We electric launch projects since 2008, and over 11 years have formed a strong team of robomanagers. Pumping iron helps combat missions and one of the most difficult is to manage the project. The situations in which it becomes necessary to assume the responsibilities of PM (project manager) are different: in marketing – when creating a site, in HR – when organizing events. We recall dozens of similar cases.
We have prepared a list of mistakes made by new project managers and supplemented them with our recommendations. The article has two options for recommendations: simple and for those who want to get confused – with references and links to useful resources. So you will not have a chance to repeat them with proper attention. We hope that this will make your project easier, better and will add predictability to the process of its creation.
At the start
A successful start is half the success. Here are a few mistakes that could negatively affect the further development of the project.
Mistake # 1: lack of fixing agreements with stakeholders
A moment that should not be neglected at the very beginning is a discussion of the expectations of the product with stakeholders – people or organizations that can influence the development of the project.
Tip: at the start, define and coordinate with all stakeholders the goals and planned results.
Expectations from the product set the requirements for the result and significantly affect the further work of the entire team. Coordination helps to avoid possible misunderstandings and disagreements on the development of the project.
A simple solution: Make a text document or a table where stakeholder expectations will be collected. To simplify your life, you can use our structured content tip..
In the document it is important not only to fix the expectations of everyone and everyone, but also to bring wishes to a common denominator. The goal should be unified, understandable and approved by all participants. After the formation of the document, synchronize it with the team (you’ll probably get a couple more ideas) and feel free to send it to stakeholders to finalize all the points.
More difficult option: Redmadrobot’s iron team of analysts and designers at the project launch stage always collects a product passport – a document describing the characteristics and main goals. It contains key indicators and acts as a guideline for the further development of a project or group of projects. If you want to avoid problems, then you need to work it out, synchronize it with the team (collect all kinds of ideas) and coordinate it with stakeholders. After that, the results of the coordination need to be fixed for everyone – send letters, put the document in the cloud or create a board in Miro.
To use passport template for your purposes, supplement it with the necessary questions based on your specifics
Mistake number 2: thoughtless formulation of goals and objectives in a team
One of the reasons why ideas do not stand the test of time is the lack of a “feasibility bridge”. The manager can understand the goals of the stakeholders and how to achieve them, but not represent the vision of the result. Or, still see the desired result, but do not take into account all the difficulties that are likely to arise in the future. At the exit, we have the good old “nothing”, but we are hiding behind “external factors”, “unplanned activities” and “someone is to blame, but we did not suspect”.
Tip: describe step by step in detail how you plan to implement the plans.
But the project is a team matter, therefore, if it is possible to plan and think about implementation together, it must be used.
More difficult option: study with colleagues one of the methodologies for setting goals and correctly implement it. For this divide planning the results for several iterations, after which make a deep dive (immersion in the project) of the entire team according to the methodology for setting goals. Decide how to involve all colleagues in the planning and achievement process, and, most importantly, make sure that it works for the result you need..
Mistake # 3: shifting responsibility
Everything is simple here: responsibility and distribution of roles in the team should be clear to all participants. At some point (and it certainly can come, believe me) you will have to figure out why something went wrong and someone did not fulfill an important task.
Tip: so that this happens as rarely as possible (and better not happen at all), make the distribution of responsibility in the team transparent. Then everyone will be able to understand their tasks and how the fate of the project depends on his work..
And in the event that something does not go according to plan in the project, the manager must clearly understand in which part of it the failure occurred. Otherwise, PM risks jeopardizing work results and demoralizing the entire team. One of the best solutions for creating “transparency” is to use a matrix of responsibility. It can be chosen based on the complexity of the project, team size and preferences.
A simple solution, if you do not want to bother and you have a small project:
- Get together with colleagues and identify what roles may be in the team. For example, the manager takes notes during meetings, and the designer then coordinates them with stakeholders – the roles can be anything, think of them yourself.
- Estimate what roles each team member can take on.
- Speak the main responsibilities of each role and for what result is responsible. For example, agree that it is the manager who makes the appointments, keeps notes during the meetings, and records their results; the analyst (it just so happens that he is a very clear guy) starts tasks in the task tracker and describes them for the team; developers independently assemble prototypes at Tilda to show them to stakeholders or users).
The main thing is to agree on how you plan to interact in a team and fix it in any convenient way: text, in Miro, or, for example, sketch out a mind map – as it suits you.
More difficult option: for large projects, you can make a role model of the project in the form of a map and add a description of the functions of each role (this can be done, for example, in Miro).
But the matrix itself will do little good. In order for the built-up system of responsibility to bear fruit, it is necessary to constantly monitor its implementation. For example, to solve the possible consequences of its distribution: get rid of unnecessary, improve the current and add a new one.
In the course of implementation: about implementation
The main task of the manager during the implementation of the project is to complete the planned tasks that will lead him and the whole team to the desired result. This can be achieved if changes are managed competently, quality improvements are introduced in the processes, get rid of excess and constantly get an intermediate result. And here is a short list of what may hinder you on this difficult path.
Mistake # 4: lack of tools for teamwork
Any work needs tools, but it is important to implement only those that will contribute to the development of the project. Unfortunately, the opposite often happens when new opportunities add unnecessary bureaucracy, harmful regulations, and other unpleasant things to the life of the team.
Tip: use only those tools that are vital to the implementation of the project. Embed them in your processes and tell the team how to use them.
Then identify those responsible for the technical support and relevance of the tools. All information in them should be periodically updated, be ordered in accordance with possible rules and accessible to the team.
A simple solution: don’t chase fashion – use affordable and versatile tools like Trello or Google spreadsheets.
Thanks to its card system, Trello is perfect for distributing tasks. In them you can fix important parts of the project: the process of performing work, conducting transactions and applications, organizing workflow and other things. Well, Google spreadsheets are good for their multitasking. At Redmadrobot, teams often use them in a variety of ways:
- Plan and manage project budgets.
- Form and control the plan, and the progress of simple projects.
- Distribute tasks.
- Record the results of retrospectives.
- The backlog of the product is formed.
- They plan resource loading of all employees and each project separately.
- Assemble product monitors and system defects, and so on.
The task of an effective tool is to simplify the life of the team. Trello and Google spreadsheets do a good job of this. But regardless of your preference, there are types instrumentsthat you will need in any project: delegation, meetings or “sync”, risk management, channels of communication and interaction.
More difficult option: for many years of irreparable harm to our customers, we have created a tool system. It can be used by any team working in projects of different levels and complexity. You can use it as a base when creating your own list of necessary services.
Mistake # 5: lack of clear priorities
In a situation where everything is priority – in fact, no priorities exist. If work is in full swing and the project is developing, then this does not mean that the team is heading for the desired result.
Tip: precisely prioritize each task so that the team understands what needs to be done first.
So you will know how the efforts are distributed between colleagues and make sure that the goals and objectives in your head match their priorities.
More difficult option: in a large project, the formation of our own system of prioritization of incoming tasks will help. She can to build based on google spreadsheets or trello.
Using Google spreadsheets or Trello, you can build a system with emphasis on the needs of the team. For example, Google spreadsheets allow you to configure filters and formulas that automate accounting. Based on the points set for a specific parameter, filters and formulas can automatically build a final list with priorities, which saves time.
Mistake number 6: lack of control points and evaluation of the result
If the path is long, then it must be divided into segments. Such a technique helps the manager to better control the process of work, and the team sees the result and is motivated to work without slowing down.
Tip: Divide each task into micro-tasks and determine the deadlines for their implementation. The more attention you pay to the “checkpoints”, the less likely that some piece of work will be left unattended.
- Identify important milestones for the completion of the project.
- For each checkpoint, determine the desired result.
- Move to each control point in small iterations, adjust the result as necessary.
- Feel free to remove the unnecessary.
The project is about change management, so don’t be afraid to take risks. The main thing is to make sure that the planned result is worth it and the team approved your idea. And do not overdo it with responsibility. Total control is your absolute enemy, which leads to chronic distrust of colleagues and the creation of a hostile atmosphere in the team.
In the course of implementation: about interaction
Projects are implemented by people who constantly interact with each other. Your task as a manager is to understand how to level the problematic “human” part – communication and interaction. Do not make the following mistakes.
Mistake number 7: failure to inform the team
In order to clearly define the project development vector, escalation, solving problems and requests, it is important to tell the team about all the working changes. This applies not only to colleagues, but also to stakeholders.
Tip: if you learned about changes in the project, then do not be too lazy to tell the team about it, for this, organize constant informing of all its participants.
- Be sure to send letters to all participants with the status of the project. Disclose: a short current status, what key tasks the team is working on now, where there are problems and blockers (where the attention of stakeholders is required) and what results the team has already achieved.
- Determine the frequency of such letters.
- Think out the production process in terms of production. For example, when designing an interface, agreeing on important results, or submitting work, remember the responsibility distribution matrix and make sure that all necessary stakeholders are involved in the event.
- Remember that in our world there is already a lot of information and communication channels. Decide in what form and at what time it is better to inform people so that they can effectively and timely respond to your messages.
Mistake number 8: lack of response to changes or critical situations
The problems themselves do not disappear or subside, but as a rule they accumulate and create the effect of a time bomb. It is naive to believe that if a problem or conflict is not provoked, then it will disappear. Therefore, each team needs a clear mechanism for escalating issues and conflicts. The project manager must be able to make the right decisions in critical and unplanned situations, and find ways out of “stagnation” (in situations that require review).
Tip: Create a clear mechanism for escalating issues and conflicts within the team. So colleagues will understand that in any situation they will be heard and their point of view matters to those around them..
A simple solution: Tell the team about the basic rules for escalation. To do this, formulate how you see the process of escalation ideally, fix it in the form of simple abstracts. Place information in a “common space” so that at the right time everyone has access to the document.
More difficult option: create your own escalation system. To do this, make a list of colleagues who will help you in solving problem situations and conflicts, as well as in determining strategic actions. A lot of articles have been written about the capabilities of the escalation tool and how to organize it, so if you are interested in this topic, just “google it”.
Remember that the success of the product depends on your decisions. Conflict prevention is a signal that the team is ready to speak openly about their problems.
And in the end
A project always has end points and a finale. Gather your strength and do not make the last two mistakes in them.
Mistakes No. 9 and No. 10: lack of reflection and debriefing
Under the project conditions, the lack of analysis often leads to errors: actions taken, applied approaches and practices, as well as recently constructed processes. You, as a manager, need to listen and hear what is happening in your team at different times, and make quality changes to its work in a timely manner. In such cases, reflection helps, which allows you to comprehend the path traveled.
A simple solution: control the emotional background of the team, take stock on an iterative and constant basis. For example, spend weekly or two-week sinks. When summarizing, do not forget to make a cut on completed and planned tasks. Always celebrate team success and don’t be afraid to talk about failures. And speak out problems, not only current, but already solvedBe sure to record the results from such meetings and transform them into development tasks.
Be sure to record the results from such meetings and transform them into development tasks.
More difficult option: we at Redmadrobot use two tools: retrospective project team and individual reflection for the leader. A retrospective helps to regulate the emotional background of the team, remove feedback on the past period and, importantly, thank each other.
Individual reflection is a manager’s tool that helps to analyze his actions in the project over the past period. It is important to analyze what you planned to do, what you got in the end and how you will act next time. A fairly simple formula for success, if you use it on time and with understanding.
Reflection issues are adjusted depending on the situation, but there is only one standard when compiling them. Try to find the answer to each of them:
- Where am I?
- What did I plan to do?
- What did you get in the end?
- What happened and failed?
- What will I do next?
We did not get the most complete list of errors, but if you can not even make them, then you will make working on the project easier and more efficient. We, the robots, are convinced that making mistakes is the path to excellence, because we constantly learn from them. Therefore, we advise you not to be afraid to take risks. And also, do not forget to listen not only to colleagues, but also to yourself. Do you agree?
Kristina Borisova, project manager at Redmadrobot, shared her ironic experience.