The art of Project Management isn’t something that can be taught and learned mechanically out of human skill. No matter how many PM certifications or diplomas you acquire, you will always find room for improvement, for an experience that you have little clue about but can gain valuable insight from.
So, whether you have been managing projects and teams for 5 years or 15, you could always use a quick referral to a list of pitfalls and hidden snags that you need to avoid no matter how simple the undertaking is.
Here are 10 don’ts of project management that you may have been hearing since forever, but in all honesty, these are the ones that shape the outcome of largely every routine project:
1. Don’t alienate your team from decision-making
Remember, you get what you endorse. Project Managers that endorse participative behavior, have less jumble on their plates to deal with. Teams of such managers are constantly aware of their responsibilities as individuals and what is expected of them.
When you hand the autonomy of decision-making to your team, you show them the trust you have in their skills and more importantly the value of their role.
Your team no longer feels like they are involuntary robots programmed to follow strict guidelines and as a result, they develop a sense of liberation that propels them to pour extra effort into the project which relies not only on the shoulders of their project manager but on their heads as well.
2. Don’t conduct empty meetings bereft of agenda
Ranking #2 on our list of don’ts of project management is conducting empty meetings.
According to a report by Attentiv, 63% of the total meetings held annually are conducted without an agenda.
Remember the boy who cried wolf? Well, you do not want to be the Project Manager who cried Meetings! For it is highly likely a day in time may arrive when your team would categorically stop believing in your leadership authority and will quit paying any significant attention to meetings of any nature.
Your team looks up to you for guidance, delegation and future projections, ill-planned meetings are just another way of letting your team down and reconfirming their worse fear: their project manager is just as clueless as the rest of them.
Who said you absolutely have to conduct a meeting, with no real meeting scope or agenda in mind? Gather your team only when and if you require unanimous brainstorming, collaborative problem solving and interactive exchange of ideas.
3. Don’t ignore small achievements in the face of large ones
A Global Recognition Study, revealed that 78% of U.S workers report that being recognized motivates them at their job.
Remember, your team is a network of humans working from the sweat of their brow to meet awry deadlines, fix pesky annoying bugs and turn in tedious deliverables one after another.
Sure, they go home at the end of the day to refuel on sleep, food and family, but do you really think a pat on their back from the boss isn’t something that will work wonders in boosting their confidence to come to work the next day and work round the clock with equally unflinching dedication?
So, no matter how small the achievement is or how ordinary of a task is completed, make sure you applaud your team, recognize their hard work and let them know, you appreciate the amount of effort they put in frying not just the bigger fish but the smaller ones too.
4. Don’t escape the feedback ritual
Ranking #4 on our list of don’ts of project management is avoiding feedback.
“Annual performance reviews often are considered time sucks of meaningless paperwork and awkward meetings between manager and subordinate who suddenly seem like strangers,” explains Katie Donovan in an interview with Forbes.
Instigate an on-going system of feedback where you give regular input to your team members on their performance.
Nobody works 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, simply to get a paycheck, unless of course, they are working in a factory with fixed methodologies that require little to no monitoring on behalf of a manager.
Sit with your team members individually, assess their work and tell them what you think of their work process. Your team thrives on your words and what you think of them. Your feedback, be it constructive criticism or supportive empathy, is the force that drives them to better outcomes.
5. Don’t steer from automating your management workflow
KPMG’s Project Management Survey 2017 reported 80% of organizations, use more than one project management methodology.
If you think you can manage multiple projects, track time, monitor project budget and estimates and assess team performance all by the effort of two mortal hands and a single brain, think again.
A task management tool will help streamline all the administrative as well as the technical glut which otherwise becomes a huge mishmash of to-dos, emails, due dates, reminders and meeting invitations that either get lost or become a pain in the head to manage.
6. Don’t micromanage your team’s work
The 6th don’t on our list of don’ts of project management is micromanagement at work.
A Trinity Solutions Survey reports that 85% of employees revealed that micromanagement had a negative impact on their morale, whereas 71% of the respondents said it served as an obstacle in their performance.
Refrain from over-indulging in your team’s work process. Your team needs its space to breath and function confidently. Whereas You could really save the time and energy to overlook other more important aspects of the project.
Constant overview of performance reports and daily task updates tends to be suffocating for employees and also causes a strain on the trust that is crucial for the maintenance of a certain synergy between the management and the team.
7. Don’t prioritize urgent over important
Take it from Allan Koltin, CEO of Koltin Consulting Group Inc, who suggests creating 3 categories to place your high priority tasks in: Must Do, Should Do, Nice to Do.
As a project manager, you have a never-ending list of fires to put out, tasks to take care of and plans to execute. And while you juggle all these and attempt to please everyone, you unintentionally run a high risk of mismanagement, unhappy clients or stakeholders, and patchy communication.
To effectively break down your urgent tasks, make use of the Action Priority Matrix. This matrix helps simplify your decision for you because to make use of the matrix you have to assess your tasks based primarily on their impact and the effort needed to pursue them.
8. Don’t set unrealistic deadlines
Ranking #8 on our list of don’ts of project management is setting unrealistic, unachievable deadlines.
“The rule is, there are no unrealistic goals. There are only unrealistic deadlines” – Brain Tracy
There’s a thing called being ambitious. It takes you places. And then there is a thing called being over-ambitious. This could practically destroy you. Setting deadlines that are impossible to achieve, not only results in employee burnout but leaves the entire workflow hanging in a disorganized and an unstructured order.
Employees begin to face a drop, in morale when they are unable to meet these humanly impossible deadlines. These short-term ramifications then turn into long-term consequences that result in employee turnover. Gradually teams start to disintegrate, moving for greener pastures elsewhere.
9. Don’t overlook project risks as petty issues
“In the business world, the rear-view mirror is always clearer than the windshield” – Warren Buffet
Identifying risks, unseen roadblocks and formulating mitigation plans is a vital component of project management.
Every project is prone to one or more type of vulnerability, that can turn to jeopardize the integrity of the entire project if left unattended.
Keeping a solid repository of risks helps give everyone on the team a clear and transparent idea of how healthy and stable a project is.
Use a risk management tool to help you practice fast and adroit risk assessment, reporting and mitigation.
10. Don’t levy extra load to an understaffed team
The last don’t on our list of don’ts of project management is levying overwhelming workload on the project team.
According to the Princeton Survey Research Associates, nearly 70% of workers feel as though they have too much work on their plates.
This should come as no surprise to you but the greater the level of stressed employees, the greater is your employee turnover, drop in productivity and ultimately a failure to deliver.
Avoid cramping your team members with huge anvils of work on top of already existing tasks. You might want to expand your team to divide the workload in case of a faster, finer workflow.
It is far more convenient to recruit your team wisely before the project kicks off.
Evaluate and assess which member possesses the skill set needed to get a certain job done.
And calculate a solid estimate of sufficient resources that will be needed at each stage of the project. This way you get to make maximum use of your resources and each member delivers to the best of his/her role.