I’m the Project Director at Anyways Creative – an award-winning creative agency in London. My role involves the running of all projects from creating campaigns to online experiences, delivering content and building physical spaces. It’s an amazing role and no two days are ever the same!
During a project, there are always stumbling blocks of some kind, be them big or small. For me, that’s one of the best parts about being a Project Manager.
Over the years, we’ve delivered a whole host of incredible projects but not without their ups and downs. There are always stumbling blocks of some kind, be them big or small. For me, that’s one of the best parts about being a Project Manager, and instead of trying to pre-empt an infinite amount of potential hiccups, I’m sharing some tips on how to avoid the more common mistakes that crop up during a project.
1. Take a step back to interrogate the brief, before you start working on it
So, you’ve just started working on a new project, and you’re confused by the brief. It sounds like an obvious one, but project briefs come in all different shapes and sizes and a mistake that is commonly made is to accept it as it is. A brief may lack information or it might have too much, and my advice is to interrogate it. Be curious, ask questions, understand your client and their needs. They hold the information and without understanding their objectives, it’s going to be hard to deliver a project you are all happy with. So find out what success is to them, what are their ambitions, not just on this project but as a business, get as much background to the brief as you can to immerse yourself in their world. If you need to write the brief yourself and play it back, do it, do whatever you need until you are satisfied. Want to learn more? Read this article on How to create quality creative briefs.
Nailing the brief will mean you are on track to nailing the project.
2. Plan, plan, plan (but be ready for curveballs along the way!)
Everything is agreed and the contracts are signed, you’re starting to get plans in place. And whilst I advise you to plan, plan, plan until you can’t plan anymore, the biggest misconception of a project manager is that you have to stick to the plan. You may not want to hear this, but nothing will ever go directly to plan, there will always be curveballs. Prepare yourself and be open to change, be brave and adventurous, embrace any new challenges that come your way. Adapt and be nimble, take risks, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you can maintain a healthy balance of planning and flexibility, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
3. Don’t try and solve every problem on your own
Another easy mistake to make during a project is thinking that you can solve every problem on your own. More often than not, you will have a dedicated team around you, so play to your strengths and lean into your team. Talking things through, and getting other opinions will help you solve any potential mishaps.
Great collaboration is key to a successful project, create an open environment, not only for sharing creative ideas but to share any challenges too.
4. Stay Calm
Being a project manager comes with a lot of responsibility. You’re leading a team as well as leading conversations with clients. There will be times when you’re under the magnifying glass and in these moments of pressure, a common mistake for project managers is that you need to respond or react there and then. People will remember if you panic or if you deal with the situation calmly. So when faced with a challenge, it’s important to take a step back and stop to analyse the situation. There is always a solution, but it doesn’t mean that you need to find it on the spot. Take a deep breath and with a calm mindset, you’ll lead less with your emotions and be able to give a practical and flexible response to your client and team.
5. Mark the end of a project with a celebration
You’ve delivered the project, and it’s time to focus on the project successes. At this stage, it is easy to move on to another project and not give yourself the opportunity to reflect and celebrate the great work that you’ve delivered. Mark the end of the journey you’ve been through, have a drink to whatever wrong turns you’ve overcome, all the new things you’ve learnt to do, and those things you’ll remember to never do again. Reward the team, everyone should feel proud of their accomplishments. And once the dust has settled, the final invoices are paid, take the time to evaluate because everything you’ve learnt on this project will set you up for the next.
As Project Managers, our roles require us to be forward-thinking, organised, adaptable and patient. But it’s important to remember that we all make mistakes, we’re only human! Rather than dwelling on what went wrong, remain focused on what you’ve learnt and the ways that you can improve. I hope that by identifying these top tips, I’ve helped to give you the confidence to tackle these common mistakes, setting you up for success in the future.