This year, Sevaa Group sponsored and attended DrupalCon Nashville! As a project manager and first time attendee, I worried that there would be nothing for me to do except stand behind a booth and hand out stickers. However, the Drupal community proved to be welcoming to programmers and non-coders alike. Tracks like Being Human and Project Management offered engaging sessions that everyone could enjoy. I was particularly interested in the project management sessions, hoping to learn a few hacks.

One thing was common among most project management sessions, a PM wears many hats: argument diffuser, technical translator, event planner, budget balancer…the list goes on. But the most important part about being a PM is nurturing the relationship with your team. Here’s what I, a non-coder, learned at DrupalCon.


Maintaining Your Team’s Health and Productivity

A single project can introduce a multitude of problems. A project manager’s job is to rank those issues, divide and conquer, and make sure his/her team is happy. Although each task seems like a top priority, a bit of organization proves otherwise. Communication is key, and it’s important to consult the client to find out which tasks are important to the end user. Creating this list won’t only help you and your team stay on track, it’ll also show the client that you care about their project.

Once priorities are in order, add them to a calendar that you and your team members can contribute to. Then, stick to that timeline! Routinely check in with your team members to make sure they’re on schedule. If there are any issues, let the client know and explain what impact they might have on the deadline.


Use Your Words

Not only do PMs have to juggle the client’s needs and a team’s growing workload, they also have to translate technical information to clients and, on the flip side, explain layman’s terms to team members who often overthink things. The solution: active listening.

There are 3 components that make up active listening:

  1. Paraphrase: repeat what was said in your own words.
  2. Clarify: get more info if you don’t understand.
  3. Summarize: repeat what was said in the speaker’s own words. This will allow the speaker any chance to self correct.

Whether you’re a PM or a developer, you can use active listening in any scenario. Active listening ensures that everyone is on the same page and any confusing definitions can be clarified. For example, a “template” could mean very different things to different people. A client might think the “templates” for their website are designed and ready for content. On the other hand, a designer might define “templates” as “wire frames” that must be filled out with design elements before sending to developers.

A great solution for this disconnect is to create a glossary. Make the glossary visible to team members and add to it with every project. Add sticky notes to a whiteboard each time you come across a term you’re unsure of. For each project, be clear about what a “template” (or another ambiguous word) is to that particular client, and you can figure out a client’s definition by employing active listening.


Dealing with Difficult Projects

Most of the time, projects will finish successfully, and you can remain positive in the process. However, about 10% of projects don’t always go as planned. Perhaps there’s a difference of opinions or there’s a problem getting others to understand your team’s expertise.

As a PM, it’s sometimes necessary to influence decisions, and this requires a bit of strategy. Sometimes a client will disagree with your team’s expertise, or they’re hesitant to adopt your team’s ideas. It’s important for the PM to provide social proof to validate their ideas. This proof can take the form of testimonials from trusted sources or case studies.

Clients want to know that they’re going to gain something by working with you. A great way to show what your company has to offer is to reference the loss of not working with your company. Use concise language, active listening, and guide clients to the right decisions.

When there is a difference of opinion, it’s important to understand confirmation bias. This means the person in disagreement will interpret facts that support their existing beliefs. You can combat this by pointing out the similarities in two differing opinions, prove how the person in disagreement is already acting in accordance with your opinion, and finally, remain positive about your solution.


Manage Your Relationships

Whether it’s a team member or a client, it’s important to make yourself accessible and approachable. Recognize satisfactory performance and be honest. If you make a mistake, which you will, own up to it, as this will build trust between clients and team members.

Sevaa Group knows that the importance of maintaining human relationships is just as important as maintaining our tech. Contact us about your project; we’d love to work with you!

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