A Guide for Accidental Project Managers

See also: Project Management Skills

A projects manager’s role is not as easy as it seems: this is one of the prime reasons that this role is offered only to a select few.

A project manager has the responsibility of covering all aspects within the scope of the project. Apart from this, they should also keep an eye on the budget and the time constraints. Even if a project delivered covers all the aspects of the scope, it might not be declared a success.

Managing the scope of the project in its entirety within the allotted budget and time makes the job of a project manager very challenging.

At times even the most experienced and the most successful project managers feel the heat in delivering a project. Sometimes the budget is blown, and other times the timeline. Considering this, the job of a first time project manager gets even more difficult.

First time project managers do not have the cushion of the prior experience; they have nothing to refer to like experienced managers have. A project manager who has worked on a project earlier can learn from their mistakes and it is easier for them to avoid those mistakes in the next project. Unfortunately a first time project manager has a high chance of making those mistakes.

A first time project manager should keep the following in mind to help deliver projects successfully:

Understand the Scope

A first time project manager should have a thorough understanding of the scope of the project and this does not just refer to the business objective but also the tasks, resources, budget and schedule.

A project manager should be flexible in learning, keep themselves up to date with changes, and should always look forward to developing new capabilities. This helps in understanding the scope of any new project and being able to deliver, and also ensures a good start to the project. As we know, well begun is half done: a good start implies that successful project delivery is more likely.

Seek Help When Needed

A first time project manager should never hesitate in seeking help.

No one is expected to know everything and we all learn while we work on something. For a new project manger the challenges are even difficult to overcome, so instead of getting overwhelmed with the challenges they should reach out to their leaders for some insight.

The sooner they ask for help, the sooner issues at hand are resolved. A slight delay in seeking help and resolving the issue at the initial stage might be detrimental for the project. Get the right set of resources: different problems have different solutions and, similarly, different projects need a different set of resources. As per the scope of the project, the project manager must gather the right mix of resources.

Successful delivery of a project involves team work. The right team, i.e. human resources, guarantees the success of the project with minimum intervention from the project manager. For this resource selection to be perfect, the right understanding of the scope of the project is very important. A new project manager should make sure that the team is always motivated. Apart from this a new project manager should strive to be an efficient team leader.

With managing a team comes trust. Team members should be trusted to make sure they are open with any suggestions. Team members once trusted ensures that the project manager is trusted as well. Gaining the trust of the team is of utmost importance for a new project manager.

A new project manager must also work on the art of delegating tasks and should know what can be delegated and to whom a particular task should be delegated. They should also keep in mind that delegation is something more than just sharing the work load. Delegating helps in inculcating a sense of ownership and liability among the team members. A team member must be seen as a future project manager. This is very important for project success.

Also a new project manager should always stand by his team under all circumstances. Apart from this, the project success must be celebrated to show gratitude for the team’s hard work. This shows the true leadership skills of a project manager.

Maintain Regular Communication

The importance of regular communication, both with the team and the stakeholders, cannot be ignored for the success of any project.

Regular communication with the team helps in getting timely updates about the project and any roadblocks can be unearthed and resolved. The team that a project manager has may be cross cultural. Thus it is a mandate for a new project manager to understand the cultural dynamics of their team.

Timely communication helps in problem solving and decision making. Most of the communication that a project manager does is informal thus networking is also important. A first time project manager should always be accessible to the team and may learn a lot about the project from any team members who have hands-on experience. A new project manager must be flexible enough and should have a listening ear. Timely communication also helps in building trust, while timely communication with the stake holders helps in identifying any deviation in scope of the project.

Get Hands-On Experience Upfront

For a new project manager, the hands-on experience of a live project works as a solid foundation.

Experience cannot be faked. It comes from the sincere efforts made to ensure the successful completion of a project. Another way of gaining experience is to take inputs from a mentor, preferably a seasoned project manager with solid experience and success in project management. A new project manager must learn from their experience and must implement this learning in their own projects.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership eBooks

Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.

Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.

Plan for Contingency

Last but not least, a new project manager should always do some contingency planning before the start of the project.

There may be many unforeseen circumstances that arise and planning in advance for these provides a much needed cushion.

About the Author

Suha Emma is a Content Marketing Manager and Product Specialist with six years’ experience in professional certification courses like PMI-PMP, PMI-ACP, Prince2, ITIL and Six Sigma.