With the huge amount of knowledge and information available online and through project management publications, it can be easy to miss out on some of the most obvious truths about actual project management. Not that there is ever a problem with improving one’s knowledge of best practices but losing sight of the basics can lead to project management mistakes that should be easily avoidable.
To ensure you are getting the fundamentals right when it comes to managing your projects, here are some project management truths that might not always be so obvious.
“Give it some time”, does not work in project management
Many situations in life, such as a broken heart, an unimpressive garden or an awful haircut can be solved with the simple advice of “give it time”. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to project management. If something isn’t working the way it is supposed to now, then most likely it won’t do so in the future either. Dealing with minor problems before they become major problems, rather than ignoring them and “giving them time”, is the sign of a good PM.
Communication can’t occur naturally
While it could often be hoped that simply putting people together will lead to them magically negotiating, compromising and helping each other, that’s not really how things work in reality. Having a clear communications plan, both within the team and for dealing with other stakeholders provides the platform for how responsibility will be attributed and how interactions will proceed.
A project becomes a year late one day at a time
The build-up to a huge disaster is a lot of other project management mistakes not being dealt with properly. It’s the smaller problems that can often go unnoticed or underappreciated, such as team disputes, poor choice of vendors or lack of visibility over project progress that will eventually bring down a project. This project management truth is that for a major problem to happen, such as being a year late, many more others had to have been allowed to happen before it.
A good start really is half the battle
Getting your project initiation phase right really does set everything in place that you will need for project success. With an accurate project plan you will know what should be happening when, a well-researched risk management plan will keep you aware of what could possibly occur and what to do if it does, while an effective project kick-off meeting will help to get stakeholder support, as well as letting everyone know where they stand. Overall, getting a good start will have a huge impact on whether your project is a success or not.
Estimates are not called facts for a reason
There is only so much that can be achieved with guessing at the future. Naturally one can rely on current trends, past experiences and gut instincts about what will be necessary throughout the course of a project but ultimately it is impossible to know exactly what will happen. This applies to every element of your project, including budget, personnel, stakeholders and risks, and a project manager has to always be ready for the unexpected. Very poor estimates need to be analyzed and improved for future iterations but they also shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat yourself up about too much.