We’ve all been there. Stepped in or brought in to a project that is mid flight, struggling with a key business outcome looming closer by the day. Your instincts tell you that you need to treat this like any new project and go through some key project creation steps and yet the business is nervous and in your ear about getting some wins on the table. “We don’t have time to waste” is the common catch cry.
There are ways to be smart in going through the process quickly to safeguard yourself and set you up for success however many Program/Project Managers will succumb to business pressure and are likely to make these mistakes at least once in their career. Often the only alternative if support can’t be gained from key stakeholders to make changes is walking away from what is likely to be a project that struggles to make progress. Many feel they don’t have a choice but to stay. Ultimately, at the cost of their own personal brand.
The following are some common mistakes made that are likely to hurt in the long run 9 times out of 10.
1) Sticking with the team you’ve already got (because they are already here) rather than assessing whether they are the right fit for the role and making changes where required
Recruiting is time consuming and it’s often difficult to find the right person. Many people will choose to keep people on in the team because they are there and have good relationships within the business when they lack specific capability required for their role. Choosing to work with them to develop their skills along the way will only be successful if they truly believe they have a gap. If they don’t recognise it as a gap, they will not put the effort into changing. Making changes or waiting for the right fit may be less costly than continual delays due to capability gaps.
2) Not revisiting vision and outcomes with the team to check for alignment because you don’t want to lose precious momentum
Particularly pertinent when the project has had a bit of turnover or has been spanning different financial years. Often the key drivers will change during this time and you could be making crucial decisions based on the wrong decision making criteria.
Without gathering the whole team together to get alignment and consensus you could be being sidetracked by a strong personality that has a particular agenda they are pushing that may be at odds with the rest of the team.
Alternatively, the original vision and outcomes may no longer be as relevant and may need to change to fit with current strategic objectives within the business.
3) Forging ahead with the current schedule without stopping to understand the lessons learned and key challenges to date that have hampered progress
This isn’t a fault finding mission, just an understanding of where things may need to be tweaked to achieve a successful outcome. Ignoring these challenges or assuming that you will make up lost time without making changes can be costly later. They need to be identified and visible to all rather than swept under the carpet. Hit them head on.
4) Ignoring your instinct
Call it gut instinct, call it intuition. It’s the part of you that gauges risks at an unconscious level and evaluates whether action is required. Every PM brings a wealth of experience to the table and through this will have certain patterns that appear to them in each project no matter what the “thing” that is being created. Ignoring these or turning a blind eye to something that deep down you know needs to be addressed will only cause issues later on that could have perhaps been avoided or the impact minimised.
5) Trying to keep everyone happy
Managing a project by consensus never works. Of course you need to consider input from people and allow your team the opportunity to be heard. However, in general, people will tend to disagree on approaches and spending time trying to get an overall consensus will be costly on a time pressured project (which most are). As a leader, the buck stops with you. Be prepared to make calls quickly based on the information you have to have. Decisiveness is paramount. A high need to have everyone like you will hamper progress as will indecisiveness.