All project managers have to go through the planning phase, and over the course of our careers we tend to pick up some very negative habits. Despite them leading to project issues—or even failed projects—we somehow either stay blind to them, or ignore them entirely and blame other factors.
One reason they’re so insidiously persistent is because of how simple they are. I’m talking about things like:
Most projects operate under tight deadlines, even from day one. As a result, project managers are under pressure to get the project plan out the door as fast as possible so that the “real” work can begin. But the project plan is the “real” work, and being hasty leads to a lot of overlooked details—details that can cost the project much more than an hour’s worth of additional project planning.
“Go big or go home” shouldn’t ever be applied to project management. On the contrary, projects need to be as small and tightly managed as possible—even for projects with an intentionally huge scope. You need to minimize the moving parts and cut off excess goals so your teams can focus on a few core deliverables. Critical paths are a great way to keep teams focused on the important tasks.
One of the unglamorous responsibilities of project management is gathering information. You can’t plan around what you don’t know. Even if you think you have previous experience on something, you should at least confirm that it‘s still true before you incorporate it into your plans. I’ve had a project go overbudget because one of my contractors raised his rates for the first time in ten years, and I didn’t call him to get a quote.
Planning by Committee
Teamwork is great. Collaboration is wonderful. Committees are pure hell.
By giving everyone equal footing, you’re paving the road to nowhere. Any controversial decision is going to be a massive obstacle that will keep the project from moving forward, and result in a project that has muddled objectives and hazy definitions of success.
You have to decide early on who is going to have final say during project planning. Is it the project stakeholder or sponsor? Is it the project manager in charge? Is it upper management? Someone has to have ultimate authority over the project in order to resolve conflicts. All questions should be directed to either them or a delegated authority. And keep in mind that you can still have one person in charge and still make recommendations based on your knowledge and experience.
What other deadly habits of project management do you need to unlearn? Share them with us in the comments below!
Image credit, Flickr, Chris@APL