Project LeadershipProject Management

How to Succeed in the First Month of a New Project

Stepping into a new role or project is an exciting time where you get a chance to try new things and avoid the errors of the past. But as Susanne Madsen writes in her blog, there are also potential pitfalls. For instance, being in a hurry to implement new ideas could ultimately hinder essential communication between the business and your team.

Orientation before Acceleration

Getting to know the organization is the single most important thing a PM can do in his or her first weeks on the project. Why not just kick off the project with a bang? Madsen says this will undermine the important context-building that needs to happen first. Environment is key, meaning that structurally and interpersonally, the organization and its people are what will make your project outcome truly rewarding:

In your first month I’d like you to ask lots of questions and listen to the answers. Really listen. When you are new in a role you have a unique opportunity to ask the “dumb” basic questions that help you build trust, agree the rules of engagement and set you up for success.

Institutional Awareness

You’re after value here. How can you deliver it? Who did well in your role in the past? What didn’t work and how can you bring a fresh approach to any stale old problems? These are the questions you need to be asking in those first weeks. Once a clear line to success is established, only then is it recommendable to move forward with your new project. This is the organizational part.

Interpersonal Awareness

The other part is interpersonal. The members of your team ought to come first. You’ll want to know what makes them tick. And management too, what is their preferred communication style? In the end, what you should gain during or before the project kickoff is a snapshot (perhaps) of the organization and its people. Above and beyond the classic activities of project management, your job is to build trust within an organization to make the changes necessary and to deliver upon the promise of value.

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