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Career Advice: How to Succeed in Project Management

Risk

 

Kimpel PM one on oneRisk is another overused term. Certainly it’s nice and boring to brainstorm about all the things that could possibly go wrong on your project, but there is only one thing that will derail it completely — sabotage. Whether you pronounce it like William Shatner or like a normal human, it still means the same thing. It’s a person purposefully keeping you from achieving YOUR goals.

 

Identify these people, get the countermeasure setup for this opposition, and beat it down. You can win them over with kindness and ACS, but sometimes people want to be bitter and act like they have no soul. In that case, get a person higher up to be your sponsor, or consider your project thoroughly before it starts.

 

Constant Learning

 

If you don’t like the project or are there just to check a box, why are you doing it? If you have a project for something you have never done, learn about it. Do all you can to understand what you are asking your team to do, and really grasp the steps you are asking them to accomplish. Doing so will create true respect from them.

 

Learning from every experience is important. If, by chance, you are doing your 14th run-of-the-mill project, then figure out a way to make it new. What if you had a different person run your project meeting every time? What does thinking differently about the same project do to for the experience?

 

Upon completion of a project, always remember to do a post-mortem. Figure out what worked, what didn’t, and what could have been improved. If you can’t look back, then you can’t move forward.

 

Protection

 

Whether you’re investing, doing insurance, or MMA, protecting your assets is the most important thing. Protect your team, because they will need to be self-regulating. Don’t be afraid to call out people who are not working, but do it in-house. Just like your immediate family, only you are allowed to talk poorly about them — and only to their faces.

 

As for communicating and protecting the status of any project, I like to think of my favorite scene from Men in Black, when Tommy Lee Jones scolds Will Smith for firing the Noisy Cricket weapon. Smith says, “There’s a giant space ship getting ready to blow up Earth.” Jones responds, “There’s always a giant spaceship getting ready to blow up Earth. The trick is that these people don’t know.”

 

I’m not advocating painting roses on every communication template. But neither should you paint some skull and crossbones — learn the balance. It’s all about balance. Love and protect your team, and they will reciprocate.

 

Go Forward

 

No matter what you do, understand that the most important things to most human beings are feedback loops. Not giving these in a positive manner will erode everything you have worked for. It only takes one “Oh, HELL” to kill a thousand “Atta boys.” Use feedback loops liberally and always with a good attitude and people will respond.

 

Celebrations of success will be one of the most important things you do. I recommend even going down to the milestone level for your rewards and celebrations. They don’t have to be huge, just recognizable.

 

Project management is a tough gig, especially in IT. Hopefully these tips I’ve given you will come in handy. I wish you much success in your upcoming projects.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nathan Kimpel PhotoNathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive with a diverse background in all areas of company functionality, and a keen focus on all aspects of IT operations and security. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has held every job in IT and currently serves as a Project Manager in the St. Louis (Missouri) area, overseeing 50-plus projects. He has years of success driving multi-million dollar improvements in technology, products and teams. His wide range of skills include finance, ERP and CRM systems. Certifications include PMP, CISSP, CEH, ITIL and Microsoft.