Management Pitfalls

The project environment offers numerous opportunities for project managers and team members to get into trouble. These activities that readily create problems are referred to as management pitfalls. Lack of planning, for example, can be considered a management pitfall. Other common types of management pitfalls are:

• Lack of self-control (knowing oneself)

• Activity traps

• Managing versus doing

• People versus task skills

• Ineffective communications

• Time management

• Management bottlenecks

Knowing oneself, especially one's capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses, is the first step toward successful project management. Too often, managers will assume that they are jacks-of-all-trades and indispensable to the organization. The ultimate result is that such managers tend to "bite off more than they can chew," and then find that insufficient time exists for training additional personnel. (This, of course, assumes that the project budget provided sufficient funding for additional positions that were never utilized.)

The following lines illustrate self-concept:



I think I am



I wish I were



I really am



I try to project



others perceive



I used to be



others try to make me

Author unknown

Author unknown

Four Men It chanced upon a winter's night Safe sheltered from the weather. The board was spread for only one, Yet four men dined together. There sat the man I meant to be In glory, spurred and booted. And close beside him, to the right The man I am reputed.

The man I think myself to be His seat was occupying Hard by the man I really am To hold his own was trying. And all beneath one roof we met Yet none called his fellow brother No sign of recognition passed They knew not one another.

Author unknown

Activity traps result when the means become the end, rather than the means to achieve the end. The most common activity traps are team meetings and customer technical interchange meetings. Another common activity trap is the development of special schedules and charts that cannot be used for customer reporting but are used to inform upper-level management of project status. Managers must always evaluate whether the time spent to develop these charts is worth the effort. Sign-off documents, such as manufacturing plans, provide yet another activity trap by requiring that the project manager and/or several key project team members sign off all documentation. Proper project planning and the delegation of authority and responsibility can reduce this activity trap.

We previously defined one of the characteristics of poor leadership as the inability to obtain a balance between management functions and technical functions. This can easily develop into an activity trap where the individual becomes a doer rather than a manager. Unfortunately, there often exists a very fine line between managing and doing. As an example, consider a project manager who was asked by one of his technical people to make a telephone call to assist him in solving a problem. Simply making the phone call is doing work that should be done by the project team members or even the functional manager. However, if the person being called requires that someone in absolute authority be included in the conversation, then this can be considered managing instead of doing.

There are several other cases where one must become a doer in order to be an effective manager and command the loyalty and respect of subordinates. Assume a special situation where you must schedule subordinates to work overtime, say on special holidays or even weekends. By showing up at the plant during these times, just to make a brief appearance before the people in question, you can create a better working atmosphere and understanding with the subordinates.

Another major pitfall is the decision to utilize either people skills or task skills. Is it better to utilize subordinates with whom you can obtain a good working relationship or to employ highly skilled people simply to get the job done? Obviously, the project manager would like nothing better than to have the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Consider the following situations:

• There exists a task that will take three weeks to complete. John has worked for you before, but not on such a task as this. John, however, understands how to work with you. Paul is very competent but likes to work alone. He can get the job done within constraints. Should you employ people or task skills? (Would your answer change if the task were three months instead of three weeks?)

• There exist three tasks, each one requiring two months of work. Richard has the necessary people skills to handle all three tasks, but he will not be able to do so as efficiently as a technical specialist. The alternate choice is to utilize three technical specialists.

• In both situations there should be more information made available to assist in the final decision. However, based on the amount of information given, the author prefers task skills so as not to hinder the time or performance constraints on the project. Generally speaking, for long-duration projects that require constant communications with the customer, it might be better to have permanently assigned employees who can perform a variety of tasks. Customers dislike seeing a steady stream of new faces.

• Highly technical industries are modifying the marketing function because of this distinction between people and task skills. In the past, people skills were considered to be of extreme importance in marketing technology. Today the trend is toward giving more importance to the task skill. The result has been that the project manager and project engineer must undertake marketing efforts in addition to their everyday duties. The marketing function has, therefore, moved down to middle management.

• It is often said that a good project manager must be willing to work sixty to eighty hours a week to get the job done. This might be true if he is continually fighting fires or if budgeting constraints prevent employing additional staff. The major reason, however, is the result of ineffective time management. Prime examples might include the continuous flow of paperwork, unnecessary meetings, unnecessary phone calls, and acting as a tour guide for visitors. Improper time management becomes an activity trap whereby the project manager becomes controlled by the job rather than controlling the job himself. The final result is that the project manager must work long and arduous hours in order to find time for creative thinking.

• To be effective, the project manager must establish time management rules and then ask himself four questions:

• What am I doing that I don't have to be doing at all?

• What am I doing that can be done better by someone else?

• What am I doing that could be done sufficiently well by someone else?

• Am I establishing the right priorities for my activities?

• Rules for Time Management

• Conduct a time analysis (time log)

• Plan solid blocks for important things

• Classify your activities

• Establish priorities

• Establish opportunity cost on activities

• Train your system (boss, subordinate, peers)

• Practice delegation

• Practice calculated neglect

• Practice management by exception

• Focus on opportunities—not on problems

This type of time management analysis can greatly reduce such proverbial "time robbers" is:

• Incomplete work

•A job poorly done (must be done over)

• Delayed decisions

• Poor communications channels

• Uncontrolled telephone calls

• Casual visitors

• Waiting for people

• Failure to delegate

• Poor retrieval system

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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