My 3 biggest mistakes as a PM

An Agile PM should be willing to learn new things e-v-e-r-y day, the best way we have is through process experimentation and adaptation. But, most importantly, do all this while being fully aware that mistakes are expected and part of the normal life cycle of a team/process/product.

This is exactly why Agile proposes an adaptive framework that embraces and fosters early failure alongside Inspection and Adaptation as part of the main activities for the whole team since this is -in fact- the real way any human works. 

I thought writing a post sharing my own experience would be a good idea because there will always be someone who can relate to it and understand they are on the right way to becoming better. So, before you read my biggest mistakes, an ultimate warning: please don’t TRY these at home! 

Not having a Continuous Improvement (CI) Process in place

During my first experience as an Agile PM, my first goal was to map out processes of the going projects, since there were none.  To begin, I interviewed many people to familiarize myself with the know-how of the company. Then, I modeled the processes using great BPM tools, alongside color code, diagrams, and a lot of cool stuff. Since I knew the current results, I placed several new steps to improve what needed to be improved. It looked great. However, I overlooked a key step within the cycle. 

What did I miss? Nothing less than a Continuous Improvement (CI) Process: a feedback loop to gather outcomes and improvement opportunities from the team and other stakeholders. From the very beginning and kickoff, I should have set up a feedback loop, which included a session in which it was expected that process’ stakeholders talk about what needed to be improved or changed. This way, not only could the process evolve exponentially but I wouldn’t have that perception of failure whenever something went wrong and someone called it out publicly during a random meeting.  My advice on this now is to don’t forget about it, so you and your team can do it naturally without it feeling like a trial. 

Believe that I should be the only one in control

After my first experience, I ended up convincing myself that being a great PM entails knowing everything and having a solution for every single problem before anyone can even notice it. The reality is, nothing could be further from the truth! And my current (and beloved) team helped me in realizing that this attitude was leaving them out, and uncomfortable.  Eventually, I came to find out that being a good leader demands embracing delegation, fostering leadership among the team members, and trusting the team to make things happen! 

Now I feel comfortable enough to mentor, and fully support, emerging leaders within my team. They are the ones who spearhead and run initiatives that allow them to have the success to advance their career paths towards the next levels they want to reach.

Telling and not Showing

An image is worth a thousand words, and this fact blew up in my face in such an enlightening way! 

Managing a project, following up its advance and the current status is not only about keeping clear and client-visible tracking tools up to date and discussing them regularly, so you can lobby for a possible scope negotiation when things don’t go as planned. Is more important to have them visible, clear, available to your team, you can always tell them about it, but how powerful turned out showing them because we all could:

  • Regularly review planned vs executed status
  • Identify delays, dependencies, and risks early in time and figure out solutions 
  • Brainstorming about action items to make up time if needed
  • List down the doable tasks within a range of time, that would serve as a key input during the negotiation
  • Keep engaged by making everyone part of the project’s decision-making process

After all, we are carrying up with shared goals and commitments, it makes all sense to involve everyone in these crucial conversations. 

Every downfall made me feel like a failure until I realized that I was indeed experiencing one of Agile's biggest premises: Fail fast and learn from your mistakes. Agile is about experimentation, adaptation, and paving your own path to success.  That’s what Continuous Improvement is for: make sure you gather the lessons learned from each experience, create action items to improve each of them, ensure their implementation, and ultimately prevent those mistakes from happening in the future. 

Just keep in mind this: Every single step -and adjustment - is leading you to become that great PM you have set out to be.

About the author

Alicia Lozada is a PM who has been with us for over 2 year, and though it seems little, she has led a very big and complex project which has helped to improve her skills in higher scales! Her motto is being a motivational leader who always encourages her team to give their best