10 Common Project Management Pitfalls
There is always a sense of optimism at the start of a project that surely everything will go smoothly this time. Of course, even the most novice project manager is less than surprised when things don’t always go quite according to plan. So what project pitfalls could we anticipate and what plans should we develop to address these pitfalls and improve the chances of preventing them from derailing things entirely.
Most projects are complex, incorporating varying elements of time, resources and people. Managing a project successfully takes more than understanding project management methodology. It often means handling challenges on multiple fronts.
Here are 10 of the most common pitfalls, and simple solutions to keep in mind to address them before they have lasting impact:
1. Poorly defined goals. It becomes impossible to lead a successful project management team when a project’s goals are not clearly defined at the onset
Solution: If the goal isn’t clearly defined it becomes impossible to produce the necessary deliverables. The role of the project manager is to ensure sufficient communication occurs with all stakeholders to get agreement on the Project goals. As project manager, you need to ask the right questions until you are satisfied that the stakeholders are in agreement with the project’s goal.
2. Project scope is a moving target. Some project managers refer to this as “scope creep.” Too often, project managers make the mistake of implementing every change requested, essentially making the project’s scope a moving target.
Solution: When receiving a change request, evaluate how the change will impact budget and deadlines before deciding how or if to implement it. Project Managers need to constantly juggle and balance the 3 aspects of project delivery namely scope, time and cost so don’t allow scope change to send your project off course.
3. Inadequate knowledge for the project. Sometimes, a project comes along that requires a specialised skills set, one that is not held by any members of your team. Even when a project manager recognizes that this is the case, too often it is not addressed.
Solution: As project manager, you should be able to evaluate the situation and determine what competencies are needed. Then, assess the skills of your available team members and determine what training or out-sourcing are necessary for project success.
4. Inadequate accountability. A general lack of accountability has the power to bring even the biggest project to a screeching halt.
Solution: When leading the team ensure each member of your team has a clear understanding of his or her role, and take on the responsibility it requires. This will allow you to direct your team toward common goals and achieve buy-in from team members who understand expectations.
5. Lack of risk management. All projects have risks and spending time assessing the outside impacts that could derail your project is key. Do not ignore risks and simply assume everything will just be fine.
Solution: Gather whatever data or input is required for you to better understand your project risks and clearly define your plans to prevent them occurring
6. No plan B. It isn’t always enough to anticipate challenges and manage risk to avoid them. Without contingencies built into a project, it can be held up for extended periods of time, as various potential solutions are evaluated.
Solution: Be sure contingencies are in place from the very start of the project. Once you have identified the most likely challenges or risks, you can go about coming up with detailed solutions that can be implemented if necessary. Ensure you dedicate sufficient focus to develop comprehensive contingency plans. Work out solutions down to adequate level of detail so that contingencies can be put into place immediately, should situations dictate.
7. Poor communication. Poor communication, whether written or verbal, is the one of the biggest factors in putting a project’s success at risk. Lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines and confusion among stakeholders, including team members.
Solution: Project managers should offer direction at every step of the way, communicating goals as well as expectations. Effective communication to all those involved in the project is crucial to its successful completion. You will also find that effective communication increases team morale.
8. Unrealistic deadlines. There’s nothing positive about taking on an unrealistic deadline you will never be able to accomplish.
Solution: Stop asking your team for the impossible or you will completely flatten morale, and productivity right along with it. Instead, discuss with stakeholders why a deadline is not realistic. They will appreciate the thought you put into your response and as long as you are realistic in your reservations, you can expect some help in setting more reasonable deadlines.
9. Lack of money. Too often, a project manager is asked to run a project that is insufficiently funded and has little hope of successful completion.
Solution: Management should provide sufficient resources, including time, money and personnel. Define project needs and obtain budget approval upfront. It is also likely your job to assign and prioritize budget resources during the entire project.
10. Inadequate stakeholder engagement. A disinterested stakeholder can do much to slow or even halt an entire project.
Solution: Communicate openly and encourage feedback from all stakeholders involved with the project. Identify several stakeholders who have authority over the project in order to lessen the impacts of someone who is disengaged.
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