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The top two experienced Project Managers' pitfalls

“Project Managers are expected to deliver projects that create value for the organization and stakeholders within the organization’s system for value delivery.” PMBOK Guide 7th edition, page 31

This quote from the PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge 7th edition best describes the role of the project manager which is managing the people and the project. Any experienced project manager will tell you that they require autonomy on their projects and the support of their organization to enable them to be successful. Yet there are companies that fall short in supporting their project managers, thinking it’s the other way around where it’s the project manager that needs to support the company. Here are two common pitfalls companies do to drive away good project managers.

Pitfall One - Expect the project manager to navigate the organization blindly: A new project manager comes on board at your company. On day one, you take them around the office, introducing them to the people. For the remote employees, you set up an online “meet & greet” call. Then you take them to lunch along with some colleagues and continue explaining how things are at the company. If the project manager is lucky, they are given organizational charts of who’s who in the company which are helpful because, let’s face it, it’s rare you remember everyone you are introduced to on your first day. Finally, you inform the new person you are available for them and that ends the introductions. Is this enough? NO!

It’s like describing a book’s cover but forgetting to tell them exactly what is in the book. You are letting the new person navigate blindly through the company at the same time they are organizing themselves for their project. Therefore, the project manager then spends more time chasing after the people that impact their project. It will prolong the project's timeline.

Ideally, you do give the new project manager a tour of the facilities, introducing them to the people and you complement this tour with organizational charts. But this is not where your involvement in onboarding ends. You organize a one-to-two-week itinerary for the new project manager. This means after the tour, you have them involved in several key meetings and activities that will help them understand the project. For example, if the procurement person is having a supplier meeting to discuss materials that pertain to the project, have the new project manager be part of the call. Be proactive and schedule ahead their first team meeting along with one-on-one meetings with each of the team members. Include some team building or new project manager assimilation with the team to help everyone know more about each other and their working styles.

In other words, you not only describe the book's cover. You open the book with them going through the table of contents as well as some chapters that will help the project manager acclimate to the new position. This will shorten the adjustment period and enable the project manager to jump onto their project.

Pitfall Two - Expect the project manager to build the company’s business process: This pitfall occurs more in smaller companies and start-ups than large corporations. Instead of having the resources for the project manager, the company decides to hire an experienced project manager with the hopes of having this person establish the process as they execute on the project.

This is like giving someone an IKEA shelf to assemble in 30-minutes without any instructions. Sure, if the person is resilient, they will start assembling and ultimately complete the assembly, but it will take longer. And chances are they will also end up with some extra parts or screws they did not use. Will you trust that shelf's sturdiness? Lack of guidance leads to more trial & error wasted time which is why it takes longer to assemble.

Similarly, an experienced project manager will know what they need to do in their project, i.e., creating a schedule. But they will not know the activities that go into the schedule until they get the work instructions, or ideally, standard work of how things get done in the company. If none of this exists, then the project manager will spend more time figuring out how things are done and falls short in establishing a viable baseline schedule for the project. Worse, the project manager decides to interview the team members to get the activities that make up the work in the project, only to find out later that some activities were missed in the schedule. This leads to time wasted on an unreliable schedule which yields bad reporting in progress. Without a good baseline plan to start with, it will be difficult to monitor the project and report progress accurately.

This is why companies have a project management office or PMO, which is a group that supports the project managers in the organization with templates, processes, performance indicators, mentorship, and facilitation.

If you believe your company falls into this pitfall, be proactive and get the company’s processes with standard work established before this new project manager enters your organization. Failure to do so will lead to an incomplete project plan yielding inaccurate results, lateness in the project schedule as well as overbudget which will be hard to explain, difficulties to handle iterations or changes as they occur in the project, customer dissatisfaction, and ultimately burning out your new project manager who may decide to just give up.

Remember, if you are one of these companies with no standard work across the board, don’t wait for the project manager to burden them with a problem. You are hiring an experienced project manager to manage the project successfully, not your company! If you need help setting up the onboarding package or business processes, give us a call today...

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