Rookie Revelations

We Asked the Project Management Community: What's the Biggest Mistake You Made at the Start of Your Career?




“Obsessing over creating the most perfect project schedule and then ignoring evidence that it was obsolete a few days after it had been reviewed and approved. That taught me a valuable lesson: Planning as an activity is essential, but the value of a given plan is ephemeral.”

—Kiron D. Bondale, PMI-ACP, PMI-RMP, PMP, senior consultant, World Class Productivity Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada


“Mine was more of a lightbulb moment than a mistake. As a young project manager, I thought that I was supposed to know the answer to every question asked. I learned that's why we have subject matter experts on our projects. I need to know the questions and who to ask for the answers. My role is to conduct the band, not play every instrument.”

—Sheena Downey, PMP, consultant, ITAlex Pty Ltd, Brisbane, Australia


“After studying hard, taking the four-hour exam and [earning] my Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification, I mistakenly believed that others understood what the philosophy of project management involves. In my field—construction management, largely a male-dominated field—I didn't experience a lot of respect for this certification. So I had to transcend this and remind myself continually to have confidence and practice strong project management, despite how others managed expensive projects. Later, one of my architect colleagues earned a PMP®, and now we compare notes often and reinforce each other. This has taught me to be confident in what I've been taught and what I studied hard to learn.”

—Irene Krill, project manager, Austin Independent School District, Austin, Texas, USA


“Agreeing to scope creep without properly documenting verbal agreements and getting the project team on board and full stakeholder acceptance was a big mistake. It impacted the budget and overall acceptance of the final deliverables. That was a hard but very valuable lesson to learn early on. After coming to this realization, I focused on improving our agility to react to new strategies and technologies. This included revamping our communication and reporting practices as well as making improvements to our project documentation templates. I also created recurring executive and stakeholder scope review meetings, so if any of our other communication methods failed they had an opportunity to review and provide input.”

—Keith Arthur, PMP, program manager, cloud services, Burwood Group, Irvine, California, USA


“The biggest mistake I made at the start of my project management career was allowing emotion to play too large a role when working through challenges, issues, risks and project opportunities. I quickly learned that emotions can cloud judgment, hinder critical thinking and slow critical actions. When projects hit a bump, it isn't unusual to feel the fight-or-flight response kick in. The urge to resolve the problem as quickly as possible is great, but a calm level-headedness allows for thoroughness and consideration. This helps get resolution without introducing additional challenges, and it helps build confidence among team members and in yourself.”

—Lynn Kenning, PMP, PgMP, manager, service delivery, Acliviti, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Facilitating Improvement

Organizations can accelerate the learning curve for project professionals. Here are the top ways that champion* organizations invest in developing talent.

83% Have ongoing project management training


81% Have formal knowledge transfer process


81% Prioritize the development of project management skills


79% Prioritize the development of project management leadership skills


77% Have formal process to develop project management competency


*Organizations with 80 percent or more of projects being completed on time, on budget, meeting business intent and having high benefits realization maturity

Source: Pulse of the Profession®, PMI, 2018


How do you help team members bounce back from burnout?

Email responses to [email protected]
(Responses will be published in a future issue)



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