Tips and skills for successful project management

Updated 25 May 2023

Competent project management involves bringing the right tools, approaches, skills and knowledge into a project to ensure its successful completion. A project manager makes sure that projects run smoothly and reach their conclusion in a timely and effective manner. If you're entering a role that focuses on project management, learning about the best approaches for handling projects helps you improve your overall success. In this article, we discuss what successful project management is and outline some tips and skills to ensure your success in a high-level role.

What is successful project management?

Successful project management is the ability to competently manage and carry a project forward so that it meets various goals, objectives and targets. This might include things like completing the project within a defined budget or timeframe, or it might refer to hitting specific targets like a certain number of products sold. Completing a project typically requires implementing the right skills and knowledge into the work to use all available resources effectively.

Project managers are usually responsible for overseeing a project and ensuring it reaches a successful outcome. They outline, design, plan and roll out key processes for the project. This includes things like handling day-to-day duties and measuring workplace performance with the project's end goals in mind. They also incorporate milestones to track the progress of the work undertaken.

Related: What are the basics of project management? With phases

Tips for project management success

If you're looking to improve your project management abilities, take a look at the tips below:

Focus on clear communication

Clear communication ensures that everyone involved in the project understands their roles, responsibilities and goals. Without clear communication, team members lack direction and struggle to collaborate effectively. As a result, clear communication keeps team members informed and supports collaborative work.

Competent project managers establish channels for communication to make it easier for people to ask questions, seek support and offer innovative ideas to improve the project's outcomes. It also helps with sourcing key information or resources to support the project. In essence, effective communication connects the right people and ensures they have the right knowledge and tools for the task.

Related: Communication in project management (definition and types)

Understand the processes involved in the project

Projects implement various processes to facilitate the work undertaken. This includes workflows such as planning, execution, delivery, feedback and assigning work. There are several techniques you may use to understand these processes and make them work effectively, such as Kanban or Scrum methodologies. Regardless of the techniques you adopt, make sure you understand all of the required processes and plan ahead to roll them out effectively.

Although you might understand the processes involved in a project, this doesn't mean they always work as intended. Make sure you understand the processes and have ways to adjust them if things aren't working. This type of iterative adjustment ensures that work continues, even if something unexpected happens or a process slows down progress.

Related: Kanban project management: process and implementation

Set clear expectations and learn to say no

The ability to set clear expectations for your team ensures that work takes place on schedule, which is why many successful project managers offer roadmaps for team members. Outlining clear expectations is also something to consider when liaising with key stakeholders, as it ensures the team doesn't receive too much work. If you create rigid timelines for work, make sure you stick to them as closely as possible to keep team morale up.

Setting these expectations often requires you to say no to some things. For example, if a stakeholder asks for additional work or faster outcomes, learning to say no in a professional and respectful way keeps the project moving forward without rushing any key processes. It's also a way to protect the team, as overworking them may add too much pressure to their workload and lower staff morale.

Related: 14 useful tips for setting employee expectations at work

Use data to your advantage

Successfully managing a project requires you to carefully plan out the right roadmap and use available resources to reach established goals and targets. As a project manager, you make several decisions that impact a project's success, so using all of the information available guides the decision-making process. One of the most effective ways to do this is through data-driven decisions. For example, using analytics to track tasks and measure delivery times may eliminate potential bottlenecks in the project.

Many project managers implement various tools and project management software to track and assess work. Bringing in the right applications yields useful insights through the data. These insights improve how work takes place throughout the project and highlight areas requiring more attention or resources.

Related: What are project management tools (with 15 examples)

Respond to issues proactively

Projects require constant monitoring and adjustments to navigate challenges and ensure successful completion. To do this, project managers respond to issues proactively rather than passively. This avoids mistakes, delays or other problems that might impact the progress of work by responding quickly and rolling out solutions as soon as issues develop. This type of proactive response requires planning and excellent foresight, which usually stems from good project planning.

Make sure to prioritise tasks

One of the defining characteristics of a successful project is that the manager has effectively prioritised the work. This requires intelligent planning to ensure that work receives sufficient resources and enough time to make adjustments where necessary. Creating a hierarchy of priorities helps with this, as it outlines the most important work and establishes a schedule for the tasks. Without prioritising these tasks, work may become disjointed and frantic. Good prioritising also keeps the team focused on a single piece of work rather than stretching their efforts across multiple tasks at once.

Key skills for project management success

To succeed as a project manager, take a look at the following key skills:


Project managers use strong leadership skills to guide teams to success and carry projects to completion. Being a good leader requires excellent oversight and an understanding of project needs and resources. Project management is a blend of managing work and people, so the ability to lead and motivate employees helps to ensure a smooth and successful project.

Related: Project management skills and how to improve them


Good communication across a project ensures that team members understand their roles and what's expected of them. It also keeps the team informed about updates, issues or changes to goals or deadlines. Project managers use strong communication skills to provide vision and direction to work. It also helps when creating presentations and reports for stakeholders and senior management.


Project managers require excellent organisation skills to categorise tasks, delegate work and harmonise processes with project goals. To do this, project managers often create a project schedule that outlines milestones and time frames for work. They also prioritise tasks based on their level of importance and create a logical path of progression. Good organisation skills ensure that work happens on time and in a sensible order.


Projects work to a tight budget to ensure the work provides value to the organisation. Project managers rely on budgeting skills to use the budget effectively and invest in the right resources to ensure work goes smoothly. It takes good foresight and an understanding of project processes to know exactly where to distribute the budget without overspending. You might also use budgeting skills to control work costs and keep things under budget. Project managers usually implement tools to track costs or make projections for the budget.

Related: Why project budgeting is essential for project management

Motivational skills

Project managers act as project leaders, so they often harness strong motivational skills to inspire the team and encourage them to work effectively. This is particularly useful during stressful times or when deadlines approach. There are several ways to motivate teams, such as praising staff or adopting positive reinforcement behaviours. At their core, motivational skills focus on creating a positive, collaborative and synchronised work environment.

Time management

Projects typically work to strict deadlines, so project managers use their time management skills to effectively establish how and when work happens. This requires a good understanding of how long each task takes and the ability to accommodate unforeseen issues or delays. Prioritising tasks effectively, knowing what resources are readily available and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the team all feed into good time management.

Risk management

Risk management skills help project managers identify and mitigate potential issues or risks that may impact the project's success. This requires strong critical thinking skills to find potential risks in the project plans and problem-solving abilities to circumvent these problems before they develop. Doing this ensures that the project carries on without issue and progress continues.

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