On managing projects

Let’s face it — being a project manager is a thankless job. At least that’s how it feels like when your clients/stakeholders are kicking and punching you in the gut for not delivering the project on time. Or even worse, they’ve wasted your most valuable resource (time) to go back and forth with you and their internal teams to clarify the actual scope of work.

Guess what? All of that is your fault! You should’ve known better. They neither care about your challenges nor do they care about the fact that they missed on sharing a vital piece of the puzzle that drastically changed the course of the project. And they hate you for that. So does your team for pushing them to their limits and making them work like slaves.

Does that hurt? I’m sure it does. I can feel your pain as I’ve been in your shoes.

Here’s what I think project manager professionals (certified or otherwise) should do:

  1. Get super-tight with your documentation. This is non-negotiable and one of the key reasons why almost all project management certifications focus on this critical aspect. You can’t screw this up.
  2. Clearly communicate the scope (verbal and documented), highlight the dependencies and/or limitations if any and a reasonable timeline for delivery. If they’re in a rush, it’s not your problem. Your responsibility is to set the right expectations.
  3. Pause the project in case of scope creep/change. Address the issue, document it and reset the timeline based on the new developments. Most project managers (particularly the unaccredited ones, who’re working in creative agencies or service-based organisations with a relaxed process) suck at this! They’re shit-scared to go back to the client and are more than happy to take the hit and sabotage their team’s efficiency to look good to the client (in hopes of getting more business).
  4. Have a rock-solid QA mechanism in place. I know this is basic but often missed out or not taken seriously when you’re under a lot of stress. I know that’s ironic but it is what it is. Having a QA team/person in place will ensure that the delivery is scope compliant. It’s a near foolproof strategy for not missing the SLA and delivering high quality work.

I know this isn’t rocket science and you probably know all this. But do you practice it to the tee? If not, I think it’s time to put this into action because there’s no way around it. There’s a serious shortage of capable project managers who can deliver outstanding results.

For the client, the project manager is the face of the organisation and they won’t hesitate to thrash you if the work isn’t up to the mark. Even if it’s all their fault! Why? Because you didn’t address it when you had to. Now, of course, you’re not totally responsible for what happened but I believe the situation would’ve been better if you had a process (or it was a foolproof one).

Heck, it’s not too late. The beauty of having a process is that it’ll take you wherever you want to. But you’ve got to have one in place.

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