Ten project management mistakes EMs make: Part 2

Read part 2 of the most common project management mistakes EMs make.

We made it to Part 2! If you missed Part 1, you may read it here. Let’s continue the conversation this week on common project management mistakes made by EMs. As a reminder: none of us are perfect and even the most experienced engineering leaders fall victim to these mistakes. The important part is identifying them and taking corrective action so you can hopefully avoid them in the future.

6. Lack of Flexibility

In a perfect world, what you will say what you’re going to do and do as you’re going to say. You create this beautiful plan and you deliver against the plan and everything is wonderful and you run into no roadblocks. But the world isn’t perfect, and therefore we often find ourselves needing to pivot. Sometimes it’s a shifting deadline, sometimes another project takes priority, sometimes a project gets scrapped altogether. It can be easy to get angry or frustrated in these situations, especially if you’re just trying to minimize scope creep and context switching for your team.

Solution: Be prepared to adapt your plan as necessary. Understand why direction is being changed, explain this change to your team, and move on. You can always provide feedback on how the sudden change may have been avoided. This is also why it's useful to use some sort of agile project management framework because it allows you to ship what you have and not have to scrap everything then pick it up later if need be.

7. Overloading Team Members

We all end up with a lot of tasks that we're trying to get through with a bunch of deadlines to hit. What often ends up happening here is we will just ask our team members to do more and more and more, ultimately overloading them, thereby reducing morale at the company. It also creates a measure of unrealistic performance which leads to burnout and decreased productivity.

Solution: Monitor workloads and ensure a fair distribution of tasks. Encourage regular breaks and promote a healthy work-life balance. Be an example – show your team how they should manage their workload. Defend your team if you keep getting more requests coming in, and be prepared to say no.

8. Insufficient Stakeholder Engagement

It’s easy to go down a path of working on a project, working through potential blockers or issues or whatever might come up, and that knowledge continues to live in your head or within just your team. The problem with this is when you don't include stakeholders in these conversations their luck to wonder perhaps why your project is being delivered late or they don't understand why something is a particular technical issue. When you don't involve stakeholders enough, you'll end up with misaligned goals and unmet expectations.

Solution: Just as you would expect your team to provide updates, you should keep all stakeholders regularly through meetings, updates, and feedback sessions to ensure their expectations are being met and any concerns are addressed promptly. We keep all weekly updates in Notion docs so anyone can see the progress on a project, and I provide weekly spoken updates as well.

9. Neglecting Team Development

Once again, we find ourselves with a lot of tasks that need to get done and what we ultimately end up doing is focusing entirely on project delivery and not actually dedicating anytime to team growth and development. What ends up happening here is your engineers feel like a cog in a machine, just there to deliver against project deadlines and not really feeling like they're growing. This is how you end up losing engineers on your team period

Solution: Invest in your team’s professional development through training, mentoring, and career growth opportunities. Regularly touch base with their career goals and make sure you’re providing them with opportunities to learn and grow. Always, always recognize and reward their contributions.

10. Poor Time Management

Last but certainly not least is poor management of your time. This is probably one of the easiest mistakes to make on a regular basis, especially when your focus is spread across so many different projects or initiatives. When you end up mismanaging your own time it means you're also mismanaging the time of your engineers and therefore you're much more likely to miss deadlines and rush through deliverables that are ridden with bugs.

Solution: Plan up front! Prioritize key tasks, set realistic deadlines, and stay on top of the tasks your team is working on. Discuss trade-offs if something becomes more pressing, and make sure you keep your team focused on what’s most important.


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