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Eleven Common Mistakes Made by New or Inexperienced Project Managers

PM ADVISORY

Harold Kerzner, Ph.D., PMP 

USA
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The list below shows eleven of the most common mistakes that young or inexperienced project managers make. Obviously there are more than eleven mistakes, and many of these may be unique to specific industries; however, the list is a good starting point for understanding why many project managers get into trouble because of their own doing.

MISTAKE #1: Pretending to Know More than You Actually Do 

Generally, project managers today possess an understanding of technology rather than a command of technology, yet persist in trying to make technical decisions on the project. This usually infuriates line managers, causing them to show who is boss.

The size and complexity of today’s projects should make it clear to project managers that they must rely heavily upon the assigned subject matter experts and functional leads for technical direction and support. On some projects, such as in R & D, project manager assignments may be dictated by a requirement for a command of technology rather than just an understanding, but this is an exception rather than the rule. Good project managers know their limitations and never try to dictate a solution without first consulting with the true experts.

MISTAKE #2: Preparing an Ambitious Schedule 

The more inexperienced the project manager, the more optimistic he or she becomes when preparing the schedule baseline. While ambitious schedules are nice to have, they are often unrealistic and can make matters worse. Customers are never told that the schedule is ambitious and therefore believe the schedule is realistic. The customers then focus on the milestone dates and now, when the milestones slip from ambitious to reality, you have an unhappy customer who wonders what other surprises will show up next.

Another factor to consider is the impact on the functional estimates. Ambitious schedules may require team members to perform at a higher position on the learning curve thus changing the functional standards. Functional managers may not want their estimates and standards to be changed. Also, ambitious schedules may require the company’s best functional workers to be assigned to the project and this may be unrealistic.

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About the Author

pmwj16-nov2013-kerzner-AUTHOR IMAGEflag-usaHAROLD KERZNER, M.S., Ph.D., M.B.A        

USA 

HAROLD KERZNER is Senior Executive Director of Project Management for the International Institute for Learning (IIL). He has a MS and Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Utah State University. He is a prior Air Force Officer and spent several years at Morton-Thiokol in project management. He taught engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University, and for 37 years taught project management at Baldwin-Wallace University. He has published or presented numerous engineering and business papers, and has published more than 50 college textbooks on project management, including later editions. His three latest books are (1) Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling; (2) Project Management Metrics, KPIs and Dashboards, and (3) Project Recovery: Case Studies and Techniques for Overcoming Project Failure.

He travels around the world each year conducting project management lectures in Japan, China, Russia, Brazil, Singapore, South Africa, Germany, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, France, Italy, England and Switzerland.

His recognitions include:

  • The University of Illinois granted Dr. Kerzner a Distinguished Recent Alumni Award for his contributions to the field of project management
  • Utah State University provided Dr. Kerzner with the 1998 Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the field of project management
  • The Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute gives out the Kerzner Award once a year to one project manager in Northeast Ohio that has demonstrated excellence in project management
  • The Project Management Institute (PMI) in cooperation with IIL has initiated the Kerzner International Project Manager of the Year Award given to one project manager yearly anywhere in the world
  • PMI also awards four scholarships each year in Dr. Kerzner’s name for graduate studies in project management
  • Baldwin-Wallace University has instituted the Kerzner Distinguished Lecturer Series in project management

For more information about Dr. Kerzner, his books or his speaking schedule, visit www.iil.com.