It’s ok to ask for help

We have all witnessed the hot-shot project manager who jumps head-first into every project and never declines the request to lead a new engagement. Sometimes this PM manages to eke out success from every project, but this is the rare situation.

Far more often, the PM who keeps trying to juggle more and more projects is bound to fail and wind up with projects on the floor. This is because all of us, no matter how skilled, have a pre-defined capacity.

This capacity varies from person to person, but no one can manage unlimited project or priorities. We have the ability to start many projects and get the ball rolling, but once the project progresses the time and intellectual commitment dramatically increases.

As each project requires more and more personal resources, PMs try to find ways to compensate.
These include:

  • Delegating more and more work which they should be doing
  • Taking shortcuts in terms of documentation or communication
  • Pushing out deadlines

None of these solutions is ideal or, in many times, acceptable. PMs need to be able to focus adequate internal resources on every project they are managing.

Hopefully your company performs resource planning/leveling and never puts you in a position where you are over-allocated, but in talking with other PMS and reading other blogs I seem to get the distinct impression that many of you feel like you have too many projects.

So what is a PM to do? Increase communication!

With project stakeholders – Ensure that you keep all stakeholders informed of the status of your projects at all times. If things are running behind schedule let them know. If you are unable to meet a commitment let them know. If you need more time for a deliverable, ask for it. No stakeholder likes to hear about project issues, but they are much more upset if you hide the issues from them.

With your management – If you have conflicting priorities let them know. If you are unsure how to proceed let them know. Most importantly, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Saying you need help is not a sign of weakness. Rather, admitting that you are not invincible is one of the bravest things you can do because it shows that you understand your limitations.

These ideas are not silver bullets that will solve all project problems, but hopefully they can help you with some of your project issues. If you have other ways you handle situations when you feel you are losing control, please add a comment to other readers can benefit from your experience.

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