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8 project management strategies for team leaders
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8 project management strategies for team leaders

Managing projects is more than making a to-do list. Here are 8 project management strategies to help increase productivity and produce better results.

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In the 19th century, mechanical engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor introduced the concept of scientific management to maximize efficiency and productivity at work. He believed that people could get more done in less time by breaking down projects into smaller parts and approaching them as individual tasks. 

This “work smarter, not harder” approach teaches us that, for teams to feel engaged and productive and avoid burnout, leaders need to intentionally create an environment where teamwork can thrive. 

However, information silos, inefficient working methods, and a lack of visibility around tasks and deliverables make it harder to complete projects on time. 

To boost morale, create smooth workflows, and improve productivity, you need to communicate the benefits of teamwork before embarking on any project—and get your whole team on board. After all, project management strategies are great, but they’re an academic exercise unless everyone’s on the same page and putting them into practice.

In this article, you’ll learn eight strategies to help you create an environment where collaboration can flourish. You’ll also get tips on what to look out for before you begin, so you can make sure you’re moving in the right direction. 

Let’s dive in. 

Get your teams working better together. 
With Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace, you and your people can work in real-time or async on any type of project.
Learn more

4 things to think about before you begin your project 

Before you embark on any project, there are a few things you need to bear in mind if you’re to avoid exceeding your team’s capacity and resources. Let’s take a look at those now: 

  • Resource availability and dependencies. Check if you have the necessary resources–like personnel, tools, and materials–and understand how different tasks depend on each other. This will help you avoid bottlenecks or grinding to a halt mid-project.
  • Team size. Consider the size of your project team and what impact your project management strategies might have on communication, teamwork, and workload. This will help avoid burnout and keep everyone on track.

  • Team skills and experience. Understand the skills and experience of your team members so you can assign tasks in a way that leverages their strengths. Finally, identify any skill gaps that may require training or external support so they don’t become a barrier to progress once the project is underway.

  • Timeline and budget. Set clear timelines and budgets to avoid scope creep, delays, and overspending.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some project management strategies that improve productivity.

8 project management strategies for better productivity

Now that you know what to consider before moving ahead, let’s take a look at eight strategies to help you increase efficiency in project management in a more sustainable way.

1. Create the right team culture

Communication and teamwork on projects are only as strong as the foundations you lay before starting. This means you need to start with your team culture. Creating an environment that promotes trust, empathy, and closeness helps you align your teams, encourage them to take ownership of projects, and work together more effectively.

Here are some ways to create a positive collaboration culture:

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of spontaneous communication and non-work-related bonding. A fun Slack channel, meeting warmer, or games hour helps your people build deeper relationships, break down silos, and be more empathetic towards each other.
  • Establish strong values like trust, kindness, and respect. These guide your people’s behaviors and let them make decisions that drive teamwork. Live your values to set the right precedent and get everyone on board.
  • Get ahead with team training and invest in your people. Whether it’s upskilling, reskilling, or keeping ahead of trends and new technologies through seminars, courses, or workshops, you need to create a culture of continuous learning. This encourages a growth mindset and helps team members be more adaptable, resilient, and creative.
A screenshot of a company’s Slack channel with members talking about AI
Creating a culture of continuous learning and development helps your project teams remain more agile. Source: Flying Cat Marketing

2. Create the right working environment

The right working environment is crucial to successful project planning, clear communication, and effective problem-solving, and it all starts with your tools, resources, and processes. 

Let’s say you’re managing a team of people in a medium-sized game development company. The perfect environment could mean having the right project management software that helps your people track project goals, communicate easily, and stay on schedule.

It could also mean embracing agile methodologies, promoting psychological safety, and documenting your processes in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) so knowledge isn’t lost and everyone can work to the same standards. 

Start by asking your teams what they need to ensure project success. Then, provide that and test it out, iterating as you go.

When your team members have access to all the resources and tools they need to complete their work, they can move full steam ahead, avoid workflow issues, and keep stakeholders happy and in the loop.

Pro tip: Switchboard is an online collaborative workspace that lets you and your teams work side-by-side in dedicated project rooms that save your work. When you use this online collaboration tool for project management you can organize and save all your important documents and files–like SOPs and project information–in one place. This lets you communicate in context and get work done in real time or async.
A screenshot of a Switchboard room with files and participants
Switchboard’s persistent rooms save everything you put in them so you can pick up right where you left off next time. Source: Switchboard 

3. Set clear goals and expectations 

Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals is one way to help your people stay within project scope and focus on results. When you set these project objectives, you should also regularly update the team on progress and provide feedback to keep improving.

In a software development project, for example, clearly defined goals and expectations could include delivering a new feature within a specified timeline, meeting quality standards, and aligning with client requirements. This lets the team prioritize tasks, allocate resources effectively, and be more productive, which helps with successful project completion.

Finally, make sure your people understand the level of internal and external stakeholder involvement to expect and brief them on their roles and responsibilities. The more clarity your people have, the better able they are to do their jobs—and the more they will trust you and the rest of the leadership team.

According to Tarah Keech, Founder of Tarah Keech Coaching, a lack of clarity about what to expect can lead to lower trust levels between leadership and your people. However, mitigating that “can be as simple as understanding what questions you need answered,” she says. To do this, she suggests going to your leadership with a list of questions or doubts your team might have and sharing their answers with them. 

4. Use a work breakdown structure

Using a work breakdown structure (WBS) helps you break complex projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. This makes planning and execution easier. 

For example, in a marketing campaign, a WBS can divide the project into components like research, content creation, advertising, and analytics. This breakdown lets you allocate resources, assign tasks, and track progress more efficiently. 

Here are three steps to do that:

  • Identify project phases or major milestones. Instead of focusing solely on final deliverables, identify the key phases or major milestones of the project. Breaking things down into these distinct stages or frequencies helps with planning, tracking progress, and managing dependencies between different parts of the project.
  • Involve the team. Work with your team to develop the WBS, taking their expertise and insights into consideration. When you choose task owners, delegate the work based on each team member’s strengths and capacity. For example, you can give social media creation to team members who’ve shown a flair for engaging people online. Others might have skills better lend themselves to project management or building client relationships.
  • Establish clear hierarchies. Organize tasks in a clear structure, starting with major components and breaking them down into sub-tasks. This makes it even clearer which tasks need to be prioritized.
A screenshot of a company’s project management board on ClickUp
Breaking down your project into smaller pieces gives you a clear picture of what you need to do to get where you have to go. Source: Flying Cat Marketing

5. Establish a meeting schedule based on the team’s needs

Every specific project calls for different types of meetings. Depending on project complexity and what you need to achieve, you might opt for daily stand ups or monthly check-ins. Figure out how often your teams need to meet, which format is more beneficial for them, and who needs to be involved. This lets you increase visibility and make quick decisions while still protecting your people’s time by avoiding unnecessary meetings. 

Here are some virtual meeting best practices to make your calls as effective as possible:

  • Determine meeting frequency. Once you’ve assessed the project needs and complexity, try to strike a balance between regular updates and giving your team enough time to actually  execute their tasks.
  • Encourage ownership. This means getting every team member to take responsibility for their ideas, contributions, and tasks. You can do so by taking turns on who leads the meeting or letting different members contribute to the agenda. When each person feels like they have a stake in the overall project, they’re more likely to actively participate in the meeting.
  • Choose the right virtual meeting platform. Your software of choice should be built for doing not just talking. When you use a virtual workspace like Switchboard, you can all work together on browser-based documents, apps, and files—instead of just watching one person share their screen. This means you can tackle every new project in a collaborative way.
  • Cancel the meeting when possible. Think carefully about whether you really need to get everyone in the same room at the same time. If information or updates could be shared async via a Loom video or a Slack channel, go with that instead. Your people will appreciate getting the time back to focus on work.
A screenshot of a Switchboard room with two participants and a whiteboard app
Switchboard lets everyone work on files, documents, and apps at the same time. Source: Switchboard

6. Track project progress 

Tracking the progress of your project lets you keep your team and stakeholders informed. You can also spot potential issues and make proactive decisions to keep everything on track. For instance, for a marketing campaign, tracking progress lets the project manager monitor KPIs, timelines, and budget use. This means they can identify delays or problems early on and take the necessary actions to keep the campaign on track.

Here are some tips for effectively tracking project progress:

  • Utilize Kanban boards. These visually represent tasks and their progress. Move the tasks across different stages–i.e. “To do,” “doing,” and “done”–to track their status at a glance. This makes it easy for everyone to check the status of a task and what’s coming next. 
  • Conduct regular retrospectives at the end of each project phase or milestone. Reflect on progress, discuss lessons learned, and identify improvements for future iterations. This iterative approach helps you learn continuously and refine things as you go.
  • Run a project health check. Evaluate the overall projects, any issues your team members encounter, and any possible solutions. For example, if your people find a stage in the workflow to be redundant and time-consuming, you can either explain why it’s important or remove it altogether, making the project flow more smoothly. Remember to do this regularly at key milestones, not just when the project is over.
  • Regularly communicate updates to stakeholders. Keep them informed of progress and the impact of your work. Do this in an easily digestible format so your clients and stakeholders can take in the information quickly. For example, you can post a quick roundup or a single slide with a few key points every week on your shared Slack channel.
A screenshot of a Slack channel with one user posting weekly client updates
Regularly keeping your stakeholders updated helps everyone stay on track and see the value of your work. Source: Flying Cat Marketing

7. Fight scope creep

Scope creep happens when projects expand beyond their original objectives, leading to longer timelines, higher costs, and team member burnout. For example, if your website development client continuously requests new functionalities or design elements, the project may go beyond its initial scope—which can hurt team motivation and your bottom line.  

To effectively fight scope creep:

  • Document the project scope early on. Communicate it to all stakeholders when they onboard to the project to ensure everyone understands the project limits. This will help avoid unnecessary additions later on. For example, you could specify a certain number of changes, pages, fonts, colors, or images on the website. This way, you’re within your rights to negotiate a higher fee for additions or changes that are out of scope.
  • Regularly review project scope. This makes sure there’s ongoing alignment with project goals. Evaluate any potential changes against the original scope and assess their feasibility and impact before incorporating them into the project.
  • Set clear expectations for your team members and establish boundaries with clients. If something is out of scope, communicate that to the client and present an alternative solution. For example, “A this new feature at this point in the sprint is out of scope but we can prioritize it in the next sprint. What do you think?” Offering a choice ensures the client feels heard and considered while avoiding you being out of pocket on the project. 

For Tarah, the clearer you are about what you and your clients, team, and leadership need from each other, the easier it is to act in alignment with the desired outcome. “This helps simplify the decision making,” she says, “about what does and doesn't get prioritized, about what you say no to or honor your boundaries around.”

8. Evaluate team performance regularly

When you regularly evaluate and measure team productivity and performance, you can identify strengths and areas for improvement, provide constructive feedback, and align individual efforts with project goals. However, make sure to steer clear of micromanaging or “big brother” tactics, and don’t overload your people with constant reviews. 

The point of any evaluation is to check on the health of the team and the project, not because you don’t trust your people. It’s also an opportunity to ensure no one is overburdened or approaching burnout.

Consider these three tips to evaluate your team’s performance:

  • Have regular 1:1s with individual team members. Take this chance to provide constructive and positive feedback and encourage them to come to you with their needs, questions, and opinions. For example, if one person is struggling to complete their tasks on time, you can dig into the reasons and figure out how to help them.
  • Discuss KPIs with the team. This promotes transparency and makes sure everyone’s on the same page. It also gives your team an opportunity to share best practices, knowledge, and resources to help each other meet their performance targets. 

Project management strategies: The key to working smarter, not harder 

More than a hundred years ago, Frederick Taylor introduced the world to scientific management: Breaking complex tasks or projects into their component parts and focusing on those rather than the whole to be more efficient and productive.   

Task management has come a long way since then, but some things remain the same. Highly collaborative teams that ace cross-functional projects follow tried-and-tested project management strategies. However, techniques alone aren’t enough: Your teams also need to be fully bought in. That’s why you need to actively communicate the benefits of teamwork and create an environment where it can thrive—before you take on a new project. 

In this piece, we introduced eight project management strategies to help you improve your work quality and productivity levels in the long term. Some of these approaches include creating the right team culture, building the right environment, using a work breakdown structure, and fighting scope creep. 

Finally, give your people the collaboration and project management tools they need to succeed. Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace gives project teams a place to find each other and get work done together in real time or async along.  

Get your teams working better together. 
With Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace, you and your people can work in real-time or async on any type of project.
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about project management strategies

How do you create a project management plan?

Here are 10 steps to creating a project management plan:

1. Define project objectives, scope, constraints, deliverables, and desired outcomes 

2. Identify stakeholders and understand their expectations and needs

3. Develop a work breakdown structure by breaking down the project into smaller parts 

4. Define activities and dependencies

5. Develop the project schedule and use techniques like Gantt charts or network diagrams to visualize the schedule

6. Allocate resources for each task

7. Develop a risk management plan

8. Define a communication plan 

9. Set quality standards and monitor deliverables to make sure they adhere to standards 

10. Monitor and evaluate project progress

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Get your teams working better together.

With Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace, you and your people can work in real-time or async on any type of project.