Recommended Reads | By Duncan Haughey | Read time minutes
How to become a successful project manager is a multifaceted question without a simple answer - and that's okay. The answers to several questions will help guide you towards project success. In this article, I list the answers to some frequently asked questions.
The questions below originate from popular user site searches on the Project Smart website and feature highly in Google searches related to project management. In the answers, I draw on my experience over decades as a project manager, many successful projects, and a few failures.
And with that, let's dive into 10 frequently asked project management questions.
1. What does an issues log look like?
An issues log is a chart that shows what problems exist in your project. The columns can include the date an issue is raised, an issue description, an impact rating, a priority rating, a mitigation plan, owner name and status of the issue. Your project team should regularly review the issues log and take steps to proactively address each issue. A similar log may exist to record and monitor risks. What's the main difference between an issue and a risk? An issue has already occurred, and a risk is an issue that may or may not happen.
2. What is the purpose of a RAID log?
A RAID log is a simple tool used to track project risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies. As the project manager, you can use a RAID log to always ensure you can act quickly and decisively to deal with any identified project-related risks or issues. Use the RAID log to also check that your assumptions are valid and better understand your dependencies.
3. How can I motivate my team members?
A key way to motivate your team is to visibly recognise anyone who exceeds expectations. That recognition can come via an email to a line manager that copies the relevant team member, a shout-out in a team meeting or even an award. Regardless of the delivery, ensure the recognition is genuinely deserved and relates to something beyond role-based expectations. In other project managers, I sometimes find this motivational approach lacking. And that's a shame – it costs nothing and creates a great deal of goodwill.
4. How can I become a better time manager?
While the following list isn't exhaustive, these actions are a good start:
- Don't book one-hour meetings just because it's a convenient time unit. Instead, create shorter meetings starting at 20 minutes. I favour 45-minute meetings, which generally helps avoid back-to-back meetings.
- Take any significant issues that arise during a meeting offline if they could cause the meeting to overrun.
- Create a daily to-do list to stay focused on achieving your objectives. Trello is an excellent tool for this purpose.
- Give your brain a twice-daily 10-minute break without email, phone, meetings or social media.
5. Can you be both accountable and responsible in a RACI matrix?
The short answer is that sometimes you can be both. In many situations, responsible and accountable people are different. The responsible person is doing the task. The accountable person is the person delegating the task to the doer – for example, the line manager. In a typical software project, the project manager is the accountable person if the software developer is the responsible one.
In some scenarios, however, the accountable and responsible person may be the same. Here's an example. Assume a manager is asked to produce a sales report for their director. The manager is therefore accountable for producing the report on time to the required standard. If the manager creates the report, they are also responsible for getting the work done. The manager in this case is thus both accountable and responsible. But if the manager delegates the report creation to their sales assistant, the assistant is responsible for getting the work done. In this case, the manager is accountable, and the sales assistant is responsible. Learn more about using a RACI matrix.
6. What is the best project management qualification?
The answer depends on several factors. Will you be following an agile or traditional approach to the management of your projects? Does your current or prospective employer have a preferred qualification? What are the most accessible qualifications and entry criteria for your circumstances? Let the answers to these questions guide you. In the end, there's no best qualification – there's only a suitable qualification for you.
7. How often should I deliver status updates to my stakeholders?
Ultimately, the timing of status updates depends on the size and complexity of your project. Some project managers find fortnightly or even monthly reporting adequate. However, I like to provide weekly status updates over Microsoft Teams and then follow up with an email. I prefer a no-surprises approach to my projects, and weekly status updates mean delivering any good or bad news within a few hours or days of its occurrence.
8. Is an agile or waterfall approach best for my project?
Most likely, an agile approach would be best. Today, agile methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban have become mainstream and feature highly in many industries, particularly IT. Agile methods undoubtably come with benefits, such as allowing teams to respond and adapt to changing customer needs. Fast delivery of minimum viable products is another benefit, allowing something of use to be ready more quickly than possible with other methods, such as the waterfall approach. The traditional waterfall approach to project management, although not wholly defunct, has fallen out of favour in recent years due to its perceived slowness and lack of flexibility.
9. What is the best project management software on the market today?
The answer depends on you, honestly. Always think about your needs before you start investigating software solutions. It's helpful to write down your requirements and rank them using the MoSCoW method. This approach will stop you from being seduced by shiny, attractive solutions that won't deliver everything that matters to you. Once armed with your list of must, should and could-have requirements, start reviewing solutions while matching them to each of your needs. A few popular options are Monday, Wrike, Asana, Zoho Projects, Trello, GanttPro and ProofHub.
10. What are the 5 Ws in project management?
As an organisational structure, the 5 Ws refer to who, what, where, when and why. You must track these five areas to lead a successful project. Typical questions for starting a new project could be:
- Who will do the project?
- What approach will we take?
- Where will the project take place?
- When will the project start?
- Why are we doing this project?
Not sure where to start? Many templates are available to help you track the 5 Ws.
A Final Thought
Project management need not be complicated or daunting if you follow a few simple principles:
- Review your risks and issues weekly, and take prompt action to minimise and mitigate them.
- Frequently deliver the project status, and follow a no-surprises approach to keeping stakeholders updated.
- Motivate your team, and recognise anyone who exceeds normal expectations.
- Manage your time well, and avoid wasting other people's time.
- Be clear and decisive about any decision you make, and avoid being indecisive or dithering.
- Relax and enjoy your projects to engender stakeholder confidence in you as a safe pair of hands.
Got a question I haven't featured here? Pop over to our forum pages, and ask our community for an answer.
Recommended read: 20 Questions All Project Managers Should Ask, by Michelle Symonds.