Are You Project Managing More Than You Are Managing Your Project?

One of the most common mistakes a project manager makes is that they spend more time ‘project managing’ than they do ‘managing their projects’.

Whether we are newcomers to the project management business or experienced pros we need to remind ourselves that our project success can be seriously threatened by our rigid approach to the use of tools, processes and procedures.

Have you ever caught yourself spending way too much time on the best-looking Gant chart at the expense of more time spent on more worthy project start-up work?  Have you ever found yourself pumping out ‘required’ reports that no one will read?  

This is ‘project management’ at the expense of ‘managing projects’.

Paul Bergman wrote in his chapter “Scalability And Common Sense“, in the book The Keys To Our Success that “successful project managers need to be able to scale their use of common tools to fit the proper environment”. He is primarily referring to technical tools like scheduling software, but I would extend his thought process to presentations, meetings, and other non-technical  ”tools” that we have available to us. “The key to success,” he writes, “is understanding when to use each tool and even if you should use it at all”.  The key to your success, is understanding how much of a tool you apply in each scenario and, as importantly, whether you have the right tools or not.

We ‘over project manage’ when we:

  • spend too much time creating the schedule and not enough time doing the work
  • build a schedule to a detail far too great for the project at hand
  • worry too much about following a standard methodology or process
  • think too hard, and spend too much time dealing with project risks that have far too small a chance of occurring
  • conduct too many meetings that are not relevant to all of the attendees

We should be more concerned about ‘managing the project’ as we:

  • focus on our clients, our team and our sponsors
  • create an environment of clear, simple and precise communication with all stakeholders of the project
  • scale-down the use of our standard tools to fit each different project
  • get our heads into the business case behind the project

As you head into your next project, put yourself in the seat of your customer, your team and your sponsors and ask yourself “what do they need to be successful?”  Then pick up the right tool, with the right strength and set the right level of communication across all stakeholders and make it happen.


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