7 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Managing a Project
You may wonder ” What kind of title is that? “7 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Managing a Project.” You can’t get much more negative than those 9 words! As Project Managers we are trained to be optimistic, to look for the silver lining, and to focus on what can and should be done rather than what can not and should not be done. However, as you progress through your project management career you will find that there are a number of areas, behaviors, and practices you will want to stay as far away from as possible. The following list of seven behaviors are at the top of the list when it comes to what you SHOULD NOT do when managing a project.
1. Don’t Take the First Answer you Receive as a Fact
When managing a project, project managers are enmeshed in ongoing and incessant negotiation. Every day consists of negotiating dates, prices, deliverables and deadlines. Never take the first answer you receive as fact if it doesn’t meet your needs! Rather, view it as a starting point for negotiation. We have all been in the situation where a resource will say it is going to take a certain, ridiculous number of hours to get a task done.
However, the more you drill into the details, the more questions you ask, and the more experience you gain…you quickly find that the task at hand can be done in a fraction of the original time quoted. Resources have been trained to spread the work out over as long a time period as possible. Project Managers must be trained to recognize when this is happening and quickly put an end to that behavior.
2. Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees
It’s easy to get caught in the mindset of managing a project as just being a series of activities related to making sure checklists are updated, processes are followed, and procedures are implemented. Meanwhile, the project you are responsible for managing is careening out of control. Sure, you have to use these tools for managing a project, but don’t ever let them overtake the common sense you need to apply as a Project Manager. Your job is to make sound decisions and use innovative and creative thinking to get the project done.
It may get messy at times and you may push the envelope. You may even break the processes that are in place and stretch the procedures. Good for you! When it’s all said and done you will end up with a project that is complete and bringing value to the organization, and not just a piece of paper with a bunch of checkmarks on it.
3. Don’t Let them See you Sweat
Managing a project is hard and it can be stressful. The work is fraught with the unknown and many times the inconceivable. But, it’s your job to be unflappable when this type of chaos is thrown your way. You are in the front of your team taking the brunt of the politics, shifting priorities, indecision, and juggling of resources.
You need to shield your team from these turbulent winds, process what needs to be done next, and then bring clarity and focused direction for others to follow. Don’t overreact to what is thrown your way.
Rather than stir things up and make things worse, calm things down and make things better. You can sweat all you want trying to figure out what the next best thing to do for your project is, but do that alone. When it comes to managing a project team, people want to follow and respect someone who is in control, not someone who is bouncing off the walls with indecision and worry.
4. Don’t do your Team Members Work
Here’s the scene. It’s late in the afternoon and everyone is ready to wrap things up. It’s been a rough week and the team has put in long hours. You are doing a final sanity check on a Deliverable that was due for your project and you notice it’s wrong! Your background is someone who has come up through the ranks in that particular area (perhaps an Engineer, Developer, Business Analyst, etc.) and something that you know you can fix yourself.
Fight that urge and don’t do it! Get it back to the person that was responsible for this deliverable being right and have them correct the issue. It’s not a matter of being mean-spirited or hard on your team. Rather, it’s about everyone respecting each other’s functions. Your function on this project is that of a Project Manager and all the responsibility that entails. Your function is not that of an Engineer, Developer, or Business Analyst. Keeping those lines clear ensures accountability stays where accountability should be and will nearly always guarantee better project deliverables.
5. Don’t Escalate too Early..or too Late
Escalation is an art when managing a project. When you escalate too early, people will think you are someone that cries wolf all the time and begin to tune you out. If you escalate too late, you will quickly lose credibility and effectiveness as a project manager and find your career heading toward trouble.
There’s no science to Escalation (knowing when to make a big deal out of something that is causing the project to be at risk) other than learning from your wrong decisions in the past. As a rule of thumb, always identify those areas that have the potential for blowing up on a project and impacting a number of other departments and organizations.
Then, zero in on those areas with laser focus to make sure you understand what is important and needs extra attention.
6. Don’t get Bogged Down in the Details
Let’s face it…Project Managers LOVE details. When managing a project we like to know how things work, we like to know cause and effect, we like to understand what drives people to make the decisions they make and act the way they do. This fascination with details, however, could also get us bogged down in areas where it could be hard to recover.
You may find yourself enamored with the latest technology and wanting to understand the ins and outs. Or, you may get bogged down in helping a particular team figure out a thorny problem. Try and stay away from this type of activity as much as you can. That’s the job of the experts on your teams to figure out. Your job is to continue to pave the way for the entire project.
7. Don’t Declare Victory too Soon
You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been a long, hard slough through problem after problem and you can finally see the project is about ready to wrap up. You are right on the verge of reaching your goal. You may feel the urge to let up on the gas a bit, not push quite as hard, or let a date slip every now and then since you are so close.
Don’t get caught in that trap! Finish the project 100%. The reality is that you “don’t know what you don’t know”. Problems and unexpected issues could be lurking right around the corner and you find that you need every possible minute to work through them. Or, you may find that you breeze through the rest of the project with time to spare. There’s nothing wrong with delivering early!
The above list is by no means an exhaustive list. However, by applying the principles outlined in these seven areas you will soon find that you can keep your projects safely on the road to completion and out of the ditch with all of the other projects that have gone bad. Just another reason to take a FREE 30 day trial of our software for managing a project at ProjectManager.com