The “Top Project Managers” – Biggest Obstacles

For the second post in this series, I talk to the project managers who made up the “Top 14 Project Managers to Follow on Twitter” List about what have been the biggest obstacles they’ve faced in order to help you improve your ability to manage projects. We hope this series of articles will help project managers, those managing projects, and future PM’s, become more successful.

Schawbel: What have been your biggest obstacles as a project manager and how do you get around them?

Essner: My biggest obstacle and my most passionate challenge is the people equation. The PMBOK V5 is a global standard of processes with tools and techniques to help us achieve project success. It does not teach you how to deal with people. My best advice is through your Professional Development you should work on your “soft skills“, leadership, communication and managing diverse teams. Leadership and communication will be the key to the successful management of your team.

Think about any professional team. They practice together in order to bond and learn from one another. They have a coach and a trainer to ensure they are working at peak performance. They are engaged and they support one another. They win and lose as a team. It is important that you have an open line of communication. You must be able to provide clarity of expectations and buy in to achieve that kind of engagement and accountability. The most successful projects have cohesive, engaged teams.

Kaplan: Keeping stakeholder’s informed and well engaged is the best way to make it through project obstacles. Too many projects are unsuccessful due to ineffective communications. To enhance your project team communications do the following:

  • Recognize the importance of the interpersonal communication network within the project team. Encourage it, don’t try to  inhibit it — you won’t succeed.
  • Recognize the importance of relations between people to the success of communications flow and team building. Effective communication requires harmony and trust, and honesty is the key to this.
  • Recognize that communication is a two-way process. Every team member must be responsible for both sending and receiving communication about the project. Make sure they know this.
  • Practice brevity, clarity, simplicity, and humanity in your communication.

Baker: Resources on my team falling short. When people fail at project tasks, it is usually because they had an obstacle in front of them they did not know how to remove. Communicate with your team and understand the obstacles they are facing so that you can remove those obstacles.

Madsen: The biggest projects I have managed have been in sectors where I had no subject matter expertise. (I used to manage large technology projects in finance but hadn’t trained in either of those disciplines.) That meant that I couldn’t rely on my knowledge to manage the projects but had to put trust in a strong team combined with solid control points. I established a weekly working group meeting with representatives from all major teams – including team leaders, major stakeholders and the project sponsor. All major aspects relating to scope, design, quality and the direction of the project were discussed in depth at this meeting. That meant that the project consistently moved forward, we used the full breadth of knowledge on the team and there was full transparency and buy-in for all decisions.

Cagley: The biggest obstacle is the perception that a project manager can know everything all of time and make all of the decisions on a project. A better tactic is for the project manager to ensure he has direction and that the product owner and sponsor have communicated their vision. Based on that leadership, the team can make decisions when needed. Making decisions closer to those that need it yields better results. This approach requires everyone on the project to understand the project vision, that the business and IT continually interact to communicate and evolve the direction of the project and everyone involved observe absolute brutal transparency. Vision, interaction and transparency generate trust.

Ihejirika: Like I said earlier, I’m just about starting my professional career in project management so I have not experienced many obstacles in terms of managing projects. However, I began an online project late last year (August 2013) titled “Project Management Nigeria” and the aim was to help create more awareness and promote project management not just in Nigeria, but in Africa at large by leveraging social media. So far, my biggest obstacle is building or getting the right virtual team of people and sponsors to help accomplish this mission as most project management organizations in Africa focus more on the traditional methods of promoting project management.

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Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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