Project Management

6 ways to destroy your project management career

There are many ways to unintentionally destroy your career as a project manager. These are some of the things that could be jeopardizing your future.

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When asked about things to avoid doing as a project manager (PM), you may be inclined to think about the technical and mechanical aspects of project management. Staying within scope, cost, and timelines and adhering to quality criteria tend to be on the list.

But there are other equally or even more important things you may intentionally or unintentionally do that can have a distressing impact on a project, team members, or stakeholders, and in turn, jeopardize your career. Here are a few things a PM should avoid doing.

1: Failing to sufficiently plan

Planning is not the most interesting part of any job; in fact, it's quite boring and tedious, but when it comes to project management there is no getting around it. Without sufficient planning in all areas, projects become an exercise in frustration for all parties involved. It's no joke to miss deadlines, run over budget, exceed the project scope, fall short of deliverables, or miss overall project objectives.

Proper planning may slow things down initially, but it will save substantial amounts of time, energy, and resources, not to mention unnecessary rework later throughout the other project phases. This will also significantly increase the likelihood of meeting stakeholder expectations as well as overall project success in the end. Stakeholders are unlikely to re-hire or refer a PM who demonstrates he or she consistently fails to sufficiently plan.

2: Choosing to be exclusive

A great deal of project success depends on how effectively a project team works together to accomplish set goals. A project team can only be as strong as its members choose, but team culture can be greatly influenced by the PM.

As a PM, choosing to be in any way exclusive, whether through verbal or written communications or actions, serves to create a team culture fraught with distrust and animosity, and eventually risks buy-in. This creates a situation where individuals who have established a disconnect from the team or PM will refuse opportunities to work on future projects with that PM.

3: Possessing a know-it-all attitude

PMs are charged with a significant amount of influence and responsibility, and can run the risk of confusing this with knowing everything. While a PM holds a breadth of knowledge and skill, there is always room for growth, learning, and possible error.

With each new project, a PM brings with them experience from all other projects that can either help or hinder the current project. It's important to recognize each new project, company, industry, product, or service, and culture can possibly negate some of those previous experiences. If a PM is unwilling to recognize that this is a possibility, they are in danger of appearing like a know-it-all, and not likely to be well received.

4: Not paying sufficient attention to client needs

Missing identified business requirements is one of the biggest mistakes a project manager can make. It's not a simple matter of meeting most of the requirements — sometimes missing just one can be problematic enough, especially when that one requirement was key to a client's business.

As a PM active listening skills are critical to any project. This is not the time to take experience for granted no matter how much experience you may have.

Being able to fully understand, identify, and document business requirements requires a PM's full attention. Recognizing that meeting business requirements is at the core of project management is fundamental; without it, the project can become a huge waste of resources, funding, and time and can result in failure that falls on the PM's shoulders.

SEE: Project Management Resource Kit (Tech Pro Research)

5: Imposing personal bias

PMs are facilitators that guide project activities to successful outcomes. Stakeholder expectations and needs are at the forefront, regardless of whether a PM agrees or not.

That said, it is still important for a PM to be transparent and speak frankly if he or she believes there is a chance of missed objectives or project failure. It's vital to understand the difference between personal bias and offer experience-based objectivity that can help the stakeholder(s) to make the best decision for themselves. Companies are unlikely to employ PMs who have an established reputation for imposing personal bias over stakeholder needs.

6: Not communicating regularly

A lack of communication about the project can cause a great deal of strife; this in turn can cause stakeholders and executives to lose faith in the PM's ability to lead, make sound judgments, and execute. Ultimately, this can cost a PM in terms of future opportunities.

Timely, effective, and clear communication is a highly important aspect of effective project management and serves to keep all involved parties aware of changes, issues, and overall project progress. Good communication reduces the chance of needless issues and conflict and serves as a mechanism to keep things progressing and mitigates the risk of problems throughout the project cycle. Plus, when things don't go as planned, oftentimes stakeholders are more apt to be understanding if they are kept abreast of things in advance.

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About Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the author of "LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership" and Founder & President of Lead-Her-Ship Group. She's also a project management and IT freelance columnist for various publications, and a contr...

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