5 Mistakes Every Project Manager Should Avoid Making
The responsibilities of a project manager are, oftentimes, more than meets the eye. With so many factors to take into consideration — team members, risks, deadlines, budgets — it’s no mystery why projects tend to go awry at some point. You’ll hear time and again that mistakes are part of the learning process — and it’s true. However, though mistakes will happen, it’s ideal to avoid as many (especially costly) fumbles possible. Nonetheless, knowing how to respond and learn from made mistakes is necessary for any project manager. Here are just five of the many common mistakes every project manager should avoid.
1. Letting Project Scope Get Out of Hand
Oftentimes, project managers — especially new ones — will develop the specifics of a project without considering scope creep. This will almost always result in losing control over the project, and its ultimate demise. To prevent this from happening, consider breaking a large project into smaller, bite-size pieces. Start with the easiest deliverables and work your way up. Keep your sights on accomplishing your goals. Remember that your overarching task is to manage your team and oversee the project’s completion, so stick to your guns: don’t be afraid to say no to demands that fall outside the scope of your project — even if they come from superiors, stakeholders, or clients.
2. Biting Off More Than You Can Chew
Showing that you can finish a project efficiently is all well and good, but committing to a tight deadline without accounting for possible hangups can prove disastrous. It’s rare that everything will work out exactly according to plan — especially for larger projects that incorporate many people over a longer period of time. Further, it’s important to remember that a delay affecting one aspect of a project will often impact another.
Avoid this added stressor at all costs. If that means tacking on an extra week or two to your expected timeline, do it. Giving yourself and your team leeway by cushioning your schedule can only help you. And, rather than impress, an overly ambitious timeline will undoubtedly result in the entire project falling apart.
3. Poor Communication
Good project management and teamwork boils down to communication — and communication starts with the project manager. The inability to thoroughly direct team members, instruct them on their responsibilities, and keep invested parties and superiors in the loop will only serve as a tether. Admittedly, not all project managers are fantastic communicators and instead make up for it with superb hard skills. Unfortunately, they won’t be long-lived managers if they can’t communicate well; luckily for all, though, communication skills are easy to develop with time and experience. Take measures to avoid communication fallout by honing — or perhaps even taking training courses in — verbal, written, and critical listening skills. There are even UC apps like Slack that can help project managers better communicate with their team.
4. Not Considering All Parties
Project management is all about synchronizing multiple parts to power a larger machine. This doesn’t just include team members, but stakeholders as well, whose expectations are imperative to fulfill. Of course, the best thing to do first is to establish who your stakeholders are and what they want; without this information, the project will immediately disintegrate. Consulting and keeping in regular contact with all parties involved will make for a much smoother project. It’s impossible to successfully complete a project if everyone involved is not on the same page. Therefore, don’t make the mistake of neglecting or not considering the goals of an investor.
5. Poor Risk Management
Project managers who fail to discuss risks in-depth open the door for graver issues, which could hinder a project’s success and result in a lot of lost time and money. Risk management seeks to proactively rather than reactively tackle harmful situations. It’s necessary to conduct a full analysis of the possible risks associated with each project and have it done at each one’s inception — not when the actual problem arises.
To prevent spinning out of control, be sure to explore all possible scenarios and their respective action plans. Each team member should be assigned a risk and the responsibility to alert the rest of the team if they see any sign of said risk.
As Helmuth von Moltke once said: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy. ” No matter how well you plan, projects can hit a wall. Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s only to be expected when you’re a greenhorn. Thus, resilience and the willingness to learn from one’s mistakes is key for a budding manager. Even an experienced manager will run into snags, so learning to think on the fly and adapt to unexpected problems is important as well.
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