Project Management Tips for New PM’s
Project Management is a rewarding career to pursue. The challenging process of initiating a project from paper to its successful completion may compel you to work toward a career in this field. Anyone can be a project manager (PM), but not everyone makes an excellent and successful project manager. The following five steps are crucial if you want to become a professional PM.
A PM has four primary responsibilities:
1. Analyze your personality
Project management is naturally a stressful job. Therefore, are you cut out to be a project manager? People with certain character traits tend to perform better than others. For instance, if you suffer from Analysis Paralysis, Anxiety Disorder, or other related disorders, a career as a PM can be difficult due to high stress levels. The following traits will propel you to success:
- Risk taker
- Fast learner
- Highly organized
2. Perfect your communication skills
All the above-stated skills of a project manager require excellent communication skills not only for the sake of completing a project but also for the PM’s well-being. Project management entails interacting with numerous stakeholders ranging from workers to suppliers to investors. All these stakeholders look up to the project manager for direction on everything. The PM may also have to solve conflicts between stakeholders from time to time. There is also the requirement of submitting regular reports concerning progress and endless meetings. In a nutshell, a project manager without both written and spoken communication skills will likely struggle.
3. Seek academic credibility
Experience may be more valuable than academic papers. There are, however, vital aspects concerning project management that are best learned in class. For instance, professionalism and discipline are instilled in class, which are both vital in a PM’s career. Moreover, a learned project manager is likely to handle significant projects in comparison to a self-taught one. Academic papers will open doors that experience alone cannot. Therefore, register for a professional course in a recognized institution and begin your journey as a PM.
4. Familiarize yourself with relevant tools
Projects, especially in the modern world rely heavily on tools to succeed. Holding on to basic computer skills while ignoring the available tools will only stall your career. Take time to research and understand professional project management tools and learn to use them. Also, network with other project managers and try to learn as much as possible from them.
5. Gain experience
Few investors will be willing to hire you just because you have a degree in Project Management. It might be confusing when every employer asks for at least two years’ experience, yet you only completed school. What companies look for is relevant expertise. Therefore, take up jobs that will equip you with practical management skills. These may be gained by taking up leadership roles in minor unpaid projects, or through volunteer work under established project managers.
4 Common Project Management Pitfalls
All projects are different and each project manager has a distinct style and personality. There are, however, common stumbling blocks that characterize almost every other project. Below is a list of the four most common pitfalls that you may encounter in your project management career.
1. Constant revisions
Revisions are part of any project. It is common for clients to request changes as the project progresses. Too many changes, however, hinder performance and even lower the success rate in the long run. Communication breakdown, from the onset, is a leading cause of unplanned corrections. A client may fail to capture all the details about their project and how they want their final product to appear during the planning stage. Revisions may also be as a result of failure to understand the client’s demands, and consequentially, you end up having a different mental picture from what the client intended. To avoid this pitfall, go through the plan and ensure that both of you are on the same page. Use diagrams if possible to confirm whether you have received instructions as communicated. Moreover, communicate regularly with the client and get their feedback after every milestone.
2. Unenthusiastic clients
As a project manager, you may encounter clients who are not as excited as you are about their projects and consequentially, they treat you as if you are not a priority. Subsequently, you end up feeling sidelined. Communicating project goals and discussing progress becomes difficult since you are more of a bother to the client whose only need is to see a finished product. If you are handling multiple projects, you might be compelled to treat other projects as your priorities thus compromising your relationship with your client. This drawback can be curbed by exercising professionalism. Not all clients will want to build a relationship with you, but you should help them understand what your job is and what it takes for you to perform exceptionally well.
3. Inadequate time
Project managers work underestimated time and budgets. Each milestone is accorded a particular period. Unfortunately, estimated time may prove to be inadequate due to constant distractions. Other minor activities such as reading and responding to emails, meetings, receiving phone calls and other administrative roles, may take up more time than expected thus reducing the number of hours you spend on actual project tasks. Unfortunately, time affects the budget and the overall success of a project. According to the Triple Constraint Triangle of Project Management, if time is not adhered to, the project utilizes more cost than estimated earlier on to cover a given scope, and if not so, quality is compromised. To prevent such complications, avoid making strict time approximations. Leave room from unforeseen distractions.
4. Lack of a concise plan
Sometimes what you cover in a project may be guided by sheer guesswork due to lack of a properly laid down plan. Such projects are messy and are like a ticking time bomb. Anything can easily go wrong at any time. A lot goes into the planning stage, and a good plan can result from any of the above-discussed pitfalls. For instance, when the client is detached from the project, you may not take the necessary steps to make solid plans. Also, if resources are limited, proper planning becomes impossible. To avoid this problem, make the planning stage of project management a priority and work with the available resources. Besides, avoid prioritizing some projects while de-prioritizing others regardless of how the client treats you.
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