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10 Common Project Management Mistakes And How To Overcome Them?

As a manager, do you find that despite all your best efforts your team repeatedly fails to meet project deadlines and key performance indicators? The reason: you may be committing a few serious project management mistakes.

As a project manager, your smallest errors can add up and have detrimental implications down the line. The consequence: unmet deadlines, spending over budget and an unhappy client!

How can you overcome these issues? Pay heed to the following ten project management mistakes and how you can overcome them:

#1 The Wrong Person is Assigned to Head the Project

You may have an eager employee who is determined to demonstrate his/her leadership skills. This person may not have adequate skills, experience or specialized expertise that a particular project requires. Nevertheless, as a manager you may feel it is okay to take a chance. Therein lies your mistake. Your team member might be a cordial and enthusiastic individual, but a lack of technical expertise or experience can affect the project outcome.

In this case, let reason override your emotions and assign the project to someone who has specialized knowledge about this project as well as leadership experience. It is more important to select a lead with a skill set that matches the project requirements.

#2 Poor Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of a professional relationship, especially between a manager and his or her team. Lack of adequate communication skills can drive a project into the grave. Foster a culture that encourages open communication. Create simple communication solutions when the project starts.

Examples of this include frequent check-ins, reviews, view project progression, offering feedback or heads-up to resolve issues, etc. By engaging with your team on a consistent basis, you can easily keep your client in the know-how about how the project is coming along. It improves your relationship with the client as well.

#3 Mismanagement of Team Members’ Skill Sets

Choosing the best leader for a project is just as important as selecting team members with right skill sets. As a manager, you have to take time out to understand how each set of skills can fit into the larger scope of the project.

If you don’t have the authority to handpick the team to work on the project, then sit down with the entire team and discuss each member’s competencies and experience. Get into the specifics. It is not sufficient to know whether a particular member has experience or not, ask for proof. Filter out your team members’ strengths and areas for improvement to assign their workload accordingly.

#4 Having a Broad Scope

It is not uncommon to have a project with a scope that seems to have an increasing scope while the prices stays the same. This type of scope creep where the focus of the project changes regularly over the course of the project should not be viewed as an expected outcome of project completion.

Scope creep occurs when the outcome of the assignment is poorly understood by the management, project team and client. To avoid this issue, create a clear scope statement at the start of the project. An ideal scope statement must include a clear definition of the project’s goals, project constraints, the “in” and “out” of scope aspect and deliverables.

There must a universal, well-documented and firm system for approval so that changes to the schedule, budget, scope and resources are carefully scrutinized and approved. Regularly refer to the project’s scope statement to make project decisions. Project scope must have some flexibility but a few check and balances are nevertheless required to avoid widespread scope creep.

#5 Over-Optimistic Scheduling

Creating and maintaining a realistic schedule for the entire project is vital. You cannot be over-optimistic with the scheduling process. This usually occurs when the manager is eager to impress the client. However this is not feasible nor will it ensure the timely delivery of a quality project. An unrealistic schedule will put undue stress on your team to meet these deadlines, which will likely throw the entire project off balance.

The schedule is meant to direct your team on “when and what” aspects of their roles. For the client, it provides milestones and their due dates. To create an effective schedule, make it a collaborative process. Check in with your team on the time estimates and project effort. Incorporate this information with the client’s schedule. This will help you create a compromise between the client’s expectations and the team’s availability, ensuring a high quality finish with the project.

#6 Project Plan Lacks Details

An effective project plan has a direct influence on the project’s outcome. Unfortunately it is also the aspect that is often misunderstood. A project plan doesn’t just include a chronology of the project outcome. It also includes elements of the planning process such as the budget, quality metrics and schedule. Essentially, it is a route planner. It prevents confusion in your team and provides them with clear metrics ensuring the success of the project.

To ensure you have the best project plan, at the start of the project clearly identify all the tasks and activities needed to complete the project’s scope. Mention all the project deliverables and the time required to complete them. Be flexible for amendments to your plan.

#7 Failing to Recognize the Team’s Successes

Productivity and team morale go hand-in-hand. As managers, we sometimes get caught up in metrics, deadlines and number crunching that we forget to appreciate our team member’s efforts and successes. All small successes, met objectives and goals and any extra effort put in by your team members to advance the project should be celebrated. A performance review system should ideally be a focus of your project management plan. Make sure to measure performance, review it and recognize it regularly.

#8 Using the Wrong Project Structure

Project management is not a one-size-fits-all formula. In fact, it’s dangerous to use the same approach with each project. Your structure should change and adapt according to the variables of the project. For example, one structure may be suitable for a project that requires a team of 6 but that same structure will be highly unsuitable for a team of 15.

To avoid project failure, it is imperative to review each project and adapt your reporting and communication strategies accordingly. It may help you and your team to become familiar with project management methodologies that teach flexible, industry-related project structures.

#9 Being Too Reactive

You may be on time and in line with your project scope when suddenly an unexpected event occurs, derailing the project. Your team may mobilize quickly and identify the best solutions but you have no time or opportunity to test drive these solutions. Managing reactively makes your project vulnerable to more failure.

To overcome this concern, engage in risk management. This is a process of identifying, studying and responding to factors that pose a risk to your project’s success. This must be done throughout the life cycle of the project. A robust risk valuation provides solutions for future mishaps and is a proactive step.

#10 Resisting Change

Flexibility is an intrinsic quality in a project’s success. Keep in mind that small changes occur on a daily basis in your project, i.e. missed meetings, change in the direction of your project, employee absence, etc. Being too rigid will cause you to miss the deadline. Flexibility isn’t something you plan; it is an ongoing process. You need to have trust and an open mind with your team to be able to handle change.

Having the knowledge of these ten project management mistakes and their solutions, you can become a more apt project manager.

To learn about effective project management tools, visit ViduPM.