We have just completed out first client project week, and I only have one word to describe the experience as a first time project manager, hectic. It was very hectic, I was unsure as to what I had to do and a lot of the times I felt lost. Our client for the week was Solar Schools. They provide educational material to track and record solar energy that is provided by solar panels installed in their schools. On a high level summary of the project brief was to show them a proof of concept on how solar panel data can be visualised in Tableau.

At the start of the project we were already at a disadvantage as we only had 4-working days. In addition to this there were other events that we had to attend and there was a lot of lost time. At the end of the week we were able to deliver the project to the client. And by the end of it I was relieved and reflected on where I can improve as a leader. The 5-things I learned in order to improve as a project manger are:

Organisation 

Being organised is obviously a key in the success of the project. So, what does good organisation look like. Have a high level agenda for each day. In other words, set up some sort of timetable for the entire project week. As an example, from 9-10 training, 10-12 project time, then 12-1 lunch, and so on. And then share it with everyone to ensure that everyone is aware of what is coming up. This will become useful when you have interruptions in the week and account for this.

Stand up

This will resolve so many issues. The project management methodology we were using was agile, and one of its tenants is having stand up meetings. Essentially, at the start of the working day or the end, the entire team will physically stand up and go around to each member and say, what they did, what they are going to do, and what the road blocks are. What this does is that it ensures where each of the team members are up to, and that everyone is on the same page. It will identify road blocks and then as the project manager you will be able to see what you can do about those road blocks.

Leverage experience

The environment the data school has created is that it is a safe place to fail. And you have trainers that are there to help you and guide you. They have been in the industry for a very long time as a result, leverage their experience. Even if its technical issues or other issues you are having ensure that you run it by them. By extension, include them in the stand up meetings as well. This will ensure that you are on the right track and they will be able to give you advise and suggestions to incorporate.

Rehearsal

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse  and Rehearse some more. Rehearsal is where you will see the whole thing come together, and don’t leave it to the last minute. The rehearsal, is where you are showing basically the finished product to your trainers, and the feedback you get, you need to be able to implement at least some of them before delivery. Doing the rehearsal one hour before delivery is not a good idea and its a guarantee that any feedback won’t be implemented in the final presentation. Its also a great way to look out for any technical issues that you may encounter and solve them right then and there.

Relax

The data school 4-month training program is stressful as it is, and you don’t need to add to that. Furthermore, client-project weeks are like Friday-challenges but for the whole week and you are presenting to actual clients. So, you need to relax, have fun, and trust your team. Your team is made up of people you know and trust them to deliver. Your job is to be there for them, make sure they have work, and remove block that they are having, either form an IT, data or other issues. Essentially, take care of your team, make sure they are having lunch and encourage them.

These are only a handful of my learnings from the first client project week. There were plenty of other things I learned as well but, these were the things that stuck in my the most. Given the opportunity again, these would be the areas that I would focus on.

The Data School
Author: The Data School