Albert Einstein once said, "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes in life, and sometimes this can happen in the workplace.
And if you are a project manager, even the smallest of mistakes can have much more significant implications further down the line, making you go over budget and past deadlines.
It may come as no surprise that most organisations are familiar with their projects getting delayed for different reasons. I bet every company has at least one story about a project taking longer than planned or going over budget.
But why is that the case?
If you find yourself failing to meet essential project deadlines or KPI's, you might be making one or more of these prevalent project management mistakes.
Here are 11 of the most common issues projects encounter and what you can do to get your project back on track.
1. The Right Person For The Job
A common problem is when companies put all of their efforts into identifying the right resources for a project instead of spending enough time finding the right person to lead the project.
It happens more often than you think. This is because organisations will choose a project manager based on their availability instead of having the necessary skills.
If a project manager is selected for a project, who is either inexperienced or not the right first for the position can doom a project before it even gets off the ground.
If you want to avoid this mistake, take the time to choose the project manager whose skills match the job required.
A newbie project manager could learn the ropes while on the job, but the process of learning as you go could also lead to failure. Therefore, it is always best to get the most qualified person to manage the project from the start.
2. Communication, Communication, Communication!
Communication is essential in every relationship, and even more so between you and your project team. If you don't communicate properly, or at all, with your team or stakeholders, it's one of the surefire ways to send your project to the grave.
It's best to create a culture of open communication or set out some communication strategies from the outset - such as regular check-ins and deliverable reviews.
This will give you and your team a clear view of project progression and allow you to spot and resolve any issues coming your way proactively.
3. Giving Project Team Members The Wrong Tasks
As we said earlier, it's important to choose the right leader for the project, but you also need to select the right team members and take the time to understand how their particular skill sets will fit into the larger scope of your project.
To be a great project manager, you must know your team - project managers don't just manage projects; they manage people. This means being aware of their strongest attributes, as well as their weaknesses.
You should pay attention to employee performance across various tasks and activities, and if possible, use your project management software to run the numbers for utilisation and profitability.
This way, you can ensure you make the correct choices when you hand out assignments.
If you don't have the luxury of selecting a team to suit the project, then be sure to sit down with your team before you begin and discuss their experience and competencies.
4. Setting Unrealistic Timelines
It's no secret that project managers want to keep stakeholders and management happy, but the wrong way to go about this is by giving optimistic or unrealistic timelines.
If you do this, it will end up with you missing all your deadlines, or even worse; it will cause your employees to burn out by working overtime.
Instead, you should use project management tools to manage your timeline. And don't forget to add a time and money buffer to your project.
5. Changing The Project Scope
When you think of the word "creep," it might evoke a Radiohead song, but it is a significant issue in the project management world where small changes over time lead to a fundamental shift in the project's scope.
Scope creep tends to happen when the project's outcome is misunderstood by the client, management, or project team.
This is why you should develop a clear scope statement at the beginning of your project. If you don't have a clear goal or decide to change the scope half way through, your project will fail.
This can be dangerous and one of the leading causes of cost and time misallocation. Even small changes can have a butterfly effect that will delay the whole operation.
Instead, from the very start, have a clearly defined scope and keep an eye on the project to ensure that it doesn't change as the project moves forward.
6. Using The Wrong Project Structure
You need to remember that project management is not one size fits all. You might have had success with a particular project structure in the past, but don't get comfortable with just one approach and ignore each project's variables.
For example: If you are in a larger project team with eight or more team members, it won't be easy to report to the same project manager.
Just as you, the project manager will struggle to maintain communication and follow-ups with too many team members reporting directly to you.
If you aren't using the proper structure, things will get haywire in no time. Therefore, it is vital to assess each project individually and adapt communication strategies and reporting protocols to suit each new approach.
It may be helpful to educate yourself and your team in umbrella project management methodologies that teach flexible, industry-standard project structures, so each project structure retains an efficient cohesiveness and familiarity.
7. Thinking Software Will Fix Everything
Project management software is only as good as the people who use it. Software is a tool to help you solve problems, not solve them for you.
A good solution can help with project planning, 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 using plain old Excel spreadsheets, but there will be no results if the team isn't using the software.
Find the most suitable project management software for your team and get everyone on board. Then, if the team sees value in the software, they will invest their time in learning and using it.
8. Micro Managing The Project
The project manager doesn't need to be part of every decision or oversee every stage of the process. The project team members were chosen for a reason, and each one of them brings their own expertise to a project.
The project team wants to feel responsible, valued, and empowered, and micromanaging will destroy trust, confidence, and motivation.
It's not easy to let go and trust people, but it is rewarding. You will learn that working in a team produces better results, and is also more fun!
If you stop babysitting everyone, you will have more time to get your work done. You built the team, so let them do their thing.
It's essential for project managers not to micromanage their teams. Instead, It's better to hold scheduled meetings to get updates and progress reports. This builds trust in the group and allows the manager to focus on the more big-picture stuff.
9. Being Reactive Instead Of Proactive
Imagine your project is running smoothly, and it's aligning with your scope and project plan, but then something unexpected comes along, and the project gets derailed.
Even though you and your team mobilise quickly, identifying the best options and solutions based on experience, you haven't got the time to test these solutions viability.
If you act reactively, management by crisis will only leave your project vulnerable to further failure.
A risk assessment provides controls for possible future events and is a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach.
While it's impossible to know every scenario, if you undertake a thorough risk assessment before executing your project plan and focus on that assessment throughout the project, you will be better equipped to deal with a disastrous event and its impact.
10. Ignoring The Project Team's Morale
Team morale and productivity tend to go hand in hand, and if you don't recognise your team's successes, it can have a detrimental effect on your project team's productivity.
It's far too easy to focus on the metrics and numbers, but don't forget the team member that pushed the project to success.
The small victories, reaching short-term objectives and daily goals should be celebrated. Especially, when a project team member makes extra effort to go above and beyond.
One way you could do this would be to develop a performance review system and incorporate it into your project management plan to ensure that performance on projects is measured, reviewed and recognised.
11. Not Evaluating Your Completed Project
It is disappointing that many project managers avoid evaluating a project once it's completed. Whatever the outcome of the project, you should review it at least once.
It will allow you to make a note of all the learning points. Also, if similar issues arise in the future, you will know how to handle them.
You should schedule a brief meeting with the project team, ask questions and document what went well and what didn't. This will allow you to think of new techniques and approaches that might have helped the project.
It's best to keep them in a centralised place accessible to all.
Why Should You Become PRINCE2® Certified?
To Gain First Class Project Management Skills
PRINCE2® is the de facto project management standard. It provides the skills to make you confident about successfully managing projects. That's because PRINCE2® uses a common language, systems and procedures. This allows you to control resources and risks. PRINCE2®'s controls lead to fewer mistakes, but the lessons log teaches you and your team how to learn from them.
Why Should You Implement PRINCE2® In Your Organisation?
PRINCE2® Is the International Standard Method for Project Management. It is recognised as a world-class international product partly because it embodies many years of project management best practice and provides a flexible and adaptable approach for all projects. Its method provides a framework covering the wide variety of disciplines and activities required within a project. PRINCE2® formally recognises responsibilities within a project, focuses on what a project is to deliver (the why, when, and for whom) and provides your organisation's projects with:
✔️ A common, consistent approach
✔️ A controlled and organised start, middle, and end
✔️ Regular reviews of progress against plan and against the Business case flexible decision points
✔️ Assurance that the project continues to have a business justification
✔️ Flexible decision points
✔️ Management control of any deviations from the plan
✔️ The involvement of management and stakeholders at the right time and place during the project
✔️ Good communication channels between the project, project management, and the rest of the organisation
✔️ A means of capturing and sharing lessons learned
✔️ A route to increasing the project management skills and competencies of the organisation's staff at all levels.
Our PRINCE2® Combined Foundation & Practitioner training course will introduce you to PRINCE2® and provide you with a practical understanding of the method that you can use to manage a project and pass the PRINCE2® - 6th Edition Foundation and PRINCE2® - 6th Edition Practitioner examinations.