According to the Canfield School of Management, nearly two-thirds of projects are destined to fail. While this can be many reasons (lack of resources, rough concepts, etc.), project management skills are an essential part of corporate strategy. Great project management can take a solid concept and produce a relevant, stable product, while bad project management skills can turn even the best of ideas into a career-wrecking mess.
Read on for our advice on which project management skills to adopt, and which ones to drop like a bad habit (because they are, well, bad habits).
Project managers are tasked with keeping finances in check, managing resources and employees, communicating with stakeholders, and bridging user feedback, all while making dozens of decisions under stress — sometimes all in a day. Yes, it may be an understatement, but the people who do project management, and do it well, are truly gifted individuals.
The biggest reason why a great project manager exists is because of experience — nothing makes up for years in the field managing multi-million dollar concepts. This is also why so many projects fail — they were placed in the hands of an inexperienced manager.
That’s not to say these individuals wouldn’t make fantastic project managers a few years down the road. They just don’t have the experience now. They will force certain things, place their own opinions above others, and assume too much, and that’s not who you want managing your projects.
Setting unrealistic expectations for your project, or having a tight schedule that doesn’t allow for variables (like additional research, troubleshooting, etc.), can kill your project before it even gets started.
This can be difficult for many project managers, as some companies want an exceptional product, with a limited team, in a number of weeks. To most of us, this sounds impossible — and it is. However, there will always be corporate leaders that want everything in an unrealistic amount of time, or with minimal resources, so it’s your job as a project manager to let them know it’s not going to happen.
If you can establish a realistic timeline, with achievable goals, that also allows for some flexibility, you’re off to a great start. This often means you need to sit down with your supervisor at the beginning of the project and establish guidelines and goals that actually make sense and won’t keep your team members working through the night.
Here’s a scenario: you’ve got a project with a few dozen goals, and you’re given a sizable amount of time to research and test with your team. Your supervisor is flexible, but says that each of the goals is equally important, and you need to accomplish all of it. Sound good?
Well, you’re probably missing something: no project has completely even goals, and prioritizing is an extremely important attribute that most projects lack. You’ll likely never see a situation where each goal is accomplish perfectly, which is why it’s so important to establish what absolutely must be done correctly, and what can take a backseat for version 1.
There’s one other major pitfall to look out for — after you’ve established your timeline and goals, and the project starts, you’ll often notice goals escalating without increased resources. You’re working with the same team, under the same timeframe, but now you have to do 20% more work.
It may sound fine at first, but what happens when your workload increases again? And then again?
By establishing goals and a solid timeline first, and then adjusting resources accordingly if you need to, you can eliminate the stress of increasing demands.
Great project management can take a solid concept and produce a relevant, stable product, while bad project management skills can turn even the best of ideas into a career-wrecking mess.