We’ve all been there before, either in our personal or professional lives. We reach a level of achievement that we strive for and, we take our foot off the gas pedal and before you know it, you’re back to where you started from, sometimes even further back. As a project manager, you’re just as susceptible to letting complacency set in as anyone. Here are some tips on how to always stay sharp and keep on your toes when it comes to your projects.
Disciplined Execution of Tasks
One of the worst things you can say as a project manager is “I’ll deal with it (or do it) later”. This is a very dangerous state of mind for a project manager to be in. When looking after a project, you (and your team) need to be incredibly disciplined when it comes to doing the things you may not like to do. Phoning that angry customer with more bad news, having a meeting with the project sponsor to discuss the latest round of testing issues, or even participating in one of those brutally facilitated conference calls can be examples of tasks that we would all love to push away but know that it comes at the great expense to your project. The best project managers I’ve worked with didn’t need to be the smartest people in the room, they just needed to be the first ones to act. By ensuring that you and your team are staying on top of your responsibilities, you’re taking that first step into shutting the door on complacency.
Constant Risk and Issue Assessments
Nothing can derail a project faster than an unseen risk or issue that manifests itself into a critical-mass, project-destroying monster. You’re primary job as a project manager is to protect your project from these monsters (I have a 9 year old who watches a lot of cartoons so apologies for the constant ‘monster’ references). It’s easy to get in the routine of constantly reviewing project threats but as project execution goes on, especially if you’re project is going well, it may be difficult to keep as diligent as you should while watching for threats to your project. The metaphor I always like to use is keeping the guards on watch and not letting them fall asleep. Once that happens, the threats will creep in un-noticed and disrupt your project before your eyes.
Always Look for the Finish Line
It’s easy at the start of the project or even in the dog days of project execution to not constantly think about where you’re finish line is and what you’re doing right now to help you get there faster, easier and cheaper. By constantly reminding yourself of not only the project schedule but your hurdles that you need to clear to get to your project completion, you’re reminding yourself of what it takes to get to where you’re going. It’s also going to mentally equip you with knowledge of what you can be doing now to make those hurdles a little less difficult to jump over once you reach them.
Complacency is a dangerous state of mind and unfortunately part of human nature. We as project managers must consciously ensure that we are keeping our edge and always ensuring that we’re not letting anything slide, regardless of how well things appear to be running. As any experienced project manager will tell you, things can go from good to bad in the blink of an eye if you don’t keep yours firmly focused on your project.
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