Projects make a real impact to organisations, individuals and society; with project managers and project professionals at the forefront of change. We asked project professionals in a range of sectors with varying experience about their secrets and advice for project success:
- Invest in yourself and keep learning. ‘Never underestimate the power of knowledge and take the time to invest in your own learning’ stresses Dominic Turner, apprentice project manager qualification delivery at Pearson. “As a project manager, you may find yourself working in a multitude of different industries ranging from construction to software development. Taking some time to learn about the industry you're in, and developing relevant skills can not only support your technical understanding but can be a great conversation starter to build upon your professional network.”
‘Keep learning, keep learning, keep learning’ emphasised Dr David Hamilton, managing director at Projecting, ‘every project is different, technology is changing, and the discipline is evolving. Try to stay current as best you can. I always try to do things that I haven’t done before, like speaking at the APM Conference. And I always try to give myself different experiences and exposure to different sectors and projects’
- Stay relevant. Neil Crewdson, head of project management at Sellafield mentioned the importance of keeping up to date with the industry: ‘Look online at blogs, read project management publications and do your research to see what direction the industry is taking. Try not to focus all of your attention on the here and now. Although the context we deliver projects in might vary, the techniques we use are often standardised – so try to look at other industries and see what best practice and learning they are using, and apply this to your own projects.
‘In my spare time I enjoy reading and keeping up to date with current affairs and developments in the profession. As many of Sellafield’s challenges have been carried out in different industries and situations, there is already knowledge and experience available – so we often don’t need to reinvent the wheel. By looking to other organisations we can use their approaches and best practice to deliver effectively with greatest value for the UK tax payer.’
- Get the basics right starting with the organisation you’re in. Craig Scott, says it’s vital to ‘understand the organisational construct of your project’ to enable success. This also comes in handy when ‘nurturing your network with the relevant subject matter experts for easy access in times of need’.
Once you understand the organisation of the project, Neil highlights the importance of making sure you have ‘clear roles and responsibilities for your teams; then everyone knows what they are doing and are accountable for. Also ensure that your project fundamentals are in place – if you don’t have the basic principles right then you will really struggle to deliver. Ultimately the success of your project will rely on hard work and commitment – both from you as a project manager and your team’.
- Stay determined and on target. It’s vital to know what you want to do and once you’re clear on what you need to accomplish, ‘exhaust all possible avenues to achieve this; many opportunities have more than a single solution’ advises Craig Scott who is also the youngest ChPP.
Projects change as they develop and ‘it is incredibly easy to be blown off course on any project in a corporate environment. There will be changes to scope, budget, organisational structure, project team members, and a host of other things’ adds David. ‘Stay focused on the deliverables and navigate your way towards them (and take the project team with you in the process)’.
Sebastian Harris, associate director of operations, NCC Group is always encouraging himself and others to constantly develop grit and determination: ‘If mastered, these skills are not just useful in a corporate setting, but also in a personal setting. Whilst today, I would absolutely consider myself deeply determined and able to endure huge challenges. It hasn’t always been that way, a strong cocktail of set-backs, disappointment and short-lived failure for me was fundamental into developing the mind-set and perception I now have.’
- ‘Always believe in yourself, your ability and integrity – know your onions. Never put yourself down, there are plenty of people in the world who will do that for you.’ says Kate Kelly, learning and development manager at Public Health England.
‘Never be afraid to try, failure is never final. The more I understood this, the more determined and skilled I became. After all, “a master has failed more times than a beginner has even tried”’ reminds Sebastian Harris. When you’re new to the profession, having self-confidence can be difficult, even the most experienced project professions feel doubt. But try to have courage.
“One of the key lessons was to challenge my peers if I think I can add value or input into a project, even if the stakeholders I’m challenging are of high-level. I think it’s imperative as it could change the perspective of the project which in turn could change the output, remember if you think you have something valuable to add shout up and don’t be afraid to share it.” Luca Lowe, project management coordinator, Direct Line Group.
- Finally…take a break, take time away. “I really enjoy my role and the different challenges we face, but I’ve learnt throughout my career that it is just as important to invest in myself and ensure that I have a good work life balance. I’m fortunate that I can switch off from work when I need to. I enjoy spending time with my family, friends and walking my dogs in my spare time.’
Remember to take care of yourself and inevitably, your project; ensure you have a good level of balance.
What are some of your secrets to project success? Share your thoughts in the comments or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.