Monday, March 4, 2013

6 Typical PM Mistakes…and How to Fix Them

1. Having an unclear scope of work. The cardinal rule of project management is to have a rock solid, crystal clear scope of work. The number of one cause of project problems and misunderstandings is because of poorly written and understood scopes.

Solution: In addition to writing a clear scope of work, go over it in detail with both your team (internal and subconsultants) and your client – especially your client! Make sure everyone has the same expectations for service and product.

2. Communicating poorly and irregularly. Projects often run aground when PMs aren't communicating frequently and transparently with the team and the client. Everyone involved needs to know what's going on.

Solution: Plan weekly team meetings, and be diligent about keeping to them, each week and on time! Also, provide your client with regular written status reports.

3. Being inflexible. A Project Management Plan (PMP), budget, and schedule feel like law, but they often blind PMs to the whims and realities of personnel issues, clients, funding, and site surprises.

Solution: The PMP is a living document, and must be revisited and altered periodically as a project moves forward. Also, a good PM is able to calmly step back from a project to gain a clearer perspective of how it's progressing and what needs attention.

4. Micromanaging. No one works well with a manager standing over their shoulder directing every movement. And a PM should have more important things to do than babysit each person on his team.

Solution: Delegate, don't direct. Tell your team members what to do, but not how to do it. And create a culture in your team that encourages individuals to take full responsibility for their tasks.

5. Failing to use an approval and tracking system. PMs are all too familiar with indecisive clients and poorly organized – or lost – documents. Having a solid approval and tracking system in place is one of the best ways to CYA.

Solution: Not only should you set up a detailed, organized system for tracking approvals and transmittals, you should make your client aware that you take this tracking seriously. They're more likely to hit their deadlines and stick with decisions if they know they're being closely monitored.

6. Pushing an unrealistic schedule. PMs are eager to please their clients and the firm's principals, but an overly tight schedule is going to create exhausted, frustrated team members, or cause missed deadlines.

Solution: First, don't let a client or a firm leader bully you into a project you know is not achievable. Then, include some buffer time – a contingency, of sorts – at the end of each project phase for unexpected glitches.

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