Seven Deadly Sins of a project manager

We all know about the seven cardinal sins. Sloth, Gluttony, Pride, Lust, Greed, Wrath, and Envy; these are common knowledge. Did you know that just like these sins that are capital to all other vices, there are certain mistakes/sins that when committed by a project manager can breed a lot of other problems?

Countless projects continue to fail every day. According to one of the studies, “68% of the IT projects fail”. Now the reasons for failures can be plenty, but, if you ensure not to commit these major mistakes,lot of minor errors can be avoided that eventually lead to failure. Take a look at those vices -

1. Not updating project related books and information

Irrespective of how small or big a project is, there is always going to be some central storage space where you document things and all the critical information. It could be related to project progress report, accounts, teamwork, tasks and goals getting accomplished, etc. One of the classic mistakes that a lot of project managers make is failing to update those books, storage space.

Remember, people such as stakeholders, clients, senior management, etc. will be drawing conclusions by looking at those documents. An outdated or incomplete project book can convey wrong information to key people involved. May be you use a project management tool or some other medium to update and store project-related info. Be sure to keep updating it from time to time to avoid people from drawing wrong conclusions.

2. Communication imbalance

As per one of the statistics by teamgantt.com, “57% of project failures happen due to communication imbalance”.

Communication is always a hot topic of discussion and something that is overly emphasized on, especially in the context of project management. It is good to have clear lines of communication and discuss things from time to time. But, only a few project managers know how to communicate in the right manner. Communication is not just about blabbering things randomly. You have to know when to say what.

Some project managers keep communication restricted only to key people involved. Then there are those who have the case of verbal diarrhoea where they just keep on talking unnecessarily about things that aren’t core to the topic. The problem with the latter is that the listeners fail to distinguish what’s important and what information was just a buffer.

Ideally, a project manager should keep lines of communication open to each and everyone involved with the project. Also, he should know when to put emphasis when some crucial information is being shared.

3. Assuming things, and ignoring uncertainties

Making assumptions is one of the deadliest mistakes a project manager can commit. Assuming that things will go right; that the project won’t run into budget problems, or that the staff will not fall sick. One has to be as realistic as possible. Acknowledge the scope of things going haywire. Because, the more you open yourself up to the possibilities of risk, the better change management strategies you will have on your hands to put quickly into motion.

Admit to uncertainties instead of ignoring them just because preparing for them seem to be a lot of work. Create a list of all of the assumptions you are making and share it with team members. It will allow everyone to take those things into account while identifying risks and doing risk management.

4. Being unclear about goals

Being unclear on your goals or having too many goals and ambitions; this is another cardinal vice that a project manager must avoid committing. Projects are supposed to be about achieving success, but you have to know what success means to you.

It’s not enough to just talk big about success. A lot of project managers make the mistake of only talking big, but fail to define it in real quantifiable terms. Be very clear in terms of what will success mean to you. For example, If the project is about an online promotion strategy then what do you wish to achieve from it? Do you want to increase the number of visitors to the website? If yes, then by what percentage? Do you want to bring the old customers back or do you want to attract new ones? What kind of figures will mark your project as successful?

Be very clear on such aspects.

Do not make the mistake of just thinking big and planning big, but not adding a structure to the project.

5. Focusing too much on the constraints and not on deliverables

Scope, schedule, and other such constraints; sticking to these things are important because that’s what make up a project. However, in the process of focusing too much on the structure, a project manager may end-up neglecting the eventual deliverable. You know, the very thing for which the project was created in the first place.

The whole ‘operation was successful, but the patient died’ scenario might explain things better. There’s no point of sticking to a rigid schedule and everything else, if, in the end, the project fails to provide what it was meant to in the first place.

6. Ignoring personal conflicts

Whenever group work is involved, you can be sure that disagreements are bound to surface. Making a unanimous decision becomes a little challenging, especially when the number of people involved is too many.

A cardinal sin on the part of any project manager would be ignoring the signs that certain disagreements between team members may start to brew conflicts. Do not let the difference in opinion at work become a reason of personal difference. Instead of hoping that a certain conflict will resolve on its own, be proactive in recognizing when a disagreement may rear its ugly head. Try to nip things in the bud.7.

7. Mismatching tasks and employees’ skill set

Being knowledgeable of the skill sets and core expertise of your team members lies at the core of project management. A major sin on the part of any manager can be making a mismatch between tasks and skills of those who will carry them out. A skilled manager would know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and accordingly assign work responsibilities that best fits their expertise.

Managers who don’t know how to make this match can never use human resources to the most optimal level. On the other hand, those who know this art can get a lot done even if the project suddenly runs short of human resources (like in the case of employees suddenly falling sick).

Each time you commit any of these sins, you will get punished. This is not to say that someone will come and physically punish you, but, you will have to face the repercussions in the form of project delay or running into sudden unexpected problems. So, stay away from these capital vices if you happen to be a project manager!


Originally published at www.linkedin.com.

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