If I were a new PM…

If I were I new project manager, I'd do a few specific things to smooth the way as I move forward this new year.

The top things that come to mind are:

Think Act Learn

Here's why. Since you're a new project manager - perhaps with barely enough experience to earn a certification like the PMP - you have a solid foundation, but want to build on that for the future. You may feel prepared...but you are going where you have not gone before. You have some new and growing responsibilities.

Think

The reason I listed "Think" first is that you need to plan ahead. You need to anticipate. You need to evaluate risks...and consider your whole situation holistically. PMP certification actually prepares you very nicely for this. It gives you a whole framework, incorporating the best and latest that the profession as a whole has to offer. And it is a complete body of knowledge - the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) - that covers the profession, so you've at least had to master that framework that covers the whole realm of project management.

As part of your "thinking" process, I suggest that you obtain a set of templates somewhere - and begin to use them right away. Start with a project charter template, as that will enable you to begin to think through your entire project at a high level, enabling you to think about why the project exists, the scope of what it is to accomplish, the stakeholders, the tasks, and the general time frame. Using a good template, you will be able to again leverage the experience of others and practice thinking through the right things, and this will enable you to draw on your knowledge and experience without reinventing the wheel.

You will most likely have a lot to learn just to get up to speed on the project. Take the time to think it through - from the perspective of a project manager. Learn the nuts and bolts of the project - without getting too hung up on the nuts and bolts of the product of the project, which is an entirely different thing.

Take Action

When you get into action, you put your thinking to a test. You also put into practice all of those personal soft skills that in the long (and short!) run will account for a high degree of your success. You will likely gain experience in team building and leadership as you begin your work - no matter whether the project is just starting, or you are picking up an ongoing project. You will also probably be communicating widely with stakeholders as well as team members though meetings, emails, plans, and reports.

Most importantly, you will be making decisions and implementing them. Most of them will be small decisions, but it's all good practice as you grow into the PM role. Try and focus, as best you can, on actions related to the things you are thinking through in the various plans, starting with the project charter. And avoid making decisions and taking action on things you have not had the opportunity to think about, at least initially.

Learn

As you think and take action, you will learn! It's a never-ending cycle. Think something through. Then take action based on your conclusions. Finally, monitor what happens, based on your expectations.

Never take an action without also having a action item for yourself where you monitor what happens versus your expectations. Be open to the possibility of surprises also, as they can happen on the up side as well as the down side.

Don't expect things to work in some prescribed way, based on what you learned getting certified or in a course. Of course, you need to steer things, but you need to more than anything raise your situational awareness. Set up reporting systems as well as personal relationships that will enable you to monitor the numbers as well as the nuances of what is happening.

Conclusion

If I were a new project manager, I'd be prepared to take action. But I'd have some faith that I'm prepared for my role, and thus can exercise some judgement and draw on my developed senses if I can at least follow a good template that guides me in thinking things through. But I would not take too long to take some actions. Your foundation knowledge is only good enough to get you off the ground. You need to use it...and learn from it by monitoring results closely. Then, as they say, "rinse and repeat" - and you'll be on your way to project management success.

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