New Year’s Resolutions for Project Managers

The calendar has turned onto another New Year, and if you are like me, this is a time for retrospective thought and consideration of how to be more effective in the future. While I can’t help you become more fit, or change lifestyle habits, I can offer the following resolutions to help you become a better project manager:

Stay focused

Many failed projects are “paper successes” in that they complete all the objectives and deliverables, and end up producing some sort of finished product at the end of their term. However, they fail since they deliver the wrong product, which ends up being disused and eventually fades into oblivion. These types of failures are often the most damaging since the money and effort are spent to work a project to its close, only to deliver a fundamentally flawed output.

It’s easy to get buried in the mechanics of project management, so it takes discipline to stay focused on the business objective your project is meant to accomplish. This allows you to frame fundamental management questions, from expanding scope to shrinking the timeline, in terms of how that decision will impact the problem your project is meant to solve.

Learn some new tricks

A New Year is a great time to evaluate what skills you acquired or areas of weakness you discovered over the course of the past year. Take some time to develop a personal improvement plan, and start working with your superiors to schedule and budget any external training. By having a defined plan you can ensure training and development advance your career rather than become distracting boondoggles. If economic or other conditions preclude formal training, look for new responsibilities and roles you can tackle, or internal challenges that will help you acquire the skills you desire.

Similarly, plan on spending some more time learning about your company. That could be as simple as spending a day in the call center, or working in a line level position, or a formal effort that rotates you through various divisions or branch offices. You will be a better PM if you have a better grasp of your company’s products, markets, competitors, etc., and also a more valuable employee with a diverse pool of internal knowledge and experience.

Lead yourself

One of the greatest failings of many workers is “outsourcing” their career and personal development to HR or some unseen corporate force, and then lamenting another year gone by with no sign of improvement or advancement. Your best advocate is the person sitting in the chair reading this, and no one will protect and advance your interests as well as you. Similar to the learning plan above, determine your personal and professional objectives for the New Year, and while it may seem selfish, rigorously defend those objectives. If you want to spend more time with family, turn off the iPhone or BlackBerry in the evening. If you feel you’ve been unfairly passed for promotion, schedule a meeting with your boss and discover why he or she feels you’re not quite ready. Fairness and a perfect meritocracy are nice for children’s stories, but unless you stick up for your own interests no one is likely to do it for you.

I wish you success in the New Year in all your endeavors, and hope it is a time for personal and professional development and fulfillment.

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