What’s the best advice you would give to young PMs starting out in the business?
The best advice I could give is to ensure that there is clarity on agreed objectives, timelines and budgets with all stakeholders especially the sponsor. When issues and scope questions arise (and they most certainly will), the PM can bring out the agreed set of objectives as a basis for any further discussion. This practice has served me very well in my projects and programs of work.
I agree about the objectives, timelines and budgets agreements with all stakeholders especially the sponsor. Also, these are good in watching for scope creep. Many individuals want to do a good job and sometimes this means adding items that go beyond the agreed upon package referred to above. This leads to time and budget crunches for items that are more “want to” than need to”. Also, take the time to develop a good plan up front. People will complain, but, if you take the extra time up front, it will save a lot of grief as the project continues.
Finally, have an open environment. This goes beyond saying “I have an open door policy, come see me.” As a project manager, your job is to breakdown the barriers for your team so they can accomplish their work. You need to show with your actions, that you are there to help. They need to feel that they can share issues with the team and not be punished for bringing something forward. I remember one of my early programs when a new person came on board and started telling us during our weekly review, “YOU have problems here and there”. The program manager paused him and said, “if you are part of this team, then WE have problems and we are all part of th solution.” Simple statement, but, it let the team know that we were all part of the solution. Good Luck to you!!
Document Document Document . I agree with budgets, timlines, and objectives as well as knowing your sponsor. But it means nothing if you don’t document it – also its not enough to document it, make sure you distribute. Transparancy to your stakeholders and resource team is key!!
Find an experienced PM to mentor the person. Have the new PM create, review, and document the processes used by other PM’s. Point them to timely webinars, like those often provided by MPUG.
I agree with the comments. I have started my PM path by working in legal project management. I have realized that communication takes about 75% of my day. So ensure that you have good communication skills, either verbal or written. Document everything.
To add to Amanda’s comment; Project mgt is both a ‘science’ and an ‘art.’ Tools and timelines, methodologies and milestones are the PM’s bread and butter (an understatement, I know). But without what is commonly referred to as ‘soft skills,’ the PM who focuses only on the former without developing the latter, will struggle to deliver. No matter how robust and collaborative, the best PM tools can never provide the return on investment that a live conversation can … but then, of course, document the conversation afterwards. 🙂
For new PMs, I suggest a few things. First, don’t fall into the trap that equates project administration with project management. The admin tasks are certainly important (especially if you are in a regulated industry like banking), but they are not MOST important. You need to understand the requirements sufficiently to help drive the project forward in the right direction. You need to provide leadership. This is especially difficult when the resources working on the project do not report to you.
Secondly, you should understand your toolset. Too many PMs try to use MS Project like it is a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet aspect of MS Project is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing as it is intuitive to use (like Excel). It is a curse because it looks and acts like a spreadsheet in many respects, but it is really a database datasheet, where there are strict rules behind each data element. The frustration that many PMs come up against when planning a project in MS Project is that they try to have an impossible combination of things. For example a 160 hour task to be worked by one resource using no more than 20% of their time that is to be completed in 10 working days. I often see project schedules where the resources are assigned (allocated) at hundreds of percent to show that the desired completion date will be made. This impossible situation gets everyone off the PM’s back for the moment, but can have devastating consequences later in the project when it becomes obvious that the PM was not successful.
Thirdly, speak the truth. This sounds obvious, but many PMs want to please, and so keeping giving happy news even though the project can’t meet some objective (typically the desired implementation date). If the PM uses MS Project to provide the fundamental answer to the question “how long will this project take given these resources and this amount of effort (Work)”, they can tell the project sponsors right away that either there is a problem getting this done (and why), or that there is every liklihood that this project will come in on time and budget. Base your status reports from a truth-based project schedule that is planned the way the work will really be done. Remember – hope is not a strategy…