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Proactive Project Manager The general ethos of being a proactive Project Manager is the ability to identify and remediate risks and issues that adversely impact your project before they are realized. This could be something as small as making sure the production team has the credentials they need to access a site, or as large as knowing potential issues when implementing a certain integration. As the PM, a mark of good leadership is being able to call out these issues and plan for them, so if they are realized the production team is prepared to handle it. This is also a means by which to operate an efficient production team.

Rolling Wave Planning is a technique that can be used to plan for what’s next. Whereas waterfall cascade planning focuses on laying out project phases at a high level and Spring Planning focuses on 1-2 weeks of planning, Rolling Wave falls in between the two.

This planning technique focuses on the next "leg of the journey" within the build and is not explicitly limited to a time period. So, if an integration is set to begin within the next few weeks, the PM and the production team can get together and discuss its scope and build strategy. Risks and potential issues can also be discussed and the PM can come away with a list of action items that need to remediate so as to ensure a smooth build.

The PM can take time to package up and organize static and dynamic information in a way the production team can quickly pick it up and run with it, saving time for the production team. Actions that fall into this category may be:

  • Project file organization - placing approved projects assets, such as creative briefs, wireframes, and design comps that have been approved in a specific place that’s devoid of less critical files for ease of access
  • Drafting complete tasks - making sure enough relevant information such as related files, links to conversations, and estimate information is included in a task with the intent of allowing any member of the production team the ability to quickly digest and act on it
  • Invites to meetings - include contact information, but also an agenda and any related links or files that will be discussed, all within the invite

Consistency and completeness in timely communication are also critical to a proactive PM. Whether you have weekly or bi-weekly client reports to complete, or you’re letting a client know that an update is ready for their review, being consistent in communication as well as timely and complete, is important.

In the case of reporting, if you’re setting expectations for what is planned to get accomplished within a given week, a format that is easy to manage while being easy for the client to consume is very effective. Those touch points can help set the tone as to the structure of your communication, all the while keeping the client in the loop as to how the project is progressing.

For testing, it’s never safe to assume that a client will know where and how to test a particular feature, regardless of their technical experience and knowledge of the project. By default, it’s better to err on the side of caution by providing specific URLs, steps for testing, login credentials, etc. to ward off any back and forth and confusion the client might have in preparation for testing. This is something that is unique per project and per client, so it is best to get a feel for both before setting a standard.

Applying these techniques can help with production efficiency by preparing the production team for upcoming issues, organizing project information for ease of use and limited miscommunication, and the management of expectations.