5 Tips to Keep Your Project on Track

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Ducks walking in a row

Project Managers have all been there. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to lead the charge on a new project initiative. You’ve done all your homework, prepped with the client, and have all the information you need to get the ball rolling. All your ducks are in a row until, well, they aren’t anymore and you find yourself at a crossroads of reflection. (Queue delightful visual of a flock of ducklings meandering in all different directions…you’re welcome!)

Common challenges arise like time, budget, feature complexity, time and budget again and the cycle continues. Sure, this is where team retrospectives come into play and there are a lot of learning opportunities that come from having these as part of your regular sprint cadence but don’t stop at retrospection. I encourage you to take a good look at yourself to understand how you personally process these challenges, how you can do better for yourself, and, ultimately, be a better servant leader for your team.

Working in an agile mindset, the idea of continuous delivery is crucial. The concept of releasing a slice of the pie versus the entire pie means chipping away at some larger initiative while still delivering consumable pieces along the way. While this allows for fast failure and an opportunity to autocorrect, we are still talking about product development. No matter the amount of preparation or how nicely aligned your ducks are, there is always, and I stress ALWAYS, some unknown “gotcha” that rears its ugly little head. And sometimes that “gotcha” has many little heads that hydra your project into oblivion.

Here are my top five ways to battle the digital product development “gotcha” monsters and keep your project on track:

1. Acknowledge when things have run off course.

The worst thing a PM, or anyone on the team can do, is bury their head in the sand and pretend things will magically get better. At the first inkling of something going astray, this is the time to have a very real conversation with your team. Discuss the issue(s) at hand, their priority in terms of resolution, and a plan for follow-through. Don’t wait until the snowball effect is underway. Nip it in the bud!

2. Enlist the help of a trusted mentor, colleague, or manager.

They have been in your shoes and most likely have dealt with situations just like what you are experiencing. Seek them out, even if just for a sanity check, to ensure that your gut is leading you down the right path. Venting is also strongly encouraged as a means of mitigating toxic positivity. It’s okay to not be okay! Find someone you trust and allow yourself the space to speak openly and candidly about the challenges you are facing and how they make you feel. (Special thanks to former DockYarder, Luke Jones, for introducing me to the concept of toxicity positivity…mind blown!)

3. Reflect on the root cause of the issue but DO NOT dwell on it.

Learning comes from these kinds of situations and growth comes into play when you formulate a path forward. Believe me, you will never forget what you have learned and I promise if you do, the universe will gladly plant a nice reminder for you on your next project (muahaha; rubs hands together deviously like Mr. Burns).

4. Be kind to yourself and to your team.

Everyone is working their hardest and that shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten. Plus, being human means we all have feelings and triggers that disrupt the day-to-day. Empathy goes a long way on this front and words of encouragement are appreciated more than you’d think. Do not hesitate to recognize hard work and effort, not only towards your team but also for yourself.

5. Stay positive!

Life is hard, work is stressful but if we remember we are all in this together as a team, it makes it that much easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

All this to say, no project is 100% smooth sailing. Some hit much rougher, choppier seas than others but the idea is to keep the boat and crew afloat. So get used to feeling that wind whip through your sail because it’s going to, usually, be a wild ride. Need help navigating a digital product? DockYard can help empower your team with expert help. Reach out to us today.

DockYard is a digital product agency offering custom software, mobile, and web application development consulting. We provide exceptional professional services in strategy, user experience, design, and full stack engineering using Ember.js, React.js, Ruby, and Elixir. With a nationwide staff, we’ve got consultants in key markets across the United States, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Austin, New York, and Boston.