With the goal of making groups self sufficient, project managers keep teams accountable for fulfilling commitments in a timely manner. Like a coach and mentor that must empower a unified team’s players to guide themselves to victory, project managers need to provide the right governance framework and spirit to coordinate people, processes and technology to efficiently execute and get the job done. As part of their duties, the project manager also needs to report progress on the team’s achievements to people who have a considerable stake in an initiative’s outcome – the stakeholders.

Like team owners, stakeholders are the ones that have an interest or share responsibility for the outcomes of a project. During project execution, project managers act on behalf of the stakeholders. Stakeholders drive business requirements. Project managers make sure their vision is implemented. Responsibility is divvied out, but ultimately, if a project doesn’t go as planned, leadership faces the consequences. By using the right stakeholder communication approach, project managers can empower teams to work unhindered while they key leadership in on progress at the right time.

Engaging senior decision makers

Stakeholders are all unique: some may only want to know if there is a problem, some may only want to know scheduling information, and some may ask for every detail of your day-to-day operations. Project managers will need to prepare their team to navigate through organizational waters as efficiently as possible. This means balancing the unique preferences of stakeholders, coordinating teams to communicate the right information at the right time and executing as planned.

The reporting keeps stakeholders informed and can give reassurance if the project is on schedule. Taking the initiative to organize regular communications with stakeholders also allows you to gain support if problems arise and involve leadership in project changes as they happen. The stakeholders will need this reassurance to make sure they are correctly orchestrating activities.

Practice transparency in meetings and integrate stakeholders with your team

When teams hold regular stakeholder meetings, the meetings should be designed to give transparency to everything, ensuring that everybody is aware of what’s going on and can act as a part of a unified effort. To ensure open communications, it is important for teams to talk about what commitments they did and didn’t fulfill. This will provide clear information regarding what was planned and what was accomplished.

During meetings, teams shouldn’t find it difficult to talk about their problems. The intent of transparency is to establish an open, productive environment that facilitates productivity improvements. The team is not assembled to find failures; they meet to solve problems. From a project manager’s perspective, being honest and clear about the progress of a project can only help when trying to lead and mentor teams toward improved efforts and the best outcome.

Develop tasks strategically to get things done

Tasks should be specific and quantifiable, and they should be 100% complete when considered done. This means when something is done, the team does not have to go back and rework anything. You may have executed on a document or an assessment of a particular area. In this case, being done would mean you not only assessed something, but you’ve documented and communicated findings along with all other necessary testing or work. Similarly, if you’re going to design a network, you’ve designed the layout of a network, you’ve discussed it, you’ve documented it, you’ve validated it and you’ve completed all the work. It’s done.

To make sure jobs can be reported as done, project managers should work alongside their team to make tasks quantifiable. Tasks should not be broad or misinterpretable. Instead, project managers should make tasks as specific as possible. For instance, you may have the task of building a server, which would require racking and stacking the server, loading the configuration and setting it up. This will be done when it is fully set up, documented, tested and delivered without the need for rework. By making clearly defined tasks, teams can confidently claim tasks are done when all the work is completed.

Present tangible deliverables

As a liaison for a skilled team, a project manager should showcase team accomplishments by making stakeholder presentations as real as possible. They also need to show proof of the commitments they fulfilled and the work they accomplished. If you say you built something, simply showing a picture isn’t the most effective way to display a team’s deliverable. It is far more effective to bring in physical items that people can touch and feel. For example, if you bring in a document, you want to print it, staple it and give it to them, or if you built a new monitoring tool, you should actually bring that up in a webpage and show that the real-time data is actually happening.

As an easy to remember maxim, teams should abide by the following rule – don’t just say you did it, prove you did it. Don’t just prove you did it with a picture, give them something tangible. One benefit of this is that teams have to trust deliverables.

If team members have to give something or pull up a webpage in front of an executive, they have to make sure what they are displaying works and is really done. When engineers know their project will be displayed to leadership, they will not routinely check a box and say it worked after loading once. They will make sure it loads every time. The physical presentation of deliverables gives engineers an extra impetus to make sure they check their work, and this greatly reduces risks in costly IT projects.

Quick tip: The project manager is like a team-empowering coach who must coordinate players and their owners for optimal results. During stakeholder meetings, be honest and clear about progress, develop specific tasks that can be claimed as done, and try to incentivize the project team and provide proof to stakeholders with tangible deliverables.

Where we left off: Last time I posted a blog about facilitating agile collaboration through an effective PM framework. This framework should include processes that will maximize team resources, encourage ownership of tasks, and lead to continuous and effective communication.