Project management is as necessary a skill for anyone in agile business as is the ability to collaborate without getting HR involved. We’re working in a world dependent on transparency, shared responsibility, and autonomy, and the truth is? We’re all project managers now.
Here are 6 common project management mistakes and how you can keep them from happening to you.
1. Too many projects = wasted time and effort.
It’s tempting to put together a kickass team, build a sprint-long schedule and start pushing project after project through what hopefully turns out to be a smooth assembly line of tasks and processes. But juggling several assignments at once and trying to multitask puts project quality at risk. According to Forbes, “our brains just aren’t equipped for multitasking tasks that require brainpower,” and in fact, “our short-term memories can only store between five and nine things at once.” Don’t demand a slough of mediocre results when you can get a few awesome ones instead.
2. Nobody really knows what’s going on.
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to starting a project off wrong is also one of the easiest things to avoid: ambiguity. Lack of clarity leads to miscommunication, then misdirection, unnecessary actions, repetition of tasks, missed deadlines, and eventually, project failure. If you’re the one creating the outline, be clear and concise in your directives. If you’re handling just one piece of the puzzle, ask questions and clarify priorities, needs and potential roadblocks. It might take some effort to keep everyone and everything on the same page, but it’ll take a lot more than that if you have to rewrite the entire book.
3. Strict demands, zero credit.
When someone works really hard on a project, exceeds every expectation, drives a project forward, brings innovative ideas to fruition and beats every deadline, you know what they appreciate? Being acknowledged. You know what they hate? Being told that all of that strenuous effort was nothing shy of expected. Or being told absolutely nothing. Since we’re all acting as PMs, it might not be immediately clear who’s responsible for doling out props, but therein lies the answer: we all are. Confirmation is at the heart of motivation, and if someone helps you get the job done, letting them know you appreciate it is one surefire way to retain their support.
4. Focusing on the right resources instead of the right people.
We know times are tough. Times are always tough. There’s never extra budget. There’s certainly not more time, and everyone is already too busy to think. But every ideal circumstance in the world won’t save a project if the wrong person is managing it. A lot of the time, ability falls prey to availability, but selecting someone to head an initiative just because they’re there is a mistake that can cost you more than just resources — it can cost your company its reputation.
5. Same toolbox, different tools.
There are few things more adept at staunching workflow than inconsistency. Different departments approach projects from a variety of perspectives. Forms, templates, checklists, stakeholders — all of the tools and bits of information necessary to initializing and completing projects can change frequently and quickly. If teams aren’t kept abreast of different approaches and changes aren’t communicated to key players, structures and schedules dissolve, time is wasted and frustrations explode. Project Management best practices should be built into the basic structure of any organization, and should be implemented universally.
6. Risk management isn’t considered until it’s way too late.
At the start of most projects, it’s all about setting goals and planning the steps necessary to achieve them. Gathering resources, mapping out assignments and deadlines, and analyzing budgets are all at the top of the to-do list. While there’s typically some discussion of potential roadblocks, they’re not always articulately laid out and assessed. Before a project ends up in crisis, consider who has a stake in key decisions and who has the final say over changes. Identify real liabilities and discuss how to face them. Develop contingency plans, and cushion resources to lessen the impact of any potential mishaps.
Better safe than sorry, right?