5 things a new project manager may find challenging

With all of the things to remember, starting your career as a new project manager can be stressful. Here are five things new project managers may find the most challenging.

project manager teaches her subordinate

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As a new project manager (PM), making mistakes may not be out of the ordinary. A new project manager is likely to have more theoretical knowledge than practical. The nature and scope of every project are different and each new project requires a different planning and execution approach.  

If you are a new PM, you may face five challenges that could impact your confidence as well as the confidence that your manager has in your capabilities.

SEE: How to succeed as a new IT manager (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Understanding the benefits 

As a new PM, you might face difficulties in understanding the benefits of a project, making it difficult to lead the project successfully and provide deliverables. You should ensure you understand the project and its benefits if you are to comfortably accept responsibility for the successful or unsuccessful. 

In plain terms: You cannot accept a role if it is based on something that you do not understand. Ask clarifying questions at the start of a project and make sure you have a solid grasp on the requirements and expectations. 

2. Identifying the scope of a project

The scope of any project is established at the beginning, and it can be a complex process. A new PM has to plan and deal with project initiation, project plans, risk logs, issue logs, change logs, project closure documents, and many other documents. Moreover, you need to deal with certain new terms and take time to fully grasp all terms. 

You might face trouble in ascertaining and managing the full and accurate scope of a project. Even if you understand all of the requirements, your coworkers might not. To be successful in the project lifecycle, you will need to address these challenges.  

3. Communicating goals

Effective planning and execution require establishing clear goals and the mission for achieving all goals related to the project. A lack of understanding on the part of stakeholders means that goals may not be well communicated, which can create hurdles. Even if you possess excellent project management skills and knowledge, you might face difficulties in communicating the goals of a project. 

It is beneficial to define proper mediums for communication with team members to clearly share all aspects of the project as well as provide opportunities for feedback. You must keep in constant communication with stakeholders about all aspects of the project to ensure everyone is on the same page at all times. 

4. Scheduling tasks and milestones

Since the nature and scope of every project will be different, you may encounter issues with scheduling short- and long-term tasks. Usually, it is difficult to track the progress of longer-term tasks. You might receive reports from team members or other stakeholders indicating that everything is going well, yet find out later that the data was based on inaccurate assumptions or was outdated. 

Make sure you verify information and divide the longer tasks into short subtasks so each task can be more easily managed. Verify task schedules and progress at different points in time to make sure everything is accurate and on track.

5. Managing risk

Risk management can be a particularly menacing and scary area for a new PM. There are different types of risks that can crop up, none of which should be ignored. Risks can pose minor to devastating problems from the start of a project up to the close, making it necessary to plan carefully, develop risk strategies, monitor closely, and make adjustments. 

In some situations, a seemingly smaller risk can cause big trouble in the end. Small risks can become potential showstoppers that can cause significant damage to a business. Leverage the knowledge of other subject matter experts or more senior PMs to ensure all bases are covered. Avoid trying to go it alone if you are unsure, especially when dealing with concerns that have the potential to become nightmares.

In summary

To become successful as a new PM, it is vital to understand a project's scope, benefits, and risks, develop good communication strategies, and keep it progressing on schedule.

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By Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...