How to grow professionally as a project manager?
You collect lessons learned.
Then, you act upon them to make the next project better.
To boost the process, every project manager in the company should share lessons learned with others.
It multiplies the benefits.
In this article, I’m going to share my lessons learned from 2018.
(It’s only about Project Management side)
For me, this process happens on several levels:
1. On a Delivery Level
We finish a piece of a project. We analyze what went good or bad. Then, we correct our approach for the next deliverables if needed.
2. On a Project level
In the form of a Retrospective Meeting, we identify what we will do differently on the next project.
Here is a thing to notice:
More often than not, the project team changes. But everyone should take the lessons learned to their next project.
3. On a Yearly Basis
On this level, I adapt my leadership style and my project management approach.
These are high-level improvements.
These are more like behavior patterns.
So, here are the bits of wisdom from 2018.
A Mature Team Needs More Leadership, Less Management
In 2018, I did only two big projects with a strong and mature team.
Projects were utterly different in scale and intensity. But in both cases, I tried or had to minimize my participation.
Here’s what I noticed:
A team that knows how to work, how to follow the workflow – can do a better job on its own.
It will self-organize. Maybe not to my perfection standards but “Less is More.”
This team needs guidance in making better decisions.
You can’t delegate decision making altogether. But you can educate your team to be better at it.
Soon, I noticed that team members started to look broader on the problems. Not only from a technical perspective.
They also began to think from the product perspective, from the business side of a project.
On a daily basis, decisions became more optimal. They took project constraints into account without my input.
For both projects, it was a vital aspect. In 2019, I plan to enhance and leverage it further.
Though, I don’t know how. Yet.
Focus on Developing Leaders is the Best Project Management Approach
Leadership is contagious.
If there is a leadership vacuum in the team – someone will fill it in.
Here’s the problem:
You don’t know how will this someone fill the gap.
- It might be a negative leadership against you or a problem on the project.
- It might be a leader with a different perspective.
- It might be a leader who wants a different direction.
Anyway, it would be better to control the process.
In 2018, PM Basics was a priority for me. So, my participation in projects reduced throughout the year. People started to fill in the leadership vacuum.
I selected three persons to work with. They became my proxies or the Project Management Team.
I did not focus on management aspects this time. I worked on their leadership skills in the first place.
Such approach overcame my expectations:
Several persons just flourished. I never expected them to be leaders. However, increased level of responsibility opened up some deep reserves.
Entirely possible they did not expect that as well.
So, the second takeaway here:
Not all great leaders are on the surface.
Sometimes you need to give it a chance.
Everything Takes More Time Than Expected
This comes more from my experience working on PM Basics. Specifically – creating the course.
I’m a project manager.
I’m a productivity junkie.
But all my estimates were too low. Even those that I corrected and, as I thought, overestimated.
When you do some new type of work, there is always a hidden scope.
Yes, risk management is the cure here.
However, I’m talking about personal level.
So, I reinforced my belief:
A person who will do the work should estimate it. Moreover, he or she should take as much time as deemed necessary. Plus some more.
Nothing new here.
That’s just a first time I experienced it to such extent personally.
The Less is More – Priority is the Key
I teach it all the time.
Do the “Must Haves” first. Do the feature that is critical for release. Then, you can add some more if time permits.
However, again, on a personal level, it’s difficult.
Perfectionism kills the momentum.
Almost every task had a tiny problem that took more time than the whole estimated effort.
Most of the times, the problem is negligible.
However, perfectionism requires it to be solved.
Last year, setting priorities was exhausting.
Keeping to the priorities was daunting.
This year, it’s something I’ll focus on hard.
The list is much longer as you may understand.
However, a lesson learned from previous years says:
Take 2–3 items only (prioritization is the key). But do fix or enhance them.
What were your lessons learned in the previous year? Please share your insights in the comments below.
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