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Are All My Projects Going to Be the Same?

A female project manager is writing down some notes on her clipboard.One of the most important points you need to come to terms with in a project manager role is around what is going to be the same in each piece of work you do and what is likely to change.

It is hard to put exact details on this, as each project is different. However, there are some basic ideas we can use to guide us through our work more smoothly.

The Project Process

If you find yourself thrown in at the deep end with a project which covers entirely new ground then you will be grateful to hang onto anything which helps you along the way. Probably the best way of doing this is by making sure that you stick to the same basic project process each time. This means that you can always rest assured that you won’t be left clutching at straws working out what to do next. Whether you are asked to design a process for handling nuclear waste or for making hamburgers you can stick the same techniques each time. You can therefore come up with templates and use the knowledge you gained on other projects to help you out. You will always want to work out the requirements, design a plan, get the project documents signed off and arrange stakeholders meetings for a start. It might not always be the case of simply exchanging the words “nuclear waste” for “hamburger” in your documents but after you have done a couple of projects you will start to see the similarities among them which will help you avoid feeling lost at times.

The People

One of the huge differences you will find among your projects is that which is caused by the people you deal with. The project team members and the stakeholders will all have a big impact on how you go about your work. You might find that you are left to deal with really demanding stakeholders in one project and more laid back ones on another, for example. The team might also change from one project to another, with a subsequent impact on the skills and experience levels you can call on. What this really means is that you need to get a handle on what the people you are working with are like early on. You can do this in your project definition meetings and workshops, so be sure to pay attention to the personalities involved and how they could shape your project in the future.

The Level of Scrutiny

Another important factor to bear in mind is the level of scrutiny which the project is likely to attract. Some pieces of work are simply going to be attention grabbers in the eyes of some of the most influential people in your company. This should probably be pretty obvious from the start of the project and it will definitely affect your approach. For a start, you should look on this as an opportunity to get noticed by some of the firm’s top bosses. It might seem like a daunting prospect at first but if you can move the project forward successfully then you will have gone a long way towards enhancing your reputation and boosting your future career prospects at the same time. Of course, in some other projects you will slip by mostly unnoticed but these can be good to work on as well, as you will get more freedom.

The Challenges

Some projects will also be a lot more challenging than others. There are a number of potential reasons for this and not all of them will be under your control. For example, you might find once you get started that the stakeholders never wanted the work to be done in the first place and don’t give you the support you need. However, you should start off by thinking about all of the things which you can influence. This means doing your preparation work as carefully and thoroughly as possible. If you do this then at the very least you will have tried to see and counter any of the challenges which could come your way. You might not always think of all of them when you first begin your career but after a while you will start to develop a fantastic instinct for seeing the potential challenges come your way. This will help you realize over time that while the challenges will vary from one project to another that doesn’t mean that you can’t try and resolve them before they become too big to handle.

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