I need it yesterday! 10 tips to survive project management
Project management is a dynamic and entertaining job involving numerous, very different functions. All with a final objective in mind: to successfully conclude a project with the minimum number of incidents and unexpected problems and ensuring that the client is satisfied... without going crazy in the process and, of course, making a profit!
In the case of a translation company, the project manager's responsibilities include talking to clients and providers in different languages, calculating quotes and profit margins, converting documents to countless formats or carrying out quality controls on translations and DTP projects or whatever takes your boss's fancy: on screen, on paper, on the table or on the wall... and all for yesterday! Just thinking about it stresses me out! Or it used to... That is precisely why I've written a series of tips and advice that I've discovered and integrated into my work thanks to the effective and subtle technique expressed in conventional wisdom by the following saying: “learn from your mistakes”.
1. Establish priorities in order to work with diligence and without pulling your hair out
You may often find yourself with a high number of e-mails for which you have to create projects, do quotes, convert or modify files, resolve queries or deal with "upset" clients or providers. Sometimes you may be swamped and not know where to begin or when you will finish, if you ever finish at all.
TIP: Note down tasks in your diary and organise or complete them in order of importance. That way, you will complete tasks one by one carefully, calmly and focused on what you are doing (and the other tasks are already organised and will be done later).
2. Use a project management programme
XTRF, for example, will allow you to record (in chronological order for instance) the progress of each project. These programmes often offer specific functions for this purpose, such as "notes".
This will allow you to manage projects more efficiently thanks to the tools available, such as automatic conversion of files, profit margin calculation, the filter of resources according to specific criteria, etc.
TIP: Investigate and learn how to use the tools and functions of the programme when you have a spare moment so that you can draw the maximum benefit from them and avoid them becoming a headache.
Always create and fill out a checklist, in which you can "cross off" points which have been finalised or correctly completed. It should include the most important initial and final steps of each project, such as creating an analysis of the files, sending the purchase order to providers, accounting (ask the client to send the purchase order if it hasn't already been sent), carry out a supplier evaluation (remind suppliers if they have forgotten to do so when delivering the job), record the relevant quality control reports, etc. With time, these steps will be done automatically (see more about task automation in point 5). Nevertheless, it is advisable to always check the list before closing a project.
TIP: Create the most simple checklist possible so that you can quickly check at a glance that no tasks are still open in the project before closing it and sending it for invoicing.
4. Controlled deadlines: essential to keep your client satisfied
To successfully conclude a project, punctual delivery is essential. It is advisable to always have deadlines under control and, as far as possible, leave a margin between the receipt of files from providers and the final delivery to the client to avoid possible unexpected situations that could delay the delivery.
TIP: Note down the date and time of deliveries, tasks, etc. in a diary. You can use a system to help you identify tasks at a glance, for example, a colour code. I use the following colour code and I think it is quite intuitive: client deliveries in red, provider deliveries in green, to-do tasks in black and all other comments in blue. It is also handy to hang a calender on the wall with one sheet per month to note down deliveries to clients.
5. Task automation raises profitability
Just like any other task in your personal or professional life, such as driving, process and task automation allows you to carry out the task more easily and with less effort.
TIP: Start each project, control its progress and close it systematically always following, when possible, the same steps, in the same order and without skipping any in order to automise the process and therefore reduce the necessary effort and concentration. This way you will also increase the profitability of projects.
6. Writing helps to fix ideas and absorb processes
When you are just starting out in project management you have to learn and absorb a great deal of processes.
TIP: It can be a great help to keep a notebook in order to note down all of the new processes so that you can consult them at a later date if necessary. Besides, simply writing things down helps you to retain contents, dates, processes, etc.
7. A board with notes within your line of vision
Points that you find impossible to remember whatever you do:
TIP: Hang up a small board, or even a sheet of paper, with key words in order to remember points that you usually forget (for example, to activate a specific option when analysing files or to deliver files through the system and not by email) or with information that you need
quickly, such as phone numbers, extensions for managers of other departments, shortcuts for the most frequently used programs, steps or processes that you usually forget, etc.
8. Clear communication and speedy answers
Sometimes a small misunderstanding could become an apparently mammoth problem, endangering business relationships. Communication with clients and suppliers must be clear and cordial.
TIP: Following your priority list, you should calmly and diligently continue with your tasks. When communicating with clients and providers, always do so calmly, patiently, politely and promptly. It is important to explain yourself clearly and concisely in emails or by telephone in order to avoid possible misunderstandings, which could also create tension in the working relationship. A tense atmosphere can make it difficult to achieve good results and hampers motivation at the workplace.
It is equally as important to reply promptly. We all get "stressed" and want a reply as soon as possible. There are two important aspects regarding this point:
1. Do not despair if you do not receive an immediate reply. Continue working through your priority list and get in touch again after a reasonable time.
2. Do not forget to reply to emails that are not included in the priority tasks To do this, you could mark the specific email as “Not read” so that you remember to reply later on. If you need more time to reply to an email, send a quick reply to say that you will reply later on or something similar. The most important thing is that your client or provider knows that you will take it into account and that you have added it to your to-do list.
TIP: Always remember to insist on a reply after a reasonable time and to reply to unread emails without too much delay.
9. We ALL make mistakes
We can all make mistakes when calculating a quote or sending a purchase order with the wrong analysis. There is no problem in writing or calling to rectify the mistake, modify the document concerned or take the necessary measures. There is no point in paying someone for a job that they have not done just because we have made a mistake and there is no need to get upset about rectifying a mistake, that, I repeat: happens to us all.
TIP: If you have a clear and honest communication with clients and providers, you simply have to be sincere and explain the mistake made. After explaining the mistake made and proposing a solution, the person in question, if they have the same professional values as us, should not have a problem in applying or accepting the necessary measures or in considering an alternative.
10. Free time?
Sounds like a joke, right? But jokes aside, sooner or later you'll have a spare moment without any "priority" tasks to perform.
TIP: It's time to carry out those tasks that can sometimes be slightly, shall we say... tedious, which allow us to streamline and capitalise on projects when there is barely time to breathe. For example, searching for suppliers to add to the database for certain activities or language combinations.
In these spare moments you could also do simulations of processes that you don't often do and that, in the moment of truth, don't go very smoothly. So, recreating processes that you still haven't grasped that could cause you stress or anxiety, and therefore you'll feel more confident when the moment arrives. Again, it's all about automising processes.