What should a new project manager focus on?

(This post contains affiliate hyperlinks. Please read my full disclosure.
This guest article is by Dr Mike Clayton, the well-known author/trainer behind OnlinePMCourses. *
It was 17 years ago. I sat next to the new project manager. What should I tell her?
The First Meeting
I can recall sitting down with a new project manger over coffee. I don’t mean to be negative: she had a lot of experience, but she was busy managing her first client project the next day.
Her project management course was due to start in a few weeks. I was able to help her understand the basics and only had a few hours to do so. I can still recall the advice that I gave and would not change it today.
Number 1: Build a relationship with your client
This is the foundation of everything. This is a crucial point to remember.
It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and get focused on the project. But remember that your client, your boss, your sponsor, or Project Director, is the driving force behind the project. Your priorities should include what they want. Without a relationship, it’s impossible to discover what that is.
Next: How to manage your first meeting.
The Project Hierarchy
Next, a new project manager must focus on the ‘project hierarchy’. This does not refer to “who is at the top of the tree and who are the team members?” I am referring to the hierarchy of importance for project concepts.
It was taught to me by GOSPA:
Goals
Objectives
Strategy
Plans
Actions (Need a free action log template?) Get one here

Like any project manager, a new manager must focus their efforts on these four areas. Your relationship with your client is crucial to defining your project’s goals.
The Triple Constraint
The Triple Constraint is a concept that I believe is more subtle and important in project management than most people realize. It may also be known as the Iron Triangle or the Time-Cost-Quality Triangle or the Triangle of Balance.
It doesn’t matter what name it may have, it is crucial for understanding the competing priorities and tensions in your project.
It is crucial to understand the relative importance and cost of the three dimensions of quality, time, and cost when defining objectives for GOSPA. The Triple Constraint will not solve your problems, I tell new project managers. It will make your choices very clear.
It may help you make a wise decision when you understand the priorities of your client and other stakeholders.
Project Management is a People Discipline
It is easy to get lost in the planning, strategizing and delivery actions that follow the GOSPA framework. Many people believe that this is the core of project management. It is, however, important.
It is not the attitude that puts them front and center that can cause problems. Because project management is a people discipline. You are doomed to think of strategy, planning, delivery as abstract, theoretical, or academic activities.
As a project manager, your next focus should be people. This means three things to me:
The Governance HierarchyThis includes your sponsor, steering group and project board, as well as project auditors and assessors. You can build relationships with them and learn their concerns and needs so that you can address them.
Your Project Team. These are the people who will make your project a success. You are responsible for the management of your project and the people involved. This includes giving leadership and support, guiding them and developing them.

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