7 Project Management Best Practices You Need to Know in 2024

Without the right approach and tools, it’s all too easy for projects to get bogged down, resulting in exploding costs, missed deadlines, and disappointed customers. In this article, we look at 7 unique, powerful, and surprising project management best practices.

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The Top 7 Project Management Best Practices

  1. Foster transparency and visibility across all stakeholders
  2. Make it easy for your team to report back to you
  3. Prioritize learning over failure avoidance
  4. Watch for scope creep—but allow room for flexibility
  5. Find ways to align project outcomes to team members’ values
  6. Don’t underestimate the human element
  7. Use one of the top project management apps

1. Foster Transparency and Visibility

It’s crucial to maintain a balance between keeping individuals focused on their tasks and providing them with a comprehensive view of the project.

This broader perspective helps team members understand how their roles and responsibilities contribute to the project’s overall goals. Unfortunately, visibility often suffers in this balancing act.

Project managers may lean towards a “need to know” policy, which can restrict the flow of information.

However, allowing team members to see how they fit into the project helps them understand the reasoning behind priority settings and how their contributions affect others and the project’s objectives.

To promote an open environment—as much as company policy permits—it’s essential to provide avenues for individuals and groups to monitor progress and learn about other segments of the project.

Try these tactics to increase transparency for everybody on the team:

Open Up Documentation

Make documentation accessible to everyone and encourage team members to explore various aspects of the project. A good organizational tool like Notion or Confluence can facilitate this.

This is especially true if team members are granted at least viewing permissions and, ideally, commenting rights on documents, plans, and guides beyond their role’s immediate scope.

Share Challenges and Solutions

Organize regular meetings where team members can share the challenges they’ve faced and solicit feedback and ideas from the entire team.

Creativity and innovation thrive in a collaborative environment, and solutions often emerge more readily from those not directly involved in a particular task.

Use Visual Project Management Tools

Tools that offer visual representations of project timelines, responsibilities, and progress, such as Monday.com or Asana, help to simplify complex information, making it easier for team members to grasp how various elements of the project interconnect.

2. Make it Easy for Your Team to Report Back to You

Gathering reports from team members is an essential part of good project management, but without a straightforward solution, it can also be one of the most frustrating—both for you and your team.

Your team members, after all, are busy with their main tasks. And while reporting is crucial for your oversight, it can feel like an unnecessary burden if it’s cumbersome and time-consuming.

Not only can this impact morale, but it may affect the quality of the reports you receive. Therefore, it’s important to clearly define what you expect in terms of the report’s format, content, and deadlines.

This clarity helps everyone stay on the same page and ensures reporting doesn’t become a headache. Here are 3 suggestions to make reporting a breeze:

2.1. Reporting Tools
Monday Workforms
An example of WorkForms in Monday.com

 

Take advantage of reporting tools in popular project management software, like intake forms in Asana and WorkForms on Monday.com. They offer a consistent way to gather regular progress reports in exactly the format you need.

2.2. Reporting Methodologies

Implement the 5-15 Reports methodology, or a similar approach, to structure written reports and meetings efficiently. With this method, team members spend no more than 15 minutes writing their report, and you spend no more than five minutes reading it.

This format encourages conciseness and relevance, making it easier for both writing and reviewing. You can then condense these reports into your own 15-minute report for higher-ups, ensuring a smooth flow of the most essential information up the chain of command.

2.3. Reminders

Set up reminders for team members to fill out reports on time and before meetings. You can set up automatic reminders on Asana, Monday.com, and many other tools, including those considered to be the best small-team project management solutions.

3. Prioritize Learning Over Failure Avoidance

A good project manager has their sights keenly set on successful outcomes, but a great project manager understands the value of failure.

“Failure avoidance” refers to an unhealthy fixation on preventing mistakes at all costs. It leads to risk-averse behavior, such as:

  • Over-planning
  • Minimal delegation
  • Resistance to change
  • Decision paralysis, and
  • Conservative goal setting

In other words, short-term thinking and imprudent decision-making. Prioritizing learning over failure avoidance encourages a growth mindset, viewing mistakes as learning opportunities instead.

It also encourages innovation by allowing space for experimentation and exploration, helping build resilience and adaptability among team members.

For project managers, this change in mindset requires a shift in focus from merely meeting benchmarks to growing your team’s capabilities and experiences.

It involves cultivating an open, communicative team environment and driving continuous improvement and efficiency over the life of the project—and beyond.

Here are 4 creative ways to prioritize learning as a project manager:

3.1. Institute 'Failure Autopsies'

These in-depth, team-wide discussions allow stakeholders to dissect failed initiatives or mistakes without blame, focusing on what went wrong and what can be learned.

During these discussions, it’s important to cultivate a supportive, positive, forward-thinking atmosphere where the goal is to work together to extract valuable lessons and then apply them moving forward.

3.2. Create Dedicated 'Lab Time'

This could be a few hours or a whole day where team members can work on side projects, explore new tools, and experiment with different approaches—without the pressure of deliverables.

Time spent this way can lead to unexpected solutions and innovations that benefit projects, teams, and even the whole company.

3.3. Create an Open 'Learning Log'

This is a collaborative document where team members can record their mistakes and the lessons learned from them, as well as comment on one another’s growth.

It’s a great resource for making the most of regular meetings and encourages everybody to think in terms of development and learning.

3.4. Hand Out 'Badges of Courage'

Actively celebrate risk-taking with a fun and quirky award for team members who’ve stepped out of their comfort zone—regardless of the outcome. This helps change the narrative around failure from something to be avoided to something that contributes to personal and team growth.

4. Watch for Scope Creep—but Allow for Flexibility

“Scope creep” occurs when a project’s objectives, features, or requirements gradually expand, whether in complexity or number.

When it happens without a corresponding increase in resources, time, or budget, it’s a surefire way to push a project off track. Scope creep can lead to project delays, budget overruns, and team burnout.

While there are many different causes of scope creep, the most common include:

  • A missing, vague, or incomplete project plan
  • Poor communication
  • Unclear or unrealistic objectives
  • Ineffective change management
  • Customer feedback (arguably the only, certainly the most legitimate reason for permitting scope creep)

At the same time, many projects benefit from some degree of flexibility. After all, every new project is an opportunity for growth and the discovery and refinement of new and better processes.

Flexibility allows a project to adapt to unforeseen changes, innovations, or feedback, which can lead to better outcomes. Here’s what you can do to balance the two:

Regular Check-Ins and ReviewsGood Change ControlClear PrioritizationProject Management Software

Set aside time during your regular project meetings to talk about scope creep. For instance, how have requirements evolved, what is the reason, and is the project better for it?

A formal change control process ensures alterations to a project’s scope are documented, reviewed, and approved before implementation. It’s helpful to have a space dedicated to this in your project management software, whether that’s a table in Airtable or a board on Monday.com.

Establish some kind of prioritization technique to differentiate between the importance of essential features. You can use a 10-point scale, a star rating, or a dropdown (e.g. “Mission-critical,” “Very important,” “Nice to have,” “Unimportant,” etc.). This way, new features can be added to a project without derailing the main objectives.

Using one of the best resource management tools, you can track and visualize scope creep, especially how it impacts timelines and resources.

Read More: How to Create a Successful Project Plan in 2024

        5. Align Project Outcomes to Team Members’ Values

        When team members feel their professional objectives resonate with their personal values, they tend to perform better. This alignment leads to:

        • A deeper investment in the project
        • Greater enjoyment of the work
        • More creative thinking, and
        • A stronger dedication to the project’s success

        This is particularly true for younger generations, who often prioritize personal value alignment in their career choices, seeking out roles that reflect their ethical, social, and environmental principles.

        By finding ways to meaningfully connect the project’s outcomes and beliefs, team members are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and committed to achieving the best possible results for the project.

        To do this, you’ll need to accomplish 3 things:

        1. Understand Your Team's Values2. Compare These to Your Customers' Values3. Position the Project as a Bridge

        We recommend using a survey for this. You can create your own or use one of the many free values assessments available online (such as this one from gyfted.me).

        Depending on the sector your company operates in, areas of particular interest could be environmental sustainability, social impact, DE&I, or fiscal responsibility.

        The simplest way to build a strong connection between your team members’ values and your project is through your customers.

        Don’t hesitate to reach out to your sales and/or marketing departments for copies of your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), which should include information about their preferences, goals, and values. Look for similarities between these and your team.

        Position the project as a bridge between your team’s and your customers’ values. Use customer success stories, customer feedback, and other real-world examples to explain how the project’s outcome will improve the lives of your customers through the lens of these shared values.

        When team members see how their contributions improve others’ lives in a way that aligns with their own values, they’re more likely to find their work meaningful and rewarding.

        6. Don’t Underestimate the Human Element

        Project management tends to be deeply focused on objectives, methodologies, budgets, and timelines. As a result, a vital component of project success is often overlooked in the day-to-day.

        The human element. The most successful project managers understand that, first and foremost, they’re people managers.

        A project’s success hinges not just on the technical skills of team members but equally on their engagement, motivation, creativity, innovation, ability to collaborate, satisfaction, and overall happiness.

        Creating a supportive, encouraging, empowering, and uplifting work environment is essential for cultivating these positive emotional states.

        Here are some unique and effective practices to consider:

        • Celebrate the small wins to boost morale
        • Create personal development plans tailored to their career aspirations and strengths.
        • Encourage open, honest communication by setting up regular check-ins and feedback sessions.
        • Show trust and respect for your team’s work-life balance by offering flexible working hours or remote work options.
        • Empower your team by delegating authority and encouraging them to make decisions related to their work.
        • Develop a nomination program where peers can nominate each other for awards based on values like teamwork or innovation.
        • Encourage cross-training to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation among the team.
        • Host “Ask Me Anything” sessions where team members can ask candid questions to help build trust and transparency.

        7. Use the Right Project Management Software

        Monday Project management board
        Monday, an example of a popular project management tool

         

        Just as the right project management methodology is vital to success, so too is the project management software you use. In fact, of all the considerations on this list, it may be the most important.

        The right software will make it easier to promote transparency, facilitate reporting, manage scope creep, champion values, and support stakeholders.

        Follow these steps to choose the best online project management software for your projects:

        Determine Your Budget

        Budget is always an important factor when purchasing software. If you’re looking to save money, there are many cheap project management solutions to choose from.

        We like Monday.com for its free-forever plan, affordable Basic and Standard plans, and plenty of powerful collaboration features, including a whiteboard, for example.

        Consider Who Will Use it

        Think about the different roles and stakeholders involved and what they’ll need to do their job well.

        What tools, such as task management, time tracking, resource tracking, visual project planning, and reporting, are necessary? What levels of technical proficiency are spread across the team?

        Consider Your Existing Workflow

        Most project management software comes with an extensive suite of integrations. Still, it’s best to check beforehand that whatever software you choose will integrate seamlessly with other tools your team uses, like email and communications (e.g. Slack), file-sharing (e.g. Google Drive or Office 365), CRM systems, and more.

        Consider Special Project Needs

        If you’re working with sensitive data, you’ll likely need special security features, such as HIPAA or GDPR compliance.

        You may also require certain industry-specific features that not all project management suites offer, like blueprint annotations for construction or built-in agile features for software planning.

        Essential Features

        Does your team work in multiple languages? Are you in different time zones? Do you need advanced resource management for manufacturing? Think carefully about the most important features of your project and ensure the software you choose has these.

        Conclusion

        The field of project management continues to evolve, driven by technological advancements and shifting workplace dynamics. These best practices aim to arm project managers with the tools, strategies, and mindset needed to navigate this environment.

        From fostering transparency, learning from failures, and aligning outcomes with team values to choosing project management software, you’re sure to lead your company to project success.

        Related Reading

        Christian Rigg
        Business Management Expert

        Christian holds a BSc in Psychology with an emphasis on organizational management and is the current Head of Operations for Eleven Media, where he oversees day-to-day business operations, manages a team of project and account managers, and otherwise greases the sticky wheels of company-wide collaboration. Prior to this, he managed operations for a hotel chain in the South of France while completing a Masters in History. When not geeking out over automations and data analysis, he can usually be found cycling and hiking around the French Riviera.