on every little improvable aspect.
He represents this idea by giving an example from the classroom:
“Each week, my classes have discussion board questions, and students need to post three times. Some post three times, others post 15. You can get full credit either way. Maybe it matters to you personally whether you get a 3.7 versus a 3.4, but nobody else is going to know or care…If you’re balancing other priorities — work, family, and life — recognize that time management and restraint is a big part of success”.
6. Effectively manage your time
Effective management of time is an integral part of the successful completion of any project in any environment. There are many time management strategies you can use to achieve success in your professional and personal lives.
One of the beneficial strategies for time management is having a well-defined project plan, as every phase of a project from beginning to end is affected by it. Executing a project without a plan will lead you to spend more on deciding the requirement and outcomes of the project throughout the process. On the other hand, the formation of a comprehensive strategy will act as a blueprint that helps you to avoid all the usual time wasters that might be experienced otherwise.
Moreover, another critical aspect of time management is the interaction with stakeholders. Some of the significant time-related issues encountered by project managers and other professionals are communication delays. To counter this issue and meet timelines, try to keep stakeholders actively involved in all stages of a project.
7. Avoid multitasking
While multitasking seems to be the best way to achieve many tasks in a relatively short time, the primary issue is that multitasking doesn’t work. Actually, our brains are designed to manage more than one or, at maximum, two complicated projects at a time.
Research from the American Psychological Association states that productivity loss ends up being ~40% when switching from one task to another — the reason: loss of attention and focus. You can use various strategies to stop multitasking and complete your work as quickly as possible. For instance, decreasing disruption of all sorts by muting Slack, creating “Work Time” blocks on your calendar, etc.
These tricks may help increase your concentration and enhance performance as they lead to a decrease in the number of attention splitting distractions or “interrupts”.
8. Use the proper tools
In a world where productivity is crucial, professionals need to get benefits from the resources at their disposal to make their jobs easier. Project managers, administrators, and other employees can get help from project management software tools to deliver their projects as effectively as possible as these software provides features to permit task management, progress tracking, and streamline communication.
It’s crucial to consider your requirements as well as to identify options to meet your requirements while choosing a tool to be used. You can get sufficient help to interact with your team, stay organized, and meet the delivery time of the project by having the right project management apps and software in your toolbelt.
9. Get familiar with project management methodologies
Even though you don’t need to follow them by the book, learning fundamental strategies of project management can be beneficial, regardless of current or future formal project management positions.
The techniques, processes, best practices, or tools used to lead someone to complete any task efficiently are known as project management methodologies. Therefore, it is not surprising that such methodologies can be extended to almost any project in any industry. Being familiar with some of the most popular project management methodologies such as Waterfall, Kanban, and Scrum, help you to identify the process best-suited to your project or industry.
10. Thank your team
One of the effective methods to enhance your team’s performance (and project success) is to be appreciative of your team. While delivering a project, companies need to be on time, on budget, and stick to requirements; it is impossible to achieve these objectives without skilled team members all working together to achieve a common goal.
Especially in Silicon Valley, every Product Manager, Software Engineer, and Individual Contributor will have a successful career just by nature of working in the tech industry. That’s why it’s so important to recognize people’s contributions and make them feel appreciated.
Mastering Project Management
The skills we went over above can be translated into any profession, even if you don’t want to pursue a career in project management. Whatever your job title is, these will help you to become more productive and effective in your job and ultimately to lead you to a successful career.
That said, even with technology and software eating the world, it’s predicted by the Project Management Institute (PMI) that there will be nearly 22 million worldwide new project management jobs by 2027. This skill will be in high demand and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. A nice stat for technical folks thinking about making the jump into a new role!
Article written by Dan Pham October 6, 2020