Top 5 myths of project management

Project management has a wide range of well-known tricks of the trade. However, project management myths are pervasive and serve as cautionary tales to students and professionals in the field.

Myths are named just that for a reason – these false perspectives and common misconceptions may serve as an unintended pitfall for an unassuming project manager (PM) if not identified and debunked. To be an effective project manager, avoiding these myths and the very real costs and inefficiencies associated with them is key.

#1) It’s about the processes, not the people

There may be no greater or more dangerous myth than the assumption that protocols are somehow more valuable than talent. Repeatable processes and organized workflows are extremely important to project management, but they are no more or less critical than the team itself. The reality of project management is that responsibilities are often twofold: PMs need disciplined process deployment to ensure efficiency and control, as well as soft skills like communication and interpersonal relationship building. The moral is: project managers are only as good as their people, whose productivity is ultimately only as good as their understanding of processes. Everything is intertwined and interdependent.

#2) Methodologies are pointless and complicated

On the other end of the spectrum is this myth that undercuts the value of project management methodologies. PMs sometimes seek out specialized strategies to accommodate limitations on project specs, timeline and resourcing limitations. There’s no excuse for ditching methodologies before the fact simply because they may seem too numerous or complicated to understand. Most PMs will need to know the difference between Scrum, Agile and Waterfall, as well as what separates Critical Path from Critical Chain. Each methodology has certain applicability (like Agile in mobile apps) and the different capabilities of each framework will improve a team’s productivity and communication.

#3) Employees are just a cog in the PM’s machine

It’s only natural for project managers to view themselves at the center of a project, but that mindset can become a problem if they interpret that position as justification for micromanaging or keeping team members at a distance. While it is understandable that PMs may want to hold onto particular duties or tasks, delegation is key. PMs cannot afford to alienate team members or delay progress if they have too much to do and nowhere else for the work to go.

#4) Winging it can work in a pinch

Approaching any project without a plan is inefficient and detrimental to the project’s success. PMs should bring structure and certainty to even more informal projects, from planning out milestones, stages, phases or responsibilities, and ensuring clear dissemination throughout the team. Even projects that require improvisation amid an unexpected obstacle general rely on plans A, B and C.

#5) Once a project begins, it cannot be stopped

A project that is put in motion does not mean it has to stay in motion. While halting or postponing a project is certainly not ideal, there are times when keeping a project going may come at its ultimate detriment. PMs must be able to be honest with themselves and their teams about what is feasible and what is in the best interests of the company. No one wants to admit failure, or even a temporary block in their vision, but setting realistic expectations and having the foresight of a project’s potential setbacks is vital to successful project management.

As a way to avoid the myths outlined and debunked above, PMs often seek continuing education that helps expose falsehoods and illuminate right paths of action. Having a comprehensive education that equips students with a fully formed skill set and knowledge on all the arts and sciences of project management is one way to help guard against these traps.

Interested individuals can contact Brandeis University about its online Master of Science in Project and Program Management for more information about the program itself, as well as the realities of professional project management.

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