9 Principles of Success for First Time Project Managers

Graduating into a Project Manager role is an important milestone in career. Taking ownership of the first project is such an exciting feeling. It’s like setting out on a maiden voyage in your new boat. There are some nerves of course, but that’s natural with everything new. To ensure success on your first project, it’s important you have bases covered.

9 Principles of Success for First Time Project Managers
Credit: keshavnaidu | pixabay.com

In this blog, I will talk about 9 principle to keep in mind as a first time project manager.

Don’t start without a plan

Can’t wait to get started on your first project? Feeling excited to jump right in? Don’t!

39% of projects fail due to lack of planning, resources, and activities (Source).

As a new project manager, you don’t want to ignore these statistics. Project planning is the crucial starting point to any project; missing this step can only be disastrous. A good project plan spans across all aspects of the project right from initiation to closure.

  1. Project Goals – Project Requirements, Customer & Provider stakeholder mapping, Measurement metrics, and Key milestones
  2. Key Deliverables – Agreement on expectations with regards to project deliverables by phase if applicable
  3. Execution plan – Development of a project schedule which helps estimate effort and resources needed for delivering the project. Once the resource estimation is done, create a forward looking resource plan to ensure you have the right people in place to cover the estimated effort.

Technology complements process, doesn’t replace it.

The average large IT project runs 45% over budget, 7% over time, and delivers 56% less value than expected (Source: Project Management Institute: Pulse of the Profession 2015: Capturing the Value of Project Management 2015).

That’s not a result you would aim for as a first time project manager. Most project lose direction in the execution phase due to either lack of processes or lack of process adherence. With technology dominating project management, executives and project leaders often tend to assume that deploying project management tools will ensure time and quality compliance. That’s a costly mistake. It is important to acknowledge that execution is a human exercise at large and probably will remain that way for time to come. The only way to ensure that work gets done in the most effective way with adherence to time, budget and quality is through process excellence. Project managers then need to ensure compliance and technology helps monitor that. Remember there is no auto-pilot in project management!

Having the right team in place is half the battle won

When you step into a project management role you relinquish control over execution to a certain extent because you are not working on the deliverable yourself. Your success now depends on how well your team does. If that is the case, you better get the best people working on the project. Not just the best but people with the right skills, attitude and potential. Work closely with HR to develop a hiring methodology, L&D to have good training frameworks for skill enhancement and resource management teams to ensure the right people are available at the right time.

Look beyond the title: Don’t be a boss, be a leader

With globalization and technology dominance, people are often perceived to be just resources. That’s an unhealthy culture to breed (Read: Human Side of Project Management). People need to be brought together as a team, need to be led through the adversities and motivated to perform at high levels. Leadership cannot / should not be templated, it should not be viewed as a way to get work done. Leadership is a personal philosophy. It’s about connecting with people, inspiring them and leading them towards the end goal.

(Read our leadership blogs)

Establish a communication framework

As a project manager you need to understand workplace dynamics more than anything else. Your work is based in a multidimensional world with global teams, multiple stakeholders, customers and it also cuts across internal functions. With so many people to deal with, effective communication is crucial to success. The best way to do this is to have a communication framework that ensures communication with all parties involved at the right frequency with relevant information and the right mode of communication (email, conference call, face to face meeting etc.). Use collaboration platforms effectively to streamline communication and create a collaborative culture.

Back your decisions with data

A good decision is one that is based on facts and driven by instinct. Use project management tools to capture time, budget and resource data. You can then slice and dice this data to get valuable insights around project health, KPIs and potential risks. You can thereby make informed decisions and ensure all concerned parties are on the same page.

Be prepared for surprises

You can plan well, follow the right processes, and use all the right tools and still things could go wrong. That’s the nature of work! The key is to identify patterns and keep an eye out for potential risks, be it project delays, budget overruns, resource constraints, quality lapses or other unforeseen circumstance. At work or in life the “Prevention is always better that cure!”

Look up to those can inspire you

To navigate the path to success, you need to tap into the wealth of experience available in the organization or in your network. Having a mentor who can guide you on specific aspects can make a world of difference. Great leaders have often spoken about how mentors have instrumental in shaping their philosophies and careers. A lot of organizations have structured mentor programs. If they don’t have one, don’t wait. Take the initiative and seek a mentor.

Author:  Nikhil Daddikar, Co-Founder, Celoxis Technologies

Nikhil Daddikar - Co-Founder, Celoxis Technologies

About Celoxis: Celoxis is world’s leading online PPM software, rated among 3 best project management software tools in the world and is deployed by more than 2000+ customers globally, from mid-sized enterprises to Fortune 100 companies, across industry verticals. To know more visit www.celoxis.com.

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