Project management is a skill that WriterGirl doesn’t take for granted when it comes to content work. We’ve learned that lots of preparation, coordination, scheduling and planning must take place among multiple teams and stakeholders before any project can get off the ground.
Managing a project — large or small — involves a lot of moving parts. Sure, having good communication and project management tools is critical. But other best practices for project management don’t require technology — characteristics like self-awareness, flexibility and curiosity. In the end, focusing on some of your skills and traits may be more valuable than the most intuitive project management software.
Project managers keep the work on track
Before we dive into best practices, let’s set the scene. Here at WriterGirl, our skillful writers are key to making a project happen for our clients. But there’s also a team working behind the scenes connecting the dots and reminding us about the “big picture.” These folks are our project managers (PMs) and client services managers (CSMs). They’re the doers, the go-getters and most often the people everyone in the organization counts on to keep a project on task.
PMs and CSMs are a blend of account service, strategy and technical expertise. They’re always looking for ways to increase efficiency and produce quality work for our clients.
Six WriterGirl best practices for project management
Over the years, WriterGirl has honed many effective project management practices. These six are crucial:
We don’t work in a vacuum. As a fully remote team, we do a lot of work independently, but keeping an active line of communication is vital to successful projects.
Internal communications are just as important as external communications. Meaning, we listen to our clients’ needs to deliver quality work, but we also keep the inner lines of communication open. Whether it’s a five-minute Skype call or an email exchange, the WriterGirl team believes in “overcommunicating” with each other. This makes sure all team members are on the same page and sharing the same vision.
One of the critical components of successful communication is also understanding your teammates’ communication preferences. Some of our colleagues prefer a quick text or a Skype message. Others may want to hop on a video call. Knowing the best way to reach your team can keep your work running smoothly.
Our team loves to share knowledge. We feel it’s essential to trade project ideas and learnings, while also asking for input. We often get our best ideas from other teammates who may not be as closely tied to the project. They bring a welcome, fresh perspective.
Sharing knowledge can come in many forms — calls, team meetings, document databases. We make a point during team calls to share learnings from both good and bad experiences. Our colleagues are also not afraid to raise their hands and ask for help when a problem or question is blocking a project.
Having a database of resources is also important for knowledge sharing. We use Basecamp as our primary project management tool, which allows us to communicate and share project documents. This tool is also useful for sharing resources across the organization that may come in handy for multiple projects (think: AP Style updates, SEO best practices, SME interview tips, etc.)
Understanding and accepting our strengths and weaknesses is invaluable for WriterGirl. Our PMs and CSMs often need to meet goals and objectives with stakeholders who have conflicting views. Although that may be out of WriterGirl’s control, a PM with a strong sense of self-awareness can effectively manage emotions and handle interpersonal relationships.
A good project manager should be analytical and stay laser-focused on deadlines and schedules. But we know it’s also important to remain curious. In fact, curiosity is one of WriterGirl’s core values (alongside “empowered,” “kind” and “fun”). It’s part of who we are.
PMs should stay mindful of the overall project vision while being curious about how to optimize processes. Is there a more efficient way to approach the task at hand? How can different teams work together to accomplish this goal? A curious project manager can find opportunities for improvement and respectfully implement them, ultimately helping both current and future projects.
There are many moving pieces within each project. Deadlines and guidelines can change quickly, so we can’t only rely on an email inbox to keep things organized.
Having a robust documentation process in place will help in your project’s success. Documentation serves two important functions: to make sure project needs are met and to set up the team for success using organized, ample and accurate information.
As we mentioned earlier, we use Basecamp to track our projects. Every piece of a project is categorized and tagged accordingly. We also make sure to update the status of project frequently, so we can quickly identify any problem areas or roadblocks.
Think about documenting items like:
- Style guides
- Strategy documents
- Source or background information
- Examples of related or past projects
- Email updates from key stakeholders
- Contact info for stakeholders and SMEs
- Project status updates (weekly, monthly)
Regardless of the project management tool you use, make sure you take advantage of it and document each step of your process. Future projects will surely benefit from it.
Perhaps one of the most critical features of a good project manager is maintaining flexibility. While it’s important to know when to reel in an out-of-control project, it’s just as important to have a bit of grace when it comes to pivots and last-minute changes.
So, take a deep breath and go with the flow. Even the best-laid plans go awry. We believe staying flexible will keep us (and our clients) sane and successful.
What are your project management best practices?
Communication, collaboration, self-awareness, curiosity, documentation and flexibility are just six habits we apply to our work. We’re always at “practice,” so we can perfect project management for our clients.
But going back to our core value of curiosity — we want to learn from you. What best practices for project management success does your organization have in place? We’d love to hear them. Share your tips with us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Need a project management pro? WriterGirl is ready to jump in and help with your content marketing projects. From blog posts to website overhauls, we can manage it all, so you can focus on your business and marketing goals. Drop us a line to learn more.
This blog was updated on July 8, 2020. It was originally published on August 1, 2018.