There is a vast amount of information and knowledge we gain throughout our college journey – but one topic that seems to slip between the cracks is the idea of project management. This entails being able to organize, plan, and manage in order to complete major or minor projects, whether that be a unique process, new business model, or physical product. No matter what field you’re in, you’ll end up collaborating or working with a diverse team with different skill sets, perspectives, and methodologies. For some, working on a team starts with their senior design, portfolio, or another academic project, while for others it begins at their first job or internship in the corporate, education, non-profit, or engineering world. Here are some tips and tricks for getting into the mentality of leading a successful team or even being a strong contributor to one.
The best way to jump start any project is to set your objective, just like you would on a resume, to give yourself a sense of motivation to reach that goal. This can be reaffirmed with setting up your personal project times on a calendar on Outlook, on your phone, or Google calendar, so it is easily accessible to you and your teammates, or using Trello to share your task list with others. If you’re using a task list method, then you can easily mark down which tasks are high priority and should be completed first. By the way, despite popular belief it is actually easier to do the “hardest” or most “time consuming” tasks first so you can accomplish a bulk of the work first. Everything down the line will feel easier to work on and finish.
Another reason to continue to set goals throughout your working process, whether it is personal or for the team, is to be able to create checkpoints. These checkpoints allow you to break down the project into smaller manageable chunks or components which are easier to handle. You will be able to track your progress and feel less overwhelmed by all of the things you’ll have to work on. Each of your smaller tasks should be completed typically within a span of 2 weeks – but it can be take up to a months time depending on the nature of it.
To ensure that everyone is completing their jobs on time or by a set deadline, it is important to foster communication, focus, and transparency. This idea was adopted from the Scrum principles founded by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka to create an adaptable framework to emphasize commitment to desire for an idea to successfully come to life. If each individual in a team is transparent, then they are able to showcase their contribution and their progress, holding them accountable for their given role. One of the ways to have open communication among members is to regularly check-in with one another either through in-person meetings or virtual meetings through platforms such as Skype or Google Hangouts. Progress can also be jotted down through notes on Google Docs or other applications, such as Dropbox Paper, to to act as a retrospective and make sure that there were no unassigned or misassigned duties.
Although it may seem excessive to some to do frequent progress reports or just send a quick message or email that something still needs work these reminders are essential to leading a strong a tight-knit group.
By practicing strong project management, you’re able to work on many skills and keep track of them successfully at the same time. These skills can include administrative skills by being able to work with the resources you have available to you and make the most out of it while being able to delegate tasks to yourself or other team members, if necessary. Organizational skills are also a key component in meetings and progress reports, because you have to ensure that any time you spent working on collaborating or problem solving is used effectively in order to accomplish all that needs to be done. A skill that can often be overlooked is that of persuasion. When working on a team there may be a few who are not on board with a certain project and tend to stray away for contributing but if you are able to change their attitude their behaviors and thoughts toward it will transform, ultimately leading them to be more enthusiastic about it.
All of these skills are often referred to as transferable skills which mean that if you are able to successfully help or lead a team in one work environment this would be highly desired and conducive to another job you may apply for in the future!