7 Biggest Project Management Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
There is no worse situation than being the project manager at the end of a failed project. When it comes to making mistakes, project managers are no different than the rest. It may not be the end of the word, but it can mean lost time, money and trust.
There are so many different aspects of a project – the collaboration between team members, deadlines, budgets, clients, risks, requirements – it is no wonder that things have a tendency to go wrong. However, learning from common mistakes might help prevent a project disaster.
Here are seven of the most common project management mistakes and how you can avoid them.
1. The Wrong Person in Charge
Most people are capable of managing a project if they put their mind to it, but the truth is that different people have different strengths, and some people are much better holding the reins than others. Having a wrong manager for a project can have disastrous results.
“Typically during resource allocation, most of the effort is focused on finding the right resources other than finding the right project manager,” explains Sudhir Verma, vice president of the Consulting Services & Project Management Office at Force 3, a technology solutions provider. Indeed, too often “project managers get picked based on availability, not necessarily on skill set.”
How to choose the right project manager?
Choose a project manager based on his/her skill set, not availability. Team resources are crucial and matching them to the right work is critical for project success. Good leaders know how to get the optimal results out of the people working for them. They know how to best match team members’ skills and abilities with the task at hand.
A competent leader should have the ability to execute across subject matters and have a background in a specific expertise.
Follow this checklist for leveraging your project from a state of pain and stress to success.
2. Lack of Focus
Everyone wants to have a say: team members, stakeholders, clients. Lack of project focus is one of the most critical issues of project management, as it can quickly derail your timeline, resources, and budget. You might not even notice until it’s too late.
The level of detail in many projects is not sufficient for successful management and bringing them in on time and budget. Generally, this leads to projects that lose time and commitment by the team members because they never really know where they are vs. where they should be. Not knowing exactly, what a project is aiming to deliver, is a recipe for failure.
How to stay on the right track?
Frequent monitoring of the project with your project management software will ensure that the project remains on schedule and within the original parameters. It can also be good to include project documentation in your initial estimate – clients can read through this information to better understand your processes.
3. Inconsistent Processes
One key reason for failing is often the lack of structure or inconsistency of processes.
Large project teams find it difficult to report to the same project manager. Similarly, the project manager will find it challenging to maintain communication and follow-ups with too many contributors reporting directly to them.
In that case, the reason the results aren’t projecting does not lay on the team not working hard. They are, but don’t have a clear process to follow.
Too often, the project management best practices aren’t embedded into the organization’s framework and support systems. Not having effective, predictable and reusable work management tools, techniques, and processes make it very difficult for project managers and project teams to successfully deliver projects.
How to monitor processes?
Having a clear and real-time overview of a project is essential to a successful team and project management. There is a number of project management software for keeping everything project-related in one place. Get an overview of all the documents, what everyone is working on, or how far in the process are the tasks. Only then can information flow freely between multiple teams and all necessary records be kept.
Have a look at this list of six project management software features that will skyrocket you project performance.
4. Expecting Software to Fix Everything
This brings us to the next issue. A project management software is only as good as the people who use it.
A good solution can help with everything from project planning to task and time management, team collaboration and reporting. Today’s tools are easy-to-use, fast and cost efficient. We have come a long way from standard Excel spreadsheets. But if the team isn’t using the software, there will be no results.
Software is a tool and is there to help you solve problems, not to solve them for you.
How to make the most of a project management software?
Take your time finding the most suitable project management software for your team and get everyone on board. If the team sees value in the software, they will invest their time in learning and using it.
Read on: How to Improve Your Project Management With Scoro in Six Steps?
5. Micro Managing the Project
A project manager doesn’t need to be part of every single decision or oversee every stage of the process. The members of the team were chosen for a reason, and each one of them brings a unique skill and expertise to the project.
The team wants to feel responsible, valued and empowered. Micro managing destroys trust, confidence, and motivation.
It can be hard to let go and trust people, but it is rewarding. Working in a team produces better results and is also more fun! Plus, when you stop babysitting, you will have more time to get your work done.
How to quit micromanaging a project?
You built the team, let them do their thing. “Instead of babysitting the project team, let it be known from the start that there will be regularly scheduled updates for the duration of the project,” suggests Michael Beck, senior marketing specialist at OpticsPlanet, an online retailer. “This lets your team know that status updates and progress are expected from them weekly and will encourage them to vocalize any issues or delays in advance.”
6. Lack of a Clear Objective
The cause of many project failures is too often the absence of a clear objective and measures with which to identify success or failure. You will not successfully complete a project if you cannot compare what you have done to the original idea.
Project success is a confusing thing. When it comes to project ‘success’ most project managers accept that the old model of the ‘iron triangle’ is no longer valid. The ‘iron triangle’ describes the factors projects are constrained by: time, cost and scope.
How to set project goals?
Things have progressed, and as the CEO of Project management Institute PMI, Mark Langley proposed, a new project management triangle is appropriate these days.
The project management KPIs consist of ‘in-project elements’ and ‘around-project’ elements.
A range of ‘in-project’ elements:
A range of ‘around-project’ elements:
If you want to make sure everyone has the same expectations, talk about them! Take some time early in the project to discuss scope, deliverables, timing, communications, and process. Your client should help you define success measures for the project.
Ask your client and yourself what the project is in the business of delivering? This is a difficult question to answer because it needs more thought than you might expect.
Understanding what will make a project successful ensures that after the completion of the project, all parties walk away satisfied.
For a more thorough overview, have a look at this comprehensive list of project KPIs.
7. Poor Communication
All of the seven topics above really come down to communication. Many projects fail because small issues turn into huge problems, causing distrust between the client and project team.
Whether it’s the lack of objective, wrong expectations, failing to hire the right people or the case of inconsistent processes, it’s a lot easier to avoid these problems by being a better communicator.
Sometimes, a project will make perfect sense in the head of one person, and be completely confusing to another team member. If anyone on the project doesn’t understand what they’re meant to be doing or – most importantly – the desired outcome for the project, then it’s going to be hard to get ideal results.
Good communications are at the heart of any good project. Without talking to your team or your clients, the project is bound to go off the rails.
How to communicate inside a project?
Communication is the lifeblood of a project, so keep all communication channels open. If you put some simple communication guidelines into place like regular status updates and team temperature checks, you’ll feel more engaged. The team will be motivated to work together and meet scope and budget expectations.
Pick a day and time to meet (either virtually or in person) that works for the team (not just the project manager) – and stick with it. For some projects, a clear communication plan works the best. Formulating a communication plan ensures that all stakeholders are equally informed of how, when, and why meetings will happen.
Learn and Pass it on
Research shows that the main reasons that projects fail are due to poor planning. It shows up as a breakdown of communication, missed deadlines and running over budget. Therefore, having proper project management tools and templates combined with training on how to use them will help organizations to significantly improve the success rate of their projects.
As you can see, a little effort goes a long way in avoiding the most common mistakes in project management. Implying that these mistakes can affect your project is the first step to success.
Why learn from your mistakes when you can learn from the others?
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