Project Pitfalls You Need To Avoid

Paul Naybour

We all make mistakes in the work environment from time to time. It’s learning from them that counts. This is most certainly the case when it comes to project management and learning lessons is embedded into project management methodologies so there’s no excuse not to. It is unlikely that you are going to get everything right on every project but if you can genuinely learn from your errors (rather than perform a tick box exercise) and apply these lessons to projects in the future, you will be developing a formula for success. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common project pitfalls, as well as some tips on how to resolve them.

Improperly managing project risk

Projects often get off to a good start as the optimism and impetus of a new project can help drive it forward in the first few weeks or months. After the honeymoon period though there is almost always a pitfall along the way, which can cause the project to derail. If you have not planned for risks effectively, the project could end up in serious trouble.

Without proper risk planning the project manager and the team will then react to the issue by searching for different solutions that will help them mitigate the risk instead of putting in place a mitigation strategy that was already thought through. Because they do not have time on their side they cannot test or fully consider the merits of these solutions. They can only come up with something they hope is going to work, but they never really know until they give it a try.

It’s in situations like these that effective risk management shows its worth. Risk management involves identifying, analysing, and responding to risk factors throughout a project’s life. This will enable you to supply a rational basis for making decisions in regards to all risks. It means that you are able to react much quicker, and that you can make better decisions for your team and your project.

Project plans that lack detail

You probably recognise the importance of having a project plan, but are you putting together your plan effectively? If you do not have enough detail in your project plan, this can result in time lost, as well as a lack of commitment from your team members. After all, if your team members never really know where they are in comparison with where they should be, they won’t feel very committed to the cause. This can result in considerable delays, which is why you need to put in the effort from the very beginning.

Failing to embrace project management training

A lot of people fall into the role of project manager rather than it being a specific career choice. Often, because of this, they don’t receive formal project management training. However, project management courses and continuous professional development (CPD) should be considered a necessity for all, whatever the route into the career, or how experienced you are. There are always more techniques to be learnt and cemented, and it is vital to advance your project management skills if you want to achieve more.

Unclear project scope

This is undoubtedly one of the biggest mistakes that project managers make today. Project success relies on clarity with regards to the scope of the project. When scope is not clear, this causes scope creep, which is where the project focus changes gradually over a period of time. So, how do you combat this problem? The best thing to do is involve the entire project team when creating the project scope. Their insights, experience and knowledge will help to shape the overall project scope.

Not following a process

If you do not have a clear idea regarding what you are going to do and where you are going, project optimism will quickly dwindle. You need to create a work schedule that shows the tasks that need to be done, when they need to be done by, and who is responsible for them.

Showing stress

If you are stressed and feeling the pressure, your team are going to feel the same way too. As a project manager, you have a huge amount of responsibility on your shoulders. This can, in turn, cause stress. While it can be very tempting to complain about the stress you are experiencing, this is the worst thing you can do, as it can have a serious impact on your team. It can destroy morale, which can then have a negative impact on the work. This is not to say that you should ignore or suppress stress though. That would be unhealthy too. Instead, you need to figure out how to vent your stress and who to vent it too.

Being resistant to change

Are you a project manager that is rather stuck in his or her ways? If so, this is probably where you are going wrong. After all, projects change on a daily basis. This includes everything from changes in direction to missed meetings and missed deadlines. As a project manager, you are going to need to guide the project in the right direction, and this often means adapting to changes that happen. This could mean adding a new resource mid-stream to your project, or it could mean changing your approach. In some cases, it may even mean that you need to start over. With this in mind, it highlights why it is so vital to keep an open mind, enabling your team to talk to you regarding the best solutions for any project issues. After all, rather than doing what is right for you, you need to do what is right for the project.

Prioritising budget or scope over quality

It can be very easy to allow quality to take a back seat when you are managing a project. After all, you have the stresses of budget constraints, as well as project scope, to deal with. This can lead you to prioritising meeting a deadline over the quality of the product. It is vital to recognise that quality is always the most important factor. If you find yourself in a predicament where quality is competing with budget constraints or scope creep, discuss it with the client. You will find that the vast majority are willing to give you a bit of extra time or money if it means their product is going to be of the right quality.

project management mistakes - scope creep

Allowing scope creep

This is undeniably a mistake that all project managers are guilty of making at some point partly because it is so easy for scope creep to happen. After all, your client wants something new and you do not want to disappoint them; you probably appreciate why the client is asking for the extra feature and recognise that it would be a good addition. However, you need to be honest and draw boundaries between what is essential to deliver a functioning product or service and what is a “nice to have”. If the scope creep is going to blow the budget or require the deadline to be extended, you need to tell the client so that they can make an educated decision regarding the best move forward.

Lack of communication

Communication is one of the most pivotal factors when it comes to project success. You are never going to run an efficient project if you do not communicate effectively. By not talking to anyone, you can kill the project morale, timeline, and budget. Good communications are at the heart of any type of project, no matter what type of business you work for. A good project manager will keep everyone in the loop, and they will be effective at talking to people at all levels, from team members to stakeholders.

Mismanaging expectations

A lot of project managers are guilty of overpromising and under delivering. It is easy to do. You don’t want to let the client down; you don’t want to let the stakeholders down. You end up promising them too much. However, if you do this, you are only setting your team up for failure, and everyone is going to be disappointed in the end. Instead, to avoid this common project pitfall, involve stakeholders from the outset so that they are fully aware of the project goals and have fully bought-in to them.

Choosing the wrong project team for the project

Without evaluation tools that are competent, you are not going to be able to assign the right people to each project. You won’t choose those with the relevant experience, skills, and knowledge. This is why you need to have an effective procedure in place for choosing the right project team. Not only this, but once you have your team together, you need to delegate successfully. This does not merely mean that you give the first task on offer to the first person that is available. You need to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses, and assign jobs based on who they are going to be the best allocated to.

Project Manager Training

Not recognising employee work performance on projects

It is important to give employees feedback regarding their work performance. This will encourage them to be more committed to the project. Nonetheless, make sure you provide feedback in the right way. Negative feedback should be made one-on-one and diplomatically. Not only this, but you need to consider the person in question – their personality – and what type of feedback style they will respond to best – remember we all make project management mistakes from time to time.

Having an organisational culture that is not prepared for project management

This is a big mistake that many business owners make today. If you have a project, you need to give your team the right resources, training, and tools to achieve the results that are demanded. If you don’t, you will have a project culture that is very damaging and unproductive to your organisation as a whole. You could find that you lose thousands and even millions of pounds with this attitude. Plus, the losses that are experienced are not always financial. These businesses can also find it very challenging to retain customers, both external and internal.

Running projects that do not fit with your organisation’s strategic direction

This is another error that you need to start wiping out. All too often, there are project teams and project managers that are working on projects that are not bringing the organisation any added value. These projects do not support your departmental or organisational plan. They do not support the replacement, development or enhancement of your services, products, or processes either. However, at many businesses, they are using up valuable resources, budget, and time. These resources could be put to better use on a different project that actually fits with your company’s strategic direction.

future of project management in 2018

Expecting software to solve all of your problems

There is no denying that project management software can be very helpful. In fact, the use of it is very much advised as it can help avoid some of the more common project management mistakes. It can help you to operate more efficiently and keep better track of your project but this does not mean that project management software is going to fix everything for you, though. It is a tool, and a helpful one at that, but problems are not solved by software, people solve them.

Doing everything yourself

As a project manager, it is easy to assume that you need to do everything yourself. But you need to trust your team. You need to listen to their input. You don’t want to be seen as someone who is on a power trip.

Micromanaging your team

The former point links with this one about micromanagement. If you try to micromanage your team, this can be a common cause of conflict. You should be empowering your team instead so that they feel valued and responsible. You can destroy motivation and confidence if you micro manage everyone.

If you can avoid the errors that have been discussed here, you can give yourself the greatest chance of success on every project. As mentioned, it’s all about learning from project management mistakes. So, if you do make an error in the future, don’t dwell on it. Assess where you went wrong and make sure you implement improvements going forward.

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