You're only as good as your last project

PM Pointers

You're only as good as your last project
You're only as good as your last project

One December I went to a beautiful beach town where many people enjoy their annual leave. In this small town there are many traders who sell things on the pavement near the side of the road. Items for sale range from jewelry, to sunglasses, souvenirs and clothes. A lady who used to sell handmade dolls, walked across the road to give a doll to the daughter of a friend of hers. When she crossed the street again to walk back to her stall, she was hit by a car and died in hospital a few hours later from head injuries.

The following day there was a photo of the lady in the local newspaper with a picture of the 5 year old girl holding the doll that was given to her by this lady. She would always be remembered not only for her beautiful handmade dolls, but also for her last act of kindness, giving one of her precious dolls to a friend.

As a project manager I know this holds true for projects as well. People tend to remember you for your last successful project. For this reason it is very important to treat every project as if it is in fact your last. It may be your last project for that specific client, or for that specific customer, or with that specific team.

A project manager should not only look after their reputation, but also the perception of the project they are responsible for. You should be doing the right things, but you should also be perceived to be doing things the right way in the eyes of your customer. The idea is to work with your team to please the customer.

Sometimes the customer may require small things, like providing refreshments at a Steering Committee meeting for senior managers, in order to keep him happy. Your team requires support, your guidance and leadership, and consistent communication regarding project related work. If team members are treated with respect and it is clear what is expected of them for successful delivery, they will live up to your expectations.

Creating a culture of collaboration where team members provide feedback and discuss problems openly will also contribute to a successful project. Building good relationships with your team as well as your customer are essential ingredients for making your current project one to remember (for all the right reasons!). When coupled with in budget, on-time delivery you will be remembered as a good project manager, but even if you don’t achieve the triple constraint (on time, in budget and with quality), but through good communication practices you managed to keep your team motivated and the customer happy, you have executed a successful project for which people will remember you.

Being called back by customers for additional projects is one of the best recommendations and compliments that a project manager can hope to receive.

About the author

Linky van der Merwe is a certified project management professional (PMP) and Founder of Virtual Project Consulting. She has been a senior project manager at Microsoft Consulting Services South Africa for 5 years. She likes to blog about project management and integrated online communication marketing. Her mission is to provide project management best practices advice and to recommend resources to aspiring and existing project managers. She can be reached at

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Issue 29


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