Getting Your Project Off To a Great Start

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

If you’ve ever found yourself walking down the halls of your company one day, and all of a sudden are an accidental project manager the next day, then this is for you. We may laugh Getting Started as a Project Managerabout it in our group or hallway, but our clients or customers are not going to be that comfortable knowing an accidental project manager is leading their initiative. Therefore, we want to give you seven steps that will help get your project off to a good start and turn you into an intentional project manager.

  1. Get Organized. You are your most important project, so get organized and ready to start. Think about what it is you must put in place to be ready.
  2. Solicit Support. I’ve always found it very important to have my own mentors and sounding board, even today. Seek out someone who has been there and done that. Maybe they’ve led the type of project you are leading, or know your organization. Know who can go to for guidance and who will be a sounding board. Some of the most difficult moments during a project have to do with the people. It’s important to have someone give you objective, candid, honest feedback.
  3. Identify Go-To People. Know who you are going to go to for what on your team and in the organization. Look at the lay of the land, and see who out there on the project has probably built and nurtured relationships for a long time – in the company, customers or your stakeholders. They can help guide you in getting things done and can be leveraged for different things.
  4. Know your team, stakeholders and customers. You may have worked with this group and believe you are familiar with them, but really get to know them at a deeper level. The best way to do that is to just have a talk with them. If they are global, across the world or down the hall, schedule time to learn their perspective. Talk by phone, or if you happen to be local sit down and visit with them face to face. You need to know who they are. What makes them tick? What are they really good at? What are they really bad at? Then, spend time figuring out how to complement each other in different areas.
  5. Set expectations. You are the driver of this project team so people are looking for you to be the guide. Sit down and think through what your expectations are and how you want to lead this team and manage this project. Then, ask your team. What are their expectations? What do they need from you? Make sure everyone knows going in what the expectations are. Relationships fail when expectations are misaligned.
  6. Get involved. We feel that getting involved online and offline is important. Become more involved in your project or organization. Join a LinkedIn group that appeals to you and get involved in sharing information, asking questions and getting feedback from all over the world.  Check into a local project management group or association with chapter and build relationships with peers there. Learning in this profession is a give and take; it’s not just taking information, it’s also giving back.
  7. Implement systems. Set up all the tools that you need, whether it’s Excel, PowerPoint, project management software and your templates. Having templates in place that you can easily replicate will allow you start things quickly.

Key words to remember as you take your first steps as a project manager are mobilize, socialize and globalize. Again, your clients are not going to think it’s humorous to see you as the accidental project manager; they want to see you as the intentional project manager who can mobilize quickly and collaborate with everyone on the team.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at


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