Pitfalls of Big Projects

Juggling multiple smaller projects may be a challenge, but PMs who oversee only one or two large projects at a time have their share of headaches, too. Below we explore some of the pitfalls of managing larger (but fewer) projects.

Exposure to new champions. Because your sphere of influence is often limited by your list of active projects, if you’re responsible for fewer projects—even if they’re quite large—you’re probably going to have less opportunity to interact with potential champions and others at the top of the project support ladder.

What to do: You need to stay on the radar, so look for opportunities to be involved in other areas where high-level folks are active. Steering committees and corporate fundraisers are two options to keep in mind.

Networking. New projects usually bring a few new vendors and business partners into your realm, which in turn help to keep your network expanding in an organic way. Without new projects to feed the healthy growth of your network, you may find that people aren’t coming into your life with the frequency that they used to.

What to do: Join a regional or industry networking group, and make time to actively participate in it. Most groups put on a range of events, provide members with professional development opportunities, and have research or other market-driven activities that can offer regular exposure to new folks. Leverage online networking sites as a way to stay in touch with colleagues as well as find new people with similar interests and skills.

Ongoing education. Large projects may lack the variety of educational and experience-building opportunities often found in a constantly rotating pipeline of smaller projects. Once a large project’s core functionalities have been mastered, some PMs might feel they no longer have a need to learn new skills or expand their areas of expertise.

What to do: Rather than run the risk of being pigeonholed, it’s time to chart your own curriculum based on what areas interest you and which skills you want to tackle next. Find out what kind of support your company will provide—many offer some form of tuition reimbursement. Investigate local community colleges, online learning venues, and in-house mentoring programs.

Job opportunities. Those seeking greener pastures sometimes feel limited if a large project has been their primary focus for many months or even years. Proving that you’re flexible and have a good depth of experience could be more difficult if you have fewer projects to use as references.

What to do: Along with keeping your skills sharp and networking aggressively, it’s time to look at your background in a different light. Project management skills come in a range of disparate flavors, most of which aren’t heavily dependent on the size of project you can manage—tout your good leadership skills, attention to detail, and budget finesse.

New technologies. Once your project gets into a groove on the administrative side of things, your opportunities to leverage new technologies often diminish. Inflexible budgets and the lack of a clear business case frequently relegate any non-essential tech breakthroughs to the nice-to-have column. Instead of the many opportunities provided by startup activities to try out new stuff, you’re left with very little need to stay current on what’s available.

What to do: There’s no doubt that you need to know what’s going on in the technology realm and how it might affect you. Industry publications, even those that aren’t focused on technology, often provide news and reviews. Peruse the tech section of your favorite business magazine at least every few months to see what’s on the horizon.

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