You’re going to make mistakes when you become a project manager. After all, going from taking orders to giving them is one of the biggest changes you make in your career. And – despite what people say – managing people is not an inborn talent. It’s the opposite. It’s something that you learn – and one of the ways we learn is by getting it wrong.
Fortunately, that’s not the only way can learn. Another good way is to watch other people make mistakes and learning from them. That’s what this article is for. Here you can see some of the more common mistakes, so that you can avoid making them yourself.
In psychology it’s called the curse of knowledge. It’s the idea that once you know something it’s incredibly hard to think about the world as if you didn’t know that information again. It’s a hugely powerful effect, with people overestimating what they knew before and how much other people know on a regular basis just because they themselves know the information. For example, when participants were as given the answers to questions before hand and then asked to estimate how likely they would have been to figure out if they would have figured out the answer on their own they always overestimated how likely that was.
The curse of knowledge also plays a very strong role in project management with a lot of new project managers overestimating what clients and group members will know and what they don’t. And so, they don’t manage expectations and don’t carefully spell out what they will do and how they will do it. This will result in people having hugely different expectations to what’s going to happen – which in turn will lead to all sorts of difficult discussions down the road as you have to reign in those expectations and fit them back to reality. Better to spell out in clear (and above all concrete) language what’s going to happen right at the beginning. Everybody will thank you for it.
It happens to the best managers. They learn of a new feature – like how you can now compare translation features & prices – that would really look spiffy on their current design or the client just wants to change the plan that little bit and before you know it you’re dealing with a project that is no longer feasible with the budget or the time you have.
Don’t let that happen. Be very weary of every change that people suggest and realize that often these little things you’ve agreed to will add up to something monstrously big in no time at all. So, whenever you’re considering a new suggestion be willing to wield the red pen (if you can).
Also, make sure that before you write the budget and the time in stone, you have the plan down to a tee. Because if the latter changes then the first two will often need to be adjusted as well.
Only watching the numbers
Software and tools are great to help you get things done more effectively and with greater oversight. But if you become too reliant on the numbers and forget the people behind them, then you risk losing sight of the trees through the forest, at which point you might well veer off course without knowing it. That’s a disaster because then when things go wrong (and they do more often than you’d like) you’ll realize it too late and what could have been solved quickly becomes a major chore.
So, while you can certainly rely on tools, don’t be afraid to sometimes sit back and do things with pen or paper or to sit down with actual people. This makes sure that problems programs and tools gloss over are still visible to you, so that you can see how things are twisting out of control before everything is all broken.
I get it. Before you didn’t need to communicate with other people that much. You mainly worked with programs and machines and those didn’t need hand-holding or words of encouragement. Nor did you have to deliver what you were doing to a client. Instead, you just gave it to your superior and let them deal with what the client might or might not like.
Things have changed now. The biggest change you’ll experience when you start out in project management is the one where you suddenly have to deal with people who expect you to tell them what’s going on and what is expected from them now. Ignore these people at your own risk, because if you do so you’re going to end up with a very unsatisfied team and clients who feel that they’re not in the loop.
The best thing you can do is schedule regular meetings with your people so that they can give you updates and you can do the same for them. The same is true for your clients. And when you do meet, take the time to see these people as actual human beings. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll learn a lot more about how to manage them successfully.
Not getting buy ins on schedules
You want to create hard feelings with your team? Then just give them a schedule without consulting them on it. People always love to be told what to do without being consulted about whether it’s even possible to do so. Really, you should try it sometimes.
Don’t feel like pissing people off? Then when you’ve discussed the timeline with your client, say that you’ll take it to your team to see if they’re okay with it. It’s respectful and it is something your client will understand (and if they don’t – well then you’ve learned a valuable thing about your client).
If you take the schedule by your team you’ll demonstrate that how they feel is important to you. It can even create further long-term benefits, like making them feel that they can approach you with the problems and the ideas they have.
Did you notice the common theme here? It’s about communication, really. Be it about communicating with your team, with your client or with yourself. It’s all about understanding that we can’t know everything and that we need to take the appropriate steps to deal with that.
Yes, this is true in whatever line of work we’re in – but it’s even more true in project management, as there you’ve got not just your own problems to deal with by all of the hiccups and growing pains of a new team. So, communicate. People will let you know if you’re over communicating. And if they don’t, well you’re not.
Dina Indelicato is a blogger enthusiast and freelance writer. She is always open to research about new topics and gain new experiences to share with her readers. Currently she is a writer for Pick Writers You can find her on Twitter @DinaIndelicato.