Resource Index > Fast Tracks > New Project Manager


This page is intended for every new project manager who wants to know what the job is, where to start managing a new project, what matters most in project management; how to get it all done, and how to get through the day! Becoming a project manager is not necessarily an easy transition, but we believe you shouldn't have to live through it to learn how to do it. So on this page we give new project managers how-to steps, advice, and coaching via practical, actionable project management resources - to help you get going quickly, effectively, and hopefully painlessly in your new role.

What can we help you with today?

How to get going, organize and run my projects
Resources for specific project knowledge areas
How-Tos & problem-solving answers!
How is this role good for my career and how do I create a path?

Understanding The Role
New to project management or leading a small effort in addition to doing the work? We've been there and want to help provide some insight and wisdom to help you get off on the right foot. We've answered some of the Burning Questions we've heard from others in the same situation, to help you get oriented to the role of the project manager. The premium 'Burning Questions' in this section have been made open access to all Guests and Site Members because getting a good start is so important.
The Project Manager Role

Running Projects
The best way to get started with a project is to break the work up into chunks and then break those down into activities to accomplish the goals of that chunk. This section provides a basic project framework based on typical stages of work on a project, with a list of common project management activities for that phase. Select a phase tab and expand it to see the activities within. For each activity we've answered burning questions to provide know-how and advice, and linked in downloadable tools for doing that step of the project.
How It's Organized:
Project Phases
How Projects Come Into Being

Steps to take:
Activities In each Phase


Organizing a project by phases is simply a logical way to chunk up the work, pace it through the important activities, and provide logical checkpoints along the way. Select a tab above to see a step-by-step guide to the important work in each of these typical project stages.

Click to an explanation each phase     [Expand all | Hide]
Define the goals
Justify & approve the project and getting going with a team
The goal of the Initiation stage of project work is to officially authorize and launch a new project with a project manager and team and set the stage well for work ahead. Why? The point is to start off any project in a way that makes sure the goals are understood BEFORE people rush off to "do lots of work" - so that the work done truly does serve the most important goals of the project.

This stage should start with an executive or planning group authorizing the project to get going, with initial marching orders on what the project should accomplish. How projects get authorized to get going varies by company and project type; the worst case is when projects just spring into being without proper forethought! This stage is aimed at ensuring a coordinated, on target start to whatever you're trying to get done. It includes team kickoff activities, bringing an initial group of people together to work on the project, and ultimately results in a Project Charter document that expresses the team's understanding of, and management's agreement to, what this project is supposed to achieve - and what will be left out because it's not that important, or there's not time or money to do it now! This Project Charter provides the foundation for subsequent work on more detailed requirements, investigation, and planning in the next stage.

Plan it out
Determine everything that needs to be done, how, and by when
The Planning stage of a project includes the activities necessary to translate from the Project Charter created during Initiation work, into detailed requirements and implementation ideas, and finally into decisions on how to meet the project objectives, and a detailed plan for doing so. The resulting project plan defines and communicates to everyone the approach, schedule and resources for meeting the project objectives.

What's the big deal? The point is to make sure all the work this project will take is fully understood, all the different pieces are accounted for as much as possible, and issues and risks have been discussed and tradeoff decisions made - so that everyone has realistic expectations of how much time and money this project will take, and everyone knows who's doing what, by when, going forward.

Get it done
Manage work and people, check progress, deal with changes
With the plan developed and approved we now move into getting all the work done, all the project deliverables created. In this stage of work the Project Manager uses the project plan to lead the project team, assess progress and handle issues as they are identified. The activities listed help the project manager do so . Remember that the Project Manager needs to be close to the team to discuss progress and understand issues first-hand, rather than rely on reports and progress measurements alone, so the communication and review tasks are just as important as official tracking and reporting work.

Deliver it and finish up
Deliver to the customer, and end the project gracefully
The majority of the project work has been completed - and whatever this project had to create is ready to be released and delivered to its customers. Now it's time to "close out" the project: the team wraps up their work, archives important items from the project, and reflects on the project to identify what went well and what should be done differently next time.

Define the goals

Define the Goals
Identify and kick off a cross-functional project team and clearly define the objectives for the project.

Click to expand and see resources for each activity     [Expand all | Hide]
Appoint Project Manager and Sponsor
Decide who will be in charge, leading the project team, and which executive(s) will serve as Sponsor, to champion the project, remove obstacles, and get needed resources.
Burning questions, problem solvers & other resources

Resources with how-to instructions and tools

Identify initial team members and stakeholders
Identify people from key groups needed to get the project going, including people who have a "stake" in the project's outcome.
Burning questions, problem solvers & other resources
What team members are needed at the start? (does the entire team come on board up front?)

Resources with how-to instructions and tools

Kick off the project and develop an approved Project Charter
Discuss together the business needs and objectives , and create a document that captures what this project is commissioned to do.

Plan it out

Plan it out
Identify and kick off a cross-functional project team to define the detailed scope and requirements for the project; plan and estimate the work and costs involved; make trade-offs as necessary; and commit to an agreed-upon balance among scope, time (schedule), and costs that will meet customer and company goals.

Click to expand and see resources for each activity     [Expand all | Hide]
Overview – Project Planning
Overview of the Planning Phase and the Project Plan document created by its end.

Determine the project's full scope
Identify very specifically what the project must deliver to meet the goals stated in the Project Charter.


Plan out the work and who will do it
Identify tasks necessary to create the deliverables and who will do them.


Create a budget
Determine how much it will cost to do this project – paying people, buying materials, purchasing services.

Understand risks
Identify what could go wrong, and how to avoid or handle.


Finish the project plan
Decide, document, and communicate the overall plan and how the project will be managed.

Get commitments to the project plan
Make sure everyone supports the goals and the approach for getting there.

Get it all done

Execution Monitoring and Control:
Get it all done
Perform cross-functional work and thoroughly review all deliverables as they are developed. Monitor project progress; deal with issues; and communicate to team, management, and stakeholders. Review and test deliverables and get customer feedback and approval.

Click to expand and see resources for each activity     [Expand all | Hide]
Manage execution of all the work
Manage project work by interacting regularly with the team as they execute the pieces of the project plan.

Track progress against goals
Identify true project progress by making sure major milestone dates are being met, and by tracking tangible deliverables.

Communicate with the team and stakeholders
Give a true picture of a project at a glance, in a format for talking to management

Control changes
Actively manage (and control) project changes to avoid bad impacts to the project. The later the change is introduced, the more risk it will disrupt the project.
Burning questions, problem solvers & other resources

Resources with how-to instructions and tools


Manage risks
Monitor and manage risks identified during planning and address new risks quickly as they arise, to avoid threats to the project's goals.

Ensure quality deliverables and results
Define and achieve high quality in everything the project creates, through reviews and testing (as applicable to your project)

Approve Project Deliverable Readiness
Systematically make sure the project deliverables are really done, so that the project will finish successfully with its customers happy with the outcome.
Burning questions, problem solvers & other resources
There's big pressure to say that we're done, that this is ready to provide to customers and call the project done. But some of us don't think so. How do we stop Management from pushing us to release before we're ready?

Resources with how-to instructions and tools

Deliver it

Deliver it and finish up
Ensure the deliverables are ready to be deployed and the company is ready to support the customers. Then close out the project well by capturing lessons learned, celebrating success, handing off and archiving project materials, and releasing team members for other projects.

Click to expand and see resources for each activity     [Expand all | Hide]
Provide the project's outputs to all its customers
Now that the project's deliverables have been deemed done, get everything ready and deliver to the project's customers.

Close out the project and capture lessons learned
Pull the project team and stakeholders together to review and reflect on the project, helping to focus on lasting improvements to carry forward.

Celebrate and reward the team
Reward the team, recognize contributions, celebrate completion, and have general hoopla at the closure of the project.

Developing Specific Skills
Check this section for advice on how to get really good at all various skills a project manager needs to master. Our goal is to provide help on more than mechanics or techniques. We want to share what we've learned about the nuances of key "knowledge areas" of project management.
…Things to know how to do
Key Knowledge Area Coaching
Project Planning and Scheduling

So what really matters in developing a project plan and schedule? Is it getting dates onto a page because someone's asking you when it will be done? Is it the mechanics of defining the project's work and how and when it will get done? Is there more?

There is more to planning a project than the tasks alone define. The project manager's most important tasks are the coordination and management of the people assigned to the project, and leading that collective group to achieve the project objectives. Tasks on a page provide a great roadmap, but a written plan can never embody everything it will take to get the project done. New project managers can get tripped up if they've been introduced to the role with a big focus on the mechanics of project planning and scheduling, without an adequate attention to dealing with people, risk, and other real-world effects.

Our current coaching focus in this section is therefore to introduce project managers to some of those nuances.

Spotlight Article

When it's time to plan and schedule a project, what matters most?
This article elaborates on the questions and opinions above, and gives advice and guidance on what's most important in planning a project - what we think matters most, and what you need to know how to do in leading the team to project success.

Additional resources with advice on planning and scheduling

Having a "breakdown" to avoid a "meltdown"

Handling team angst in the fuzzy front end

Assumptions, Communications, and Donkeys

…Plus how to stand out!
Personal Effectiveness Coaching

Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a chosen course of action is the best, or that it is the most effective given the situation. Project managers need to have and display confidence in their ability to guide the team to meet the project objectives, through the known and unknown risks and issues new efforts present. Confidence is inspiring and trust-building (and stress-reducing for the PM). Projects are hard work and teams certainly feel better when their leader seems to have things under control. From a project manager's point of view, that is way easier said than done, given what we face on many projects, and even more so when you're taking on your first projects in this manager role!

We've pulled together some sources of quick advice and guidance on what's important for building your confidence in filling this very challenging role.

Burning questions and problem solvers

How do I have and display confidence if I've never done this before?

Articles with more tips on project manager confidence and confidence-building

To get other perspective on how confidence fits into the role of the project manager, read these related articles:

Answering my questions
Check here for quick links to practical answers for typical new project manager "burning questions." Our growing list covers typical questions about the basics of project management, as well as common problems project managers hit all too often. Subjects include project management activities, people issues, and more.
Get answers:
To your burning questions
Get answers:
To Solve Project Problems

Building my career
What separates the best from the rest, what do executives care about, and how can this role help build your overall career? We've selected a few articles and related content focusing on development of a career in project management and helping you stand out in your field.
Career development:
Building abilities, getting ahead
Here's some advice to help you develop your career and look forward toward the future. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but knowing what being great in your project management role looks like and what the experience and skills developed could bring in the future.

New Work, New Roles, New Challenges, New Opportunities
Well, we all want to be successful. The start of a new role means new work to do, new uncertainties about how challenging it will be, plenty of opportunity to encounter things we don't know how to handle. Success is much less assured. The preparation we do for the new role can help make sure we get off to a great start.

Great careers for great PMs
How does being a great PM contribute to one's overall career? Take a look at the career paths of some great PMs and see how the experience gained, growth and flexibility and other aspects of being a great PM can contribute to a number of different career opportunities.

PM Powers: A Wealth of Career Options and How to Be Ready
What do companies really want in a project manager? This presentation discusses our "customers" and how we can think about "marketing" to them; skills, traits and behaviors valued by executives; various PM-related career opportunities and the skills required; and how to create your own career development plan.

What matters:
Keys to being valued and having a great career
Do you know what others think of when they picture a great project manager, what to executives desire and look for? We've identified a few articles and related material to give you a picture of what others want in project managers and how they can make a greater contribution through their role.

Evolution of a Project Manager
What makes for a great project manager: one sought out for projects, one teams want to have in charge, one known for handling difficult projects with panache? What are the traits, actions, or capabilities that create pervasive success in the project manager role?

The Medal-Worthy PMs Executives are Desperate to Hire
What separates the best project managers' performance from the rest? It's important for us to think about project management talent to hire for the company as well as important to all of us as we strive for the best careers possible. But what defines a "medal-worthy PM?"

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