Team work on a mountain

The 5 Fundamental Things You Need to be on Top of as a Project Manager

The following are the 5 fundamental things any project manager needs to knock out of the park in order to successfully manage, lead, and deliver projects. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but there are few project managers out there who won’t have at least one of the items below in their top 5.

1. Overarching Goal

You need to keep at the forefront of your mind, as well as that of your team’s, the overarching goal for the project. Always go back to whether what your doing right now is helping you towards that objective. Often times when we are caught in the midst of multiple different tasks we lose focus on the ultimate aim and end up spending our time, or that of the people we manage, on items that don’t necessarily move the project forward.


2. Assumptions

Don’t assume anything. Ever. It’s far easier to come off sounding somewhat odd rather than not being fully aware of what you need to be on top of. Leave the questions you can Google to Google, but if that doesn’t alleviate your fears then don’t be afraid to ask the necessary person on your team. Whether it’s asking the Technical Architect if the CICD process is set up correctly or asking the Business Analyst if requirements x, y, and z was everything the client asked for in this release.


3. Scope

It’s important to remember what is included in the scope of your project, almost just as much as it’s important to remember what’s not included in the scope of your project. Sometimes you may have people on your team, higher ups, even your client, ask for more than is included in the scope of the project, be sure to stand firm and speak your mind as to what the original scope of the project is. If someone insists on including something, get the proper people in the room and present to them the benefits and costs of adding additional work.


4. Budget

No matter what project you’re on it will have costs and revenues associated with it, even if you’re doing it for free, your time is a budget of it’s own. Be cognizant of how your client or employer deal with budgets at their company so that you can be on the same wavelength. Without the proper balance in this area of project management you can create some serious headaches for both yourself and whomever you’re working for.


5. Team Morale

At the end of the day, don’t forget that having something to work towards, in some ways, is a gift in itself. Working the way we work nowadays, wasn’t always a given. And that’s not to say that anything along the lines of “Boo-hoo, team morale is cute, back in my day my boss use to pay me whenever she felt like it”, but more to focus on the fact that in today’s environment there is much more opportunity for people to team together and collaborate to work towards something bigger than themselves in a good, positive, and open environment. You should take that opportunity, and be the Leader your team needs, not the Boss they’ll end up hating in private moments.


So be in touch with your team’s morale, understand their motivations, know when to let your team members fall on the grass so they can learn and when you need to intervene to fix an issue. Don’t lose your patience, for when you want to lose your patience is the moment where patience is the most needed. Don’t be toxic with your team, even if it leads to new lessons learned, people always remember how you made them feel.


boss or leader
“A boss creates fear, a leader confidence.
A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes.
A boss knows all, a leader asks question.”

Bonus Item – 6. Assumptions

Unspoken assumptions are the worst and can lead to serious team collaboration issues as well as overarching project delivery complications. Have clarity, understand who is responsible for what, be clear with deadlines, and don’t forget – if you need to ask, and you’ve already exhausted all other resources of information available to you, then ASK.


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Photo by Nicholas Swanson on Unsplash