You were a team member and have just been promoted to the project manager position. Or you became a project manager because you “inherited” a project after the former project manager left the position. In any case, you became the so-called accidental project manager, even though it is rarely an accident that one is promoted to this position. Suddenly, you are a project manager. You have no project management training, nor experience, you are a “newbie”. You were likely assigned the project manager role because of your technical skills and years of experience in the organization, and you are expected to become a project manager in no time.
Technical Skills are Not Enough to be a Project Manager
Having the technical skills and experience in your field without having any project management experience or training is not sufficient. For example, this situation happens often in IT when software developers suddenly find themselves promoted to project manager positions. Just because they know their job is no guarantee that they are automatically good project managers. So what can they do to run the project successfully and make a smooth transition from a technical to a managerial role? Usually, there is no time for them to enroll in a project management course, since they have to run the project in the same time.
Find a Mentor and Read the Lessons Learned Documents
If in your organization there are other project managers who worked on similar projects, their experience is extremely valuable. You should convince them to mentor you, even if it means they can only do that during their lunch break or on their schedule rather than yours. Ask specific questions, rather than what you should do in general. If your organization has had similar projects, consult the lessons learned documentation so that you can plan properly for your project and mitigate at least some of the risks.
Lead the Team, Don’t Do Their Work
Possibly the two most important things that you should learn as a newbie project manager are that you should lead the team, not do all of the team members’ work, and that communication is crucial to your new role. Even if you are a part-time project manager, while still maintaining your former technical role, for example as a software developer, you should learn as soon as possible to delegate tasks, monitor progress, and communicate effectively with your team members.
Keep Project Documentation in One Place
The technical aspect of project management, such as identifying the project scope and the stakeholders, and creating the project communication plan, schedule, resource plan, and the risk management plan, should not be too complicated, especially if you are a person with a technical background used to deal with much more complex matters. However, to make your job easier, use project management software, such as RationalPlan, to create and monitor schedules, cost baselines, Gantt charts, track resources, and more. You can also keep all of the project documentation in one place, and since the number of project documents only keeps increasing until the project’s closure, you need an effective way to keep track of all the data relevant to the project and be able to effectively update them.
Learn, Learn, Learn
As a new project manager, your job is challenging, and you do need to develop new skills, learn how to correctly apply project management tools and processes, but as long as you are committed, organized, and communicate effectively, you are likely to evolve into an efficient project manager and lead your project to success. Finally, do not forget the obvious: as a project manager, your job is radically different from the one you had as a project team member. So learn to communicate effectively, delegate tasks, and become a leader.