Making mistakes is not a bad thing; tons of lessons can be learned from them. And in the field of Project Management, lessons abound.
Projects, unfortunately, seldom go smoothly. There are always roadblocks in the process, with potential for new issues cropping now and then – from ideation to final delivery. After all, a project is complicated, volatile, and time-bound, and every organization has likely seen significant project failures at least once when embarking on a major initiative.
Each project is different and should not be treated the same, but common project errors can affect the outcome in the same way.
In this blog, we will outline 7 of the most common project management mistakes that can occur in a project. By understanding and accounting for these, a project manager can mitigate a lot of the issues that could otherwise later crop up.
Unclear and Misaligned Objectives
One of the first working documents of a company is its Mission and Vision Statement. It is the common goal of a company that all subsequent plans are aligned to. More often than not, a team may zealously dive into a new project, except for one key element – alignment to the company’s larger goals.
A project which does not align itself to the company’s larger goals and broader ideas is doomed to fail. While not serving any purpose for the company’s mission, these projects still require resources, all the same, putting other projects at risk and diverting executive attention. All that, and at the end, you have a project that has delivered no significant value to the company’s ethos, mission, or objectives.
And speaking of objectives, having undefined goals is also a key area of risk within a project. If you start a project without first defining your goals and aligning your team members to those goals, you are skating on thin ice.
Source: Project Charter Template by SlideUplift
Moreover, having metrics in place for those objectives is also critical. It indicates good planning for a project, as each activity is directed towards those goals and meeting the success metrics. Use an effective Project Charter template to communicate objectives to all the stakeholders.
Improper Resource Management and Estimation
Optimism drives projects. Indeed it is only when you can believe in the project that you can make it a success. However, optimism should not drive your project management strategy- you need a counterbalancing skepticism that things can go south. This approach will help plan for contingencies in terms of budget, time frame, and resources. A good project manager will always rely on data and realistic projections to come up with attainable and respectable estimates for their project.
Look up previous projects and understand how much time, money, and manpower those projects required, and hone your skills of estimation to come up with realistic figures to provide to your clients or upper management.
Along with making proper estimates, understand the nuances of proper delegation. Too many projects fail due to improper delegation of resources that lead to significant wastages and errors. Understand your team, their skills, and weaknesses, and assign work accordingly. Create a budget grid to keep your finances in check and develop a reasonable timeline within which your team members have the responsibility to deliver their work.
Source: Project Resource Planning by SlideUpLift
Many delegation errors can be mitigated using simple organizational frameworks and charts to keep everyone in the loop. Use resource planning templates to ensure you have covered all the aspects of project planning.
Ignoring Past Projects
Most projects do not exist in isolation. If not directly related, they will have some connection to prior projects in the company. This is because projects tend to be linked to the prevalent strategy of the organization, and therefore have threads that connect them to enable a company’s larger goals.
As project managers, it should become a standard part of preparatory work to look at previous projects connected to the current one to gauge their strategy, resource management, estimates, etc. This will also highlight why the project succeeded or failed and can be quite informative in understanding the context of the current project you may be driving.
Source: Project Retrospective Template by SlideUpLift
It can also potentially minimize the “learning curve” you would experience in the project otherwise, simply by mitigating some of the known issues and problems that can arise within a project of similar scopes—a few ideas to jot down your lessons learned.
The adage “The Art of Communication is the language of leadership” still holds in every facet of work life. Communication is the foundation of good teamwork and successful project outcomes. And a lot of the responsibility for adequate communication lies on those in leadership positions.
At the same time, miscommunication is perhaps the biggest reason why projects fall apart. There need to be clear communication lines between the employees, team members, and supervisors to ensure that no one is left bereft of information when needed. Additionally, the project team needs to continually liaise with clients, team members, department heads, supervisors, etc., and this can be a daunting process to keep track of. But, a successful project manager knows how to keep a handle on multiple lines of communication and keep their teams informed of any changes, ideas, or new information.
Source: Project Communication Plan Template by SlideUpLift
Keep your communication concise, clear, and to the point. Be strategic about ensuring that everyone focuses on the right detail, eliminating information that has no use paying attention to. Also, decide on a method of communication that is most effective for your team, be it face-to-face, via video call, or a good old conference call. Find more Communication Plan templates here.
Lack of Clear Planning, Process, and Scope
A lack of planning leading to project failure seems self-explanatory. However, the issue here runs deeper than simple ill-preparation for a project. Of course, planning and strategizing are essential for a project to run. Oftentimes, the process of planning itself reveals foundational issues in the project. For instance, was the plan aligned to the company’s objectives? Are the projections for budget and delivery realistic and attainable? Was the work plan made keeping in mind the strengths and weaknesses of the team? All this to say, planning is an involved process and requires a time investment.
And as one knows quite well, planning is not good if execution fails. If the machinery fails to follow processes, it can be easy for the work to spiral, leading to deadline extensions, confusion, and ultimately, project failure.
Also, over-ambitions on the part of the manager or the team can cause the project’s scope to inflate beyond control. Even small changes in the scope of the project midway can create a trickle-down effect that creates problems for everyone involved, snowballing into a larger problem for the whole project.
Source: Project Planning Presentation by SlideUpLift
Have a clearly defined scope at the beginning of the project, ensuring that a project strictly adheres to it. You can also use Project Scope templates that make the process of clarifying the scope of a project easier.
Let’s be clear – almost everyone who is a part of the team is there because of certain skills and expertise. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have been a part of that team in the first place. Managers definitely need to involve themselves in the everyday workings of their team, ensuring that each team member’s needs are understood and feel productive and on the right track.
However, becoming a micromanaging leader is the last thing that is conducive to a successful project. A manager is there to guide and lead, not to babysit simple processes that the team members can take care of. It is important to get perspective regarding everyone’s role within the team, including the manager, to avoid stepping on toes unnecessarily and causing a hostile work environment. When each team member feels like their work is respected, productivity automatically goes up, and a project has a higher chance of success overall.
Keep regular meetings and briefings where everyone can get notified of the work done by each member of the team and progress on goals and targets. This way, everyone is on the same page, unbossed, and without feeling stifled by their supervisors or the general work environment.
Not using proper tools.
In the 21st century, it can be almost too easy to automate every part of the working space. Project Management is no different. Multiple software and automation tools like Microsoft Project allow managers to simplify the project management process, saving a team a lot of time and energy. And they’re definitely a great tool to implement in the modern workspace.
As project managers, it becomes your responsibility to inform yourself about the options available for your team. Relying on spreadsheets, simply because something you have always done, may not be the right approach for a project today. Understanding the software and tools available in the market and utilizing the one that best fits your requirements is key to a successfully managed project.
As you can see, some effort can go a long way toward avoiding some of the most common mistakes in project management.
While Project management remains an inexact science, many aspects of Project Management have been carefully studied and documented. Fortunately, rigorous guidelines and templates are in place based on such documentation that can help you be more prepared and make you more adept at navigating through situations.
A great tool in mitigating project management mistakes is using SlideUpLift’s project management templates that allow you to visualize the process and make communicating them easier.
Proper schedules and templates for project management, combined with training on how to use them, can help organizations increase the success rate of their projects and avoid costly mistakes.
Here is the complete Project KickOff Presentation for you.
Source: Project KickOff Presentation by SlideUpLift