The 5 Biggest Mistakes New Project Managers Make

Role of the Project Manager | By Stacey Marone | Read time minutes

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The job of a project manager is no sinecure. So many things are going on, so many people to consider. It's no wonder, then, that new project managers make a ton of mistakes. This situation is not necessarily a death knell for your project management work, however, if you learn from the things you do wrong each time. Here are the five biggest mistakes new project managers make and what to do about them.

1. Too Broad a Scope

Being in charge of a big project can be exciting. It gives you a sense of importance and prestige. The downside, though, is that most rookies make the mistake of biting off more than they can chew. They're anxious to prove themselves and inevitably fail.

The project scope dictates the goals and deliverables you must achieve by the end of the project. In many cases, new project managers sit down to consider the specifics of a project and don't allow for mushrooming, which big projects tend to do. Pretty soon the project spirals hopelessly out of their control.

To avoid this problem, you have to cut a big project down to size. Identify the smallest attainable goals, and limit your management to those. Keep a firm grip on your goals. Don't be afraid to say no to the demands of your boss or client - especially to those that fall outside the scope of the project.

It can be scary, of course, but in the end, breaking the project up into manageable chunks and sticking to your goals ensures project success. After all, your role is to manage a project. You have to make sure you can achieve success.

2. Too Much, Too Soon

Another rookie mistake is committing to a tight deadline without making allowances for unexpected delays.

While it's possible to complete the project within the given period, it presumes everything – and everyone – will work as expected. That very rarely happens, especially when a project involves many people over a significant period. The chance of one supplier or one employee failing to deliver on schedule and causing a domino effect is very high.

Avoid this kind of nail-biting stress (and finish your project on time) by factoring in a reasonable amount of wiggle room when establishing a deadline. Think a project will take a month? Include an extra week or so just to be on the safe side. Estimate the project duration correctly, and you'll impress your boss or client in the long run when you finish ahead of schedule.

3. Too Much "Me", Not Enough "We"

No one – man or woman – is an island, and that's especially true with project management.

As a new project manager, you may quickly forget that other people are affected by how you handle the project. Aside from members of your team, you also have stakeholders to consider. In many cases, projects are created to meet particular stakeholder expectations, so it's an integral part of your planning and management.

If you don't know what your stakeholders expect – or worse, who your stakeholders are – then you're quickly headed for disaster. Either you accomplish goals that don't address the concerns of your stakeholders or set goals contrary to their expectations.

Identify all parties concerned that have a direct and indirect investment in your project. Align your goals to meet their expectations. Consult with them from the beginning. Post status updates to keep them in the loop. You may not be able to completely satisfy all your stakeholders to the same degree, but at least you know what's lacking for future reference.

4. Too Little Direction

Many new project managers fail in their objectives because they don't establish benchmarks. Turning ideas into something tangible requires creating a starting point. With one, you can determine how to achieve your goals. If you don't know where you are, then you won't know what you need to do to get to where you want to go.

To avoid losing your way, establish the requirements of the project and keep it in front of the team at all times. Refer to them when reporting on the status of the project. Discuss whether you're still heading in the right direction.

5. Too Little Risk Management

Many things can go wrong with a project, no matter how carefully you plan it.

New project managers often skip in-depth discussion of potential problems and roadblocks they may encounter along the way. Why? Perhaps because they're afraid to jinx the project. Whatever the reason, failing to have a plan B in case you hit a snag can cost you a lot of time and money. It may even severely compromise your project's success.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Discuss all possible scenarios with your team members. Make action plans for each contingency. Assign a team member to spearhead each one. The plans should be simple and flexible, so you can adapt them to particular circumstances as they arise. A detailed risk management plan will make you feel more confident and better able to handle any situation.

Key Takeaway

Project management isn't as easy as it sounds. Even experienced project managers can run into trouble because so many factors can affect the outcome. New project managers are sure to make some pretty big mistakes in their careers. However, the important thing is to learn from your mistakes so you can avoid making them again.

How about you, our readers? Any other mistakes you think new project managers are prone to making?

About the Author

Stacey Marone is a freelance writer and a contributor to Scholaradvisor dissertation service. In her free time, she does volunteer work and helps individuals and organisations get better results in leadership and project management. Her passions involve travelling and exploring new places.


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