There has never been a better time for me to take a Project Management course than right now. I recently moved into a senior management role for the only separate business unit within my company, Critical Products and Services. It took just a few days for the honeymoon period to be over and for the issues to become apparent. Many of the core issues boil down to improper or nonexistent project management and my hope with this post is that some of you may learn from our, and my, mistakes.
Proper Project Management needs a proper Project Manager. Most of the projects that existed within the business unit exhibited a “laissez faire” project management style, which is a nice way of saying none at all. Everyone on every project was the PM for their own contribution. We had dozens of “Chiefs” and zero “Indians”. This style can occasionally work on minor projects when everything’s running smoothly, but when it hits the fan all hell breaks loose. Nobody, even the perfect PM, “wants” to deal with the tough problems, or ask the tough questions, and if a go-to PM that’s accountable for the project doesn’t exist, no one will. If no one steps up the project fails, period. I learned quickly that every real project needs a clear leader, a clear communication path, and a clear route for dispute resolution.
Project Management needs to be standardized. We had 4 PMs in our unit using 3 different PM software platforms. In and of themselves these platforms can be very effective. When mixed together the result is a colorful pile of uselessness. The tools that are used by the PMs and by the teams need to work together seamlessly across the board, otherwise they will be completely ignored and the time spent putting together the project plan was more or less wasted. Team members neither have the time nor the desire to learn multiple platforms and if a PM is on vacation or traveling good luck finding someone willing to help out in a different software platform while working on their own projects. Last week we started the implementation of cloud based “teamwork” platform Asana. The platform is simple and easy to learn but more importantly it’s able to integrate with all types of helpful tools like Instagantt, Google Drive, and Salesforce ultimately making it seem like an effective online solution to our PM standardization issues. I guess time will tell but at least we’re moving in the right direction.
Last, but certainly not least, Project Management is incredibly difficult. It takes a certain type of person with thick skin and incredible willpower; great PMs are very rare. I know am not a great PM, but I hope to be one day. It takes an amazing amount of patience (you guys know that’s not my strongpoint 🙂 ) and attention to detail to coordinate a difficult project. Know yourself, know your team, and use each member efficiently and effectively. Most importantly, never stop communicating with each other.
The exciting nightmare that has been my life for the past 8 weeks.
12 thoughts on “My (Limited) Experience with Project Management in My New Role”
Congrats on your new role! It sounds like you have your work cut out for you, but I don’t think the challenges you’re facing are unique to your company. For many years, my company took the same approach as yours and used internal (non-PM)resources to manage all project work. The results were terrible and many projects either took longer than expected or failed completely. It was only after we hired professional PM’s that we improved our project execution.
I was reading an article earlier today that mentioned the Asana product that your company just subscribed to. The article raved about it and said it allowed one PM to manage what previously took three PM’s. You will have to let us know if it’s truly that good.
I also just moved on to a Project Management role from software engineering about a year ago and I noticed the same type of challenges. It is a stressful job to run the entire project on your own, to keep people motivated and get work done from them, to manage performance, time, and budget, and to report to upper management and customers. You need a unique type of skills, personality, and nature to run project. Hopefully, it will be rewarding in a long run.
Congratulations on the job switch Damion! I think you will be great at motivating your team and the strategic aspects needed from a project manager. I would struggle with patience also in that role. My work as a chair on various committees is the closest I’ve come to project management and my biggest struggle was toning down my natural type A personality. I have no exposure to PM software so I would love to hear how Asana works out.
Congratulations on your new role! It sounds like you have many opportunities to improve upon the existing processes at your firm. This is a great time for you to motivate your team and change the existing culture (and advance your career!). One of the most beneficial skills you can develop as a project manager is to support your team members. Since you are just starting out in this role, now is the time to earn their respect and make them want to get things done for you. The key is to support them in every way possible, don’t just say you will support them – go out of your way to actually support, guide, and develop them. This takes a lot of effort, but what you will find is that over time they will get things done for you because they want to, not just because they have to. The hard work now will pay off for both you and your firm down the road. Good luck in your new role, you are going to do great!
Project managers do need to lead, but depending upon the organization they have to use more influence than authority. In my experience, project managers who rely on authority struggle. If they can demonstrate their value to the organization, they will have a greater likelihood of people following their lead. I completely agree with the need for standardization, especially when operating in a matrix environment. It helps everyone if there are standard templates and protocols for updates and checkpoints. In addition to patience and willpower, excellent project managers are leaders, not simply someone who reminds and collects data. That takes project management from an administrative position to a valued position within the organization.
Congrats with this new role! I totally agree with you regarding standardization and project management. In one of my past roles I had a senior manager who decided that all the project managers should be using the same project manager software. Some weren’t even using any at all. So the manager had the project managers and other staff try out a few different ones before we all decided as a group which one to use. This was a win for all parties involved as everyone had input into the software that we ended up using. Of course this standardization increased productivity somewhat and the manager was very pleased, as were the rest of the staff.
Congrats on the new role Damion! I know exactly where your coming from in regards to everything you pointed out in your comment. Although my new role that i started a few months back is not a direct project management role, it is a manager role that requires a lot of project management and balancing between multiple ongoing projects at the same time. I think some of the main issues you hit on were that it takes someone extremely well organized and thick skinned to be able to do this type of work. It is a fine line between being a good, fair and nice manager and also one that conveys his intentions and expectations to everyone that he/she may manage directly or in a project. I think this is the key that differentiates a good project manager from an average one.
Congrats on your new job Damion. Similar to you, I feel like this is a perfect time to take Project Management course. Recently, I was assigned to a new project and my role is more of a Program Manager. While it is a program manager role, it is critical to know PM skills and we don’t have a PM assigned. I feel like we need to create similar type of pool where there is set number of PMs and they help support projects. It would be great to include different types of skill sets in order to successfully support the initiatives.
Congrats on the new role. Working in an a project based environment where at any given time there are 100 different projects going on, I can sense some of the frustration you may have started seeing.
I recently had an opportunity to move into the operations side of the business whichh requires working more with project managers and playing the mediator role between our sales, project management and the operations staff. This was a newly developed role that the company found would be an effective way to have the 3 teams collaborate. Having worked with all 3 of those groups individually over the last 4 years, I politely declined that role as I didn’t find myself to be best suited for it. I didn’t think I could have any of the 3 groups understand each others needs.
As you mentioned that there are different PM’s or people using different tools without much standardization, we struggle with the something in our business. Sales, Project Management and Operations all have their preferred methods and tools that they like to use because it makes their own lives easier. However they don’t understand that someone like me that is in Accounting and needs to gather information from all 3 sources, I cannot just go into one platform or source to find that information. Rather, I have to either individually approach all 3 groups for the information I am looking for which ends up taking more of their time, or when they’re not available, either take time myself or assign my staff to dig for the needed information.
This lack of standardization and lack of communication often makes me think if I’m at the right job!
Congratulation on your new role Damion.
I think that my opinions of this post are aligned with Robert’s comments. I would add that, in my opinion, any effort (project) is simply the product of many cumulative efforts. To that end, the importance of a projects design cannot be overstated. Identifying your organizations goals and how a project fits within that framework will help drive the project’s success. Project participants as well as project stakeholders will drive their own results. A good project manager uses methodology to recognize gaps and exploit synergies. This is really the first step towards leveraging the combined talent that will result in achieving the projects goals and objectives.
Thanks for the comments everyone! It’s very relieving to see that some of you have experienced the same type of issues I’m going through now. Robert’s comment on influencing without authority rings especially true to me. My top PM technically doesn’t have any authority but he brings so much value to all of the projects he’s on that you’d think he’s the CEO. Sanela’s comment on bringing different skill sets to a group is also on the top of my mind when forming teams. Not only do you need someone who is able to handle tough issues in their field of expertise (Technical,Quality,Legal,etc.) but I’ve also had problems in previous positions where the top two Engineers at the company were working on the same project and butted heads so many times neither of them were effective.
Thanks again for the great input everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend.
Congratulation on your new role.
The frustrations that you face are very common at my work place as well. We have engineers use their preferred software to design and simulate and it creates huge problems for someone unfamiliar with those software’s to reuse any of the designs. However, our company has finally embarked on software standardization process to streamline all the software’s used by all the engineers across all our campuses. Currently, it is creating problems for people who have to now switch away from their preferred tools, slowing down projects and raising costs, but hopefully it will all pay off in the end.