Understanding exactly where your skills end and the skills of others begin is crucial in a business culture obsessed with speed.
The whole world is now a job board and anyone with access to an internet connection and a passable profile on Upwork is now a potential employee.
Incredible? Yes. Intimidating? A little. The pressure to move fast, execute, and “build the road as you’re driving on it” can be overwhelming if you’re new to project management.
The good news is that anyone can pick it up and become great at it. The article below lays out a few key steps to help anyone who wants to be more effective when it comes to managing projects. You can also find our favorite project management apps here.
Project Management, the superpower.
The ability to allocate and delegate resources is becoming an increasingly sought-after skill. Additionally, our hyper-connected workplace and access to a world-wide talent pool have made the “doing-what-we-can-with-what-we-have” attitude extinct.
With technology, what we CAN do is infinite, and what we HAVE is one-click access to the most talented individuals in their respective fields.
Project management/resource allocation/herding cats, whatever you want to call it is how successful startups play in the Big Leagues from day 1: by leveraging world-class engineers, developers, designers, and content creators.
And it’s a great partnership for both parties:
Freelancers maintain the freedom and flexibility to take on new projects at their leisure, while organizations decrease costs by flexing once full-time positions into project work delegated to the best fit applicant.
With one huge caveat:
Talent is only as good as your ability to direct it.
At Sapper, our turnarounds are fast. So we had to immediately design new processes to accommodate outsourced deliverables–ones that could be easily translated and executed upon by our new teams.
We screened hundreds of candidates, and most of them were forthcoming enough to say, “It’s not me, it’s you” (yes, you read that right) because our turnarounds were “intimidating.” ¯_(ツ)_/¯
But for whom we were a fit, it was a dream. We had to learn ways to retain our talent but when we did, we were able to retain our strict KPIs and even open up internal resources for other critical projects.
So how’d we do it?
We followed 3 Steps that would dramatically increase the quality of our projects and free up internal bandwidth.
1. Know What You’re Bad At
Meet with your team, think hard, and make a list.
Ex: Maybe your marketing team has a million creative campaign ideas but when it comes to reporting on what’s working, they’re GA (Google Analytics) greenhorns.
Get everyone in a room and hammer out the real problems. There’s no sense in creating new structures if you don’t have a firm grasp on the root of your challenges.
This is also a good time to make note of your strengths, as a company AND as individuals. Maybe your full time developers are neck deep in a project, but one of your support team members with coding experience can flex in from time to time. Try to think globally.
NOTE: It’s important to create a space where people can talk freely about what projects have opportunities, and what skills are required to take them from OK to incredible.
The feedback might be tough, but the cost of not knowing is worse.
2. Visible and Actionable Deliverables
There’s a fun saying in Sales: If it’s not in the CRM, it didn’t happen. The same goes with outsourced projects. If you prefer calling, or Skyping, or using platforms like Zoom (we love Zoom), great!
TAKE NOTES, WRITE IT DOWN, CARVE IT IN A WALL.
Any of these options are acceptable.
How are you going to rely on the same memory that leaves your lunch on the kitchen table once a month to remember every single action item and due date discussed in a conversation that happened 2 months ago?
Answer? You don’t.
If you already take notes, perfect. If you add dates for each step, even better. If you don’t add dates, start! Even if the assignee says “oh, well I don’t know…it’s tough to say” agree on a date, no matter how arbitrary.
Obviously, dates are flexible, but the small action of establishing a baseline is critical. Everyone starts with the end in mind and the steps to get there are no longer floating in the ether.
3. Feedback, Feedback, and (you guessed it) Feedback
I’ve looked on both Upwork and LinkedIn, and unbelievably, not a single person has /Mind-reading/ listed as a skill. Disappointing, but we can work around it.
Full-disclosure, our earliest freelanced projects didn’t come out even close to what we were looking for. And instead of blaming the creators, (we’d seen their previous projects and they were outstanding) we immediately understood that we weren’t giving them enough information to be successful.
Our solution was more examples, practice, and honest feedback about what we needed. While our feedback was clear, actionable information regarding what we liked and what we needed from the project.
If we wanted something changed, we told them why (if we could articulate it) to provide as much help as we could.
Because of this focus on feedback, freelancers could internalize our input and delivered future projects faster.
Being a Project Manager is not rocket science (rocket science is easier).
But by building your project management skills, you sharpen one of the most sought-after skills, create more bandwidth while working with the most qualified individuals in the world, and exponentially increase the consistency and quality of your output.
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