As a project manager, it’s important to realize when you and your team aren’t working as effectively as you could be. Between rapidly changing technology and busy production schedules, it’s easy to fall back on old practices that kill team efficiency.
In the spirit of purging bad habits, here’s a list of the most common mistakes, with tips on how to overcome them.
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There’s no denying that deadlines are important. However, the most important part of deadlines is setting them. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Know how many people will be working on a project. This information helps you give the most realistic time estimate. Make sure that you and your employees know exactly who will be working on each project, and for how long. This way, vacation time and other interferences won’t mess up your schedule.
- Have a good estimate of how long the project should take in hours/days/months. And then, add contingency time. If this is a project you’ve done many times over, 5% extra could be enough. If it’s a new project, you might have to add up to 50% over your initial estimate. Unanticipated surprises always happen. Give yourself and your team some extra time when unexpected bugs or issues come up.
Don’t forget that unrealistic deadlines also include giving your project too much time. If you have a deadline that is so far out there, you may end up putting it off for too long. Have you ever noticed that when you have plenty of time to get somewhere, you often end up arriving late?
Reinventing the Wheel
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If you’re new to project management, or just new to your team, don’t feel like you have to swoop in and change how things are done. Redoing everything that the team is already used to will just slow them down. Instead, observe and learn. Find out the pace of the office, get to know how the team is used to working, and change what you feel is an absolutely necessity to start with. And go from there.
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Do not, under any circumstances, tell your boss, client, or anyone else that your team can do something they can’t. If you aren’t sure about the timing of a specific project, ask your team before committing them. It’s better to turn down a project than to accept something that you simply can’t do.
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There are bound to be problems on any project. It happens. What’s important is how you deal with the problems. Don’t put these issues off until the end of the project. Instead, work through the problems as they come up. This will keep the team moving ahead and keep you sane near your deadline. You’re likely to learn something valuable for the next project, too.
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It’s crucial to keep miscommunications from happening — whether the miscommunication happens between you and a boss, between you and your team, or among team members. Just as you want to know exactly what is expected of you, so does your team. Make sure to discuss all aspects of the project from the initial planning, and throughout its progress.
Understanding these common mistakes and doing everything you can to both anticipate project management speed bumps, and to avoid them is important.
When you keep your project on track, you keep everyone happy, and sane.