Mistakes Project Managers Make

I love getting new things – new things to do, new books to read, new things in the mail.  And, I love meeting new people.  So – when I get a new project, I am off to the races.  I am calling meetings to talk about it, and I am talking to anybody who knows anything about the project, the problem, or the existing process.  But, talking and talking does not a project make.  And, was I even talking to the right people while I was doing all of that talking?   

Basically, I play to my strengths and what I enjoy when starting a project, just like everyone does.  Some of us go deep into the PMBOK and start setting up Work Breakdown Structures, and some of us pull out our handy dandy templates and start fitting everything we have into them.  These things can lead us to make mistakes in how we get started and in how we run and close.  These mistakes can be detrimental to the overall project and project team.  The following are several common mistakes that I see project managers make; and yes, I have been guilty of every one of them:

Letting the project drag you around.

You are assigned to a project, and it’s a fast-moving one.  the project sponsor wants to see results fast.  He introduces you to your knowledgeable team and invites you to a project meeting.  The next day, you meet more people that are a part of the project team.  You go to a couple of more meetings, start getting deliverables, and setting up new team meetings.  Before you know it, it’s been 3 weeks.  You don’t really have a project plan or a clear view of what success looks like.  You spend so much time in meetings, you are just going from project conversation to project conversation.  The project is officially dragging you around.  You will deliver something – just not sure what.

Being a “Where are you with” Robot

You know, the person that has to repeat over and over – “ Where are you with ____x____”?  Over and over and over – in meetings and then in a follow-up email and sometimes via a follow-up reminder from within an application.
As a project manager, you really do need to know where your team stands with different tasks.  However, when your only service is to ask people over and over where they are with tasks, it can sound like you are only there to make sure that the team is working.  When I have been a team member on the receiving end of this – I can’t help but think – what is it that you bring to the table?  How are you going to help us?  

When I find myself on repeat.  I ask myself, does this team have more work than time?  Maybe I should ask them some different questions like – “Is this the right task?”  “Are you the right person?” “ Am I able to help?”  “Who else can help?”  “Should we be thinking about this differently?”

  1. Not talking to the real stakeholders

    We often get our marching orders for initiatives from the senior leader that chartered the project.  Oftentimes, that leader is not intimately familiar with the daily work that is done with the system that is changing or how the process that needs improvement is really used from day to day.  Stakeholders include more than just the people with the purse strings.  Stakeholders consist of everyone that provides inputs to the existing process (even vendors) and everyone that receives outputs from the process (definitely customers).  Make sure you have viewed the project or process change from the eyes of all of the stakeholders.  I often sketch out a SIPOC to make sure that I am clear.  

2. Ignoring procurement because you are not procurement.
I agree.  You are not procurement, and you are not accounts payables.  However, you must know all about the required procurement processes in the organization that you are supporting if your project requires software, hardware, or services.  Procurement approval cycles can be long and complicated in some organizations.  If you do not request things timely, you will most likely have to break it to your stakeholders that you might need to change the timeline.  Additionally, do you know the processes for making sure that your service providers get paid; if they do not get paid, they might stop providing services.

I am sure you have a few that you could add to this list.  I have more that I could add.  Once I realize I am struggling in a specific area, I ask myself, what do I need to differently?  How can I stop struggling in this area?

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