While we advocate focusing on core strengths and business smarts to sharpen your project management skills, there are always pitfalls to avoid in every job. Yesterday Susanne Madsen gave us 10 Dos of Project Management —here, she gives us the other side of the coin:
1. Don’t start executing without defining and planning the project first.
It’s a classic mistake: eagerly starting to develop a product without knowing what the end game is, and how to get there. Don’t think that the project can be delivered quicker if the planning stage is reduced.
2. Don’t leave the business case to the executive sponsor.
Many project managers incorrectly assume that the business case has diligently been completed by senior management. Bottom line: make no assumptions and never embark on a project until you’ve engaged in the bigger strategic picture.
3. Don’t skip the product-based planning technique.
Many project managers fail to make use of intuitive product-based planning techniques, such as product breakdown structures and product flow diagrams. They miss out on a great opportunity to correctly scope and plan the project and effectively communicating it to the team.
4. Don’t underestimate the project’s effort by only looking at the sunny case scenario.
Another common mistake is to underestimate the project’s effort and be too optimistic about what can be achieved. No matter how tempting, always consider the worst-case scenario and include contingency plans to cover for risks and uncertainties.
5. Don’t accept changes to scope without approval.
Sometimes changes aren’t tracked, assessed or incorporated into the project in a structured manner (having a meeting, including it in your plan). The result is unmetered scope creep and can turn into a project that fails to deliver what the customer needed.
6. Don’t rely on email to communicate with your clients.
Again and again, project managers rely on email to communicate with their clients instead of speaking to them in person. Emails are great for short messages without complexity; they’re not great for discussing important project issues, strategies, or for having difficult conversations. Email strings get disjointed, they allow for misinterpretation and in many cases might not even get read. Nothing replaces the real thing – a conversation.
7. Don’t treat people as if they’re rational beings without emotions.
People are complex beings with human needs, fears, and desires. If you treat your team members as if they’re robots and expect them to always do as we tell them, you’ll never be able to build a highly motivated team of individuals. Instead, ask questions, pay attention, listen to what each person has to say, and you’ll naturally start interacting with your team on a more human level.
8. Don’t put the urgent over the important.
There’s so much going on in a project manager’s world, it’s easy to find yourself engaged in constant firefights. When this happens, you end up de-prioritizing vital activities such as relationship building, strategic and innovative thinking, planning, and quality control. Of course, managing challenges is part of the job but remember: you’re in the business of project management, not crisis management.
9. Don’t believe you have to know it all.
It’s easy to feel like you need to know all the details in order to either A) win people’s respect or B) to make effective decisions and instruct your team members. But with that attitude, we often fail to trust and empower other competent co-workers and effectively delegate. Not only is it OK to not know everything – it’s a good thing. It encourages collaborative thinking, strategizing and problem-solving. PS. Nobody else knows everything.
10. Don’t be too shy to ask for feedback.
For some of us, asking for feedback can be awkward. But without feedback, how are you going to learn – not just areas of improvement but you might learn something about a natural strength you weren’t even aware of. Do yourself a favor and ask for feedback from the right people (a trusted manager, co-worker or friend) and don’t miss out on a big opportunity to grow into a really great project manager.
To be the very best at managing projects and leading happy, productive teams to great success, download our eBook, 5 Practical Habits for Today’s Project Manager.