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Avoiding Project Management Wobbles That Can Make Or Break Careers

Project management has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of career advancement.

According to author Kimberly Wiefling there are 12 predictable and avoidable pitfalls every project faces.

The international project management consultant argues that anyone trying to accomplish a goal needs to keep the "wobbles" out.

In her book, "Scrappy Project Management”  she identifies such "wobbles" as:

  1. Understand that goals are not just for basketball players. For most projects, goals are not clear or are missing altogether,” says Wiefling. “People get antsy and want to see progress, so they jump in and just start doing things. That is like jumping into a taxi and saying, ‘Go as fast as you can!’ without telling the driver your destination. But at least they feel busy.
  2. Aim to do the impossible, and get partial credit. To start, clarify your project’s goals by using Wiefling’s personal adaptation of the SMART goal acronym. 
  3. Realize that Dixie cups and string do not make the best communication devices. The larger the organization, the easier it is for a communication breakdowns to occur. Even if goals are spelled out, at some level they are usually not communicated clearly enough to the rest of the organization, leaving tasks to fall through the cracks because people are not communicating about status and progress, or because their email inboxes are so full they miss those important communications altogether. Without clear communication, deliverables, handoffs or critical action items will be dropped faster than a poorly thrown pass by Eli Manning prior to the Superbowl. Pick up the phone or get on a plane. 
  4. Choose between your heart, your lungs and your kidneys. Often there are too many projects and they are not prioritized. Too many simultaneous projects lead to excessive multi-tasking and task switching inefficiencies, resulting in ten hour work days in which four hours worth of work actually gets done. When asked to identify and prioritize the top three out of forty projects that are underway, oftentimes a CEO will claim they are all equally as important. Says Wiefling, “When a CEO says, ‘you can’t ask me to choose between my heart, my lungs and my kidneys,’ I say, ‘Yes, you can. Your heart is number one because without it you would die in one minute. Your lungs are number two because you can live for three minutes without them. Your kidneys are number three, because you can always go on dialysis.” Harsh, but true. 
  5. Play with your toys and share them with others. “You will never be able to capture the full meaning of what the goals are just in a requirements document. You have to talk to all of the stakeholders, including your customers. In fact, the biggest mistake managers make is not including the voice of the customer before and during development. Talk to your customers and go visit them in their environments. Once you’ve spoken to them, then create your prototypes out of Styrofoam and glue. Or if your project is a software product, make screen shots or do animations or power points that look like what the software would look like. Visualize to actualize! 
  6. Keep score. Get feedback. Ask every stakeholder: ‘Is this what you want?’ and ‘If it looks just like this when we’re done, will you love it’?” Go to every person who is judging your success and ask them, “When we are done. When we are wildly successful, what will you be saying about me, about this product or service, about the results, and about the organization? Ask every stakeholder so you get a rich and vivid perspective about what your success will look like. Then you can translate that understanding into a measurable success scorecard where you can use Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bounded Goals.

Wiefling argues that SMART should really be: 
Actionable (in the original SMART formula, the “A” stands for “Achievable,” but whether or not something is achievable is simply the product of limited thinking based on past experience. Use the term “Actionable” instead, and take action.
Relevant (in the original SMART formula, the “R” stands for “Realistic,” but like “Achievable,” “Realistic” is the brainchild of stunted thinking. “Achievable” and “Realistic” interfere with one’s ability to do the impossible, which is where the juice of life exists – even if you are only going to wind up getting partial credit.
Time-bounded, as in set a deadline.

Final words from Wiefling “If you don’t know where the finish line is you won’t know when you’ve crossed it! Set a clear goal or suffer the consequences.”

For more on Wiefling, go to

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