Everyone involved in IT projects has an opinion about what makes a good project manager and what doesn’t, about the best methodology to use, what the best team structure is, and do’s and don’ts about managing projects. All this advice is great but it is often conflicting and highly dependent on personal experience. Below are the top project management myths and beliefs which first time project managers often fall prey to.
Top Project Management Myths
Myth 1: Project managers must have all the answers
When you start out as a project manager you want to show you know your stuff, that you are in control and that you add value. You want to be able to provide solutions to all challenges and if you don’t know the answer then you start to feel insecure. Either wondering if others will start doubting your capabilities, or perhaps you will start to feel that maybe you aren’t good enough.
The truth is project managers aren’t expected to have all the answers and there is no shame in seeking guidance from others, particularly from those with experience in that type of problem. In fact people appreciate it when their advice is sought. It makes them feel valued and it will strengthen your relationship with them.
Myth 2: You have to build the perfect team in order to succeed
There is a lot of advice on team building and what makes up a perfect team. There are well known models like Belbin’s team roles which suggest how to build the most effective team however it is virtually impossible to build these types of teams in an IT environment where specialists are scarce and often resources are allocated to your team from the business.
IT project teams are more like dysfunctional families where there are a lot of strong personalities, each with their own views on how things should be done and their own idiosyncrasies. You need to learn how to work with them, to embrace and capitalise on their diverse range of skills. To avoid conflicts within the team you need to set ground rules around communication, roles and responsibilities and help them build team rapport to ensure they work effectively together.
Myth 3: You must follow your project methodology verbatim
One of the biggest project management myths is that the you must follow your best practice project management methodology verbatim. This is simply not true. Yes you must have proper processes, stage gates and the key activities which are needed to ensure project success however each organisation is different – with different needs, ways of doing things and protocols.
Project methodologies should be tailored to an organisation not the other way around. This will help you maximize the benefits of following a particular methodology, streamline processes and overall optimise performance and efficiency.
Myth 4: You need to focus on the details to avoid failure
Unfortunately when you step into project management for the first time you feel that you need to stay on top of everything, even the little activities, to drive the project to success. This leads to micro-management and getting involved in activities which should be managed by other team members. Not only will it annoy and frustrate your team members, but it is simply impossible to keep up to date on, and be involved in, every little detail on a project.
Project managers need to stay focussed on the bigger picture and should manage by exception. You need to be aware of the details and monitor your team’s progress, however your role is to ensure that the overall project is a success and mitigate any issues that could impact its critical path.
Lastly there are a lot of project management myths about what makes a perfect project manager. Type “project manager skills” into your search engine and thousands of articles will be listed. The truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect project manager. We all have our quirks, are good at some things and not so good at others. Sure there are certain basic skills needed, like good planning skills, however when you are starting out you are still learning. In fact even project managers with 20 years experience under the belt are still learning. The trick is if you want to be a good project manager keep your mind open, learn from those around you and keep improving your soft skills like communication. Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes – rather treat them as learning experiences and ask “what can I learn from this?” and “how can I do this better next time?”