Going Back in Time

Going Back in Time

Lessons learnt in project management, if you could take back time, what would you do differently in your projects? Ask any project manager, lessons learnt are an essential part of any project, what happened in the last similar project that can be done here differently to make the path to success that smoother.

Regardless of how many projects completed it can be said that we’ve all made mistakes. The ability to learn from them separates the good from the not so good, you are not meant to know everything, if that was the case then you wouldn’t need to work.  Learning from mistakes, big or small will make you a better project manager. Think back to errors which occurred in your career and did it make you any better in delivering your projects?

If given the opportunity, what would you go back and tell your younger self to do differently?

The advice I’d give my younger self given the opportunity would be to be a more active listener. Active listening is vital to actually hearing what’s said. Active means fully concentrating on the speaker and what’s being said. It’s all too easy to passively listen without actually hearing what’s said – without really taking it in. Making it clear, to the speaker, that you’re actively listening is also helpful, so acknowledge the speaker. You can do this by nodding, making eye contact or adopting an attentive posture.

Stop prejudging situations. Not taking the time to talk and listen to the experts can be painful to the team and the project itself. You don’t have all the answers.

Take the time to sit with your team and make use of their knowledge. Listen to all points of view to make better, more balanced decisions. Have you considered all the angles, or are you leaning towards your favoured approach without giving others a fair say?

How successful was your last major project decision when you ignored other experts on the team?

Failure to mitigate risks is a significant failing. Risk is everywhere all the time. The ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude is usually a mistake.

Make sure nobody can say they didn’t know a particular risk was present. Ask the team to help you mitigate all risks and assign a single owner to each risk to ensure you’re mitigating all risks all the time. Not bothering to identify risks in favour of getting on with the work could leave you exposed and in a potentially awkward situation.

Don’t avoid conflict situations that need resolving, and don’t try to please everyone. When you do, everything seems fine at first, until the cracks start to appear. A truly happy project requires being straightforward and upfront with your customer, your team and other stakeholders. Tell them exactly how it is, and then work together to improve any bad situation. It never pays to sugar-coat the truth. Try not to be too optimistic, this can be avoided by being realistic.

Pitfalls are everywhere in a project and I’m sure have been encountered through the years, some are bigger deal than others. The following are pitfalls which should be avoided.

  • Not having a good project plan
  • Allowing scope creep or gold plating
  • Failing to manage expectations
  • Communicating poorly
  • Making false assumptions
  • Failing to manage risks and issues
  • Lacking a business case
  • Gathering requirements poorly

For the more experienced project managers, travel back in time – in your head – and see if what you would tell your younger self is based on something you do well today. What do you wish you’d known back then?

For the young and aspiring project managers tuning in, why not ask some experienced project managers what they wish they’d known at your age?

Ultimately, we never stop learning. And that’s exactly why all businesses should employ a ‘learn it all’ culture rather than a ‘know it all’ one. No matter where you are in your career, keep learning and keep improving. You don’t need a time machine to learn from the past. Let us know what you have learnt in your project management career, we would like to hear from you. All the best on your project management journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *