Managing projects isn’t easy, regardless of the industry you’re in. Effective project managers need a combination of analytical thinking, emotional intelligence, and technical ability. And even when someone has a project management professional certification, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll succeed. More often it’s the individual’s ability to grow and learn at speed that signifies their ability to effectively manage projects. At IMB, only 56 percent of project managers are certified.
The idea that every project manager needs a type of certification is just one example of the many PM myths that exist. Here, we’re going to examine three of the most pervasive PM myths.
Myth #1: It’s about processes rather than people
Agile, waterfall, lean—there are multiple methodologies that PMs can institute to organize projects across their organization, or even in various departments. And while methodology plays an important role in organizing any initiative, it’s only part of a manager’s responsibilities.
Unless you’re managing a department built on a mountain of automation—which seems highly unlikely—you’re going to have to interact with other humans. And these people will look to you for motivation, knowledge, and as an arbiter. In short, processes will only accomplish so much. It’s a manager’s emotional intelligence that will help navigate the obstacles of conflict resolution, team motivation, and cross-department collaboration.
Even if the motions of conflict resolution and managing competing interests were taught in the PMP certification, it would still take a talented communicator to keep the project in line and on track while engendering an environment conducive to teamwork and success. Soft skills are a must.
Myth #2: You only have one shot to get it right
Failure can be subjective. For example, when you’re A/B testing for website optimization, not every hypothesis will yield significance. In fact, many tests will fail. However, many of the breakthrough results that lead to higher conversion can’t be achieved unless previous hypotheses fail. The rise in iteration, specifically in technology, has changed the way project managers should look at failure.
In business, failure has become almost celebrated, with miscalculations now examined nearly as closely as moments of genius. That’s because both success and failure offer PMs insight into how to move forward. Are some failures worse than others? Absolutely. A product launch that goes belly up can spell disaster for an aspiring startup.
But if you dig deeper into why this hypothetical product failed, it could easily be that there weren’t enough small failures during development. Did consumers always respond positively in focus groups? If so, it seems unlikely the project would fail at scale. Failure in the early stages can be excellent feedback for improving a project, so the idea of one-and-done in project management simply isn’t true anymore.
Control the scope of failure by seeking out feedback throughout the project. Embrace disappointment and use it as a learning resource to improve your methods.
Myth #3: Software fixes everything
Whether your project only concerns you and the five other people your startup employs, or it spans petabytes of data in an enterprise setting, using the right project management software is vital. No one can deny that. Still, software remains only a tool. It’s not a panacea that’ll cure all the ills of your current project.
Software should be used to better manage your current processes, and in some cases it can help fix broken links in the chain. The success of the software implementation ultimately comes down to a number of factors that include training, adoption rates, characteristics of the software itself, and most importantly, integration with current workflow and management processes.
Basically, software won’t transform underperforming workers into paragons of success. It will only fix poor communication if users take the time to collaborate effectively. If old practices are transferred to new software, the results will stay the same.
Stay open-minded to possibility
Despite the broad categories of project management methodologies, the job itself remains a craft that demands soft skills as well as technical ability. Above all, PMs must remain pragmatic because implementing what works is simply more logical than adhering to a strict regimen. Pragmatism can also save managers from falling prey to misleading strategies. By remaining open-minded to possibility, you’ll steer clear of falling into a repetitive cycle of management that is neither agile nor effective.
These are just three project management myths—what are yours?