Learning Guide

Project management tools and strategies: Team building and managing basics


Software project managers have so many tools and strategies at their disposal, but all these resources are worthless if a PM doesn't know how to use them. Gantt charts, collaboration tools, effective communication with team members -- these can make or break a project.

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In addition, today's project managers often have to deal with teams distributed across the globe. Fortunately, useful communication can occur no matter where your team is located.

This Learning Guide introduces project managers to tools and strategies with a variety of articles, tutorials, tips and expert responses. If you have any resources that you would like to share, or have suggestions for a future Learning Guide topic, please email me.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
   Team building and managing basics
   Outsourcing strategies
   Communication and collaboration tools
   Gantt charts, PERT charts, and PM planning tools
   Other useful resources



  Team building and managing basics

Project managers are fortunate to have many tools at their disposal. Yet cultivating the skills for composing, leading and maintaining a good team is more important than anything than any chart or software. The articles, expert responses, tips and book excerpts below provide excellent information on building and managing teams.

  • Article: Want a project to succeed? Think about the big picture: A narrow vision shouldn't overwhelm a project. PMs need to be certain that they take many factors into account and don't create an environment where team members are reluctant to voice their opinions.


  • Article: How poor management skills jeopardize software quality: A culture of intimidation is poisonous to communication and, finally, project success. John Scarpino explains how project managers can avoid letting ego get in the way of software quality.


  • Expert response: Facilitate software development team decision making: David Christiansen discusses what to do when team members reach an impasse. It's up to the PM to stay above the fray and stop endless debate.


  • Book excerpt: Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game, 2nd Edition -- Chapter 3, Communicating, Cooperating Teams: As this chapter from Alistair Cockburn's famous book explains, communicating tools can be as simple as whiteboards and sticky notes. It's how they are used that makes the difference.


  • Expert advice: How to compose a project team: Composing a good team is a sensitive process. PMs have to account for knowledge, skills, temperaments, schedules and so forth. David Christiansen has some good tips for constructing effective teams.


  • Article: Team building, influencing and leadershop: The ability to lead is an elusive quality and one which has been the subject of an unbelievable number of books. This short article has some good general advice about leading a team. Qualities like credibility, empathy and communication skills are outlined.


  • Article: The 10 most dangerous species of IT team leader: Can you find yourself or your team leader among the 10 here?


  • Paper: Agile project management: (PDF) Agile methods and ideas require a different kind of project management. The authors favor a complex adaptive systems approach to management. Even non-agile PMs will should find helpful information here.


  • Article: How to build a team: Software project management blogger Pawel Brodzinski has tapped into his years of experience as a PM and created a nontraditional list of qualities a team leader should possess.


  • Book excerpt: Managing the Test People, Chapter 6: Keeping Your Beast Effective: Author Judy McKay concentrates on skills such as good communication, delegation and organization for maintaining a team that is effective, consistent and can deliver results.


  • Article: Team building approaches: Project communications: Craig Borysovich outlines formal and informal communication methods for software projects. While some of these methods are suited to larger or distributed teams, smaller outfits may benefit from these suggestions as well. Keeping the lines of communication alive is important for any team.

Visit our next section for tips, advice and articles on software project outsourcing strategies.

This was first published in February 2008

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