Project management is often complex, involving many moving parts and diverse stakeholders.
Stakes are often high and mistakes costly.
Despite this, many project management mistakes are common – and they could be harming the bottom line of your business. Here are ten to look out for.
Underestimating the Scope
When a need for a project has arisen, it can be tempting to rush the investigation stage to get it underway as soon as possible. However, this can spell disaster later in the project, as the scope of the project has not been correctly assessed.
What may have seemed simple in theory can cause major delays and issues in practice. If this has not been correctly investigated, the project can hit roadblocks, and this can delay the anticipated end date.
Take the time to really understand what the project requires, as well as any risks that may jeopardise the timeline. Underestimation of the scope can be easy to do, as features and tasks can be added onto the project without much notice.
Not Clarifying All Assumptions
Whether you are working on a project in-house or as an outsourced solution, all assumptions about the project should be fully clarified.
When a project need is identified, each person often has a different idea of what the end product will look like. This is where clarifying assumptions is incredibly important, as these can put the rest of the project off track. If those using the final product have a wildly different idea of what it should look like, the project won’t be a success.
In-depth meetings should be held to ensure that everyone working on the project or using the result are on the same page. During the planning stages, assumptions should be proven true or false. These can be assumptions on what the final product will do, the scope, and any risks that may occur.
This will play into your risk management plan, as you outline what you need to make the project a success.
Using the Wrong Project Management Tool
There are so many project management tools that promise to make your task much easier. However, using the wrong tool for the project at hand will only serve to make things more complicated for you and the team.
While it’s tempting to use a tool that has been hyped up on the internet or by other project managers, you have to consider whether they’re appropriate for the project at hand. You may want to use the most comprehensive Gantt Chart software on the market, but this may be too complex for the task at hand.
Don’t just jump in with the trendiest, latest tool that you want to test out – think about how this will really impact the project flow.
No Clearly Defined Success Measures
If you’re unsure of what constitutes success for your project, then you won’t know when you’re on the right path. These can include practical measures of success like quality, customer satisfaction, cost and schedule.
Keeping your finger on the pulse with these will alert you if the project begins to spiral out of control. Overrunning schedules and costs can prevent the project from ever being completed, so keep on top of any changes.
While there should be an overall goal in terms of cost or schedule, there should also be staged measures of success. You can visualise this within a timeline, which will give a higher-level view of the situation. That way, if a roadblock or unidentified risk appears, you can account for these.
Selecting the Wrong Team
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your colleagues is essential for building a team that is up to the task. You may know who the strong, reliable colleagues are – but do they have the skillset to complement others in the team?
If you go by general qualities, you might end up with many strong leaders, but not the technical specialist that you need. Weigh up what each member brings to the team and identify any skills gaps that you may need to fill.
There is an element of office politics to consider within this too. As much as you would hope that adults can get along with one another on the project, this is a risk that needs to be managed.
Think about previous projects in which tempers have flared and relationships have become strained, then identify the root cause. This could be conflicting personalities, stress, or something more controllable. Take steps to select a team that can work together well and deal with these issues professionally.
Lack of Communication
Communication is the lifeblood of any project, between members of the team and externally. When communication begins to break down, the results can often be disastrous. Ideally, schedule regular meetings to ensure that communication takes place even during the busiest times in the project.
Tiered communication structures should allow for reporting on the project at each level. This saves time, as not every person needs to be kept in the loop of every decision. When it comes to crunch time at the end of the project, this saved time can become invaluable.
The project management tool that you use should also aid in the communication required in the project. If it contains a timeline feature, then you can refer to this quickly to see how the project is progressing.
Defining roles and responsibilities for every member of the team is essential. Without clear actions and tasks, it can be easy for team members to assume that these fall under another person’s purview. These tasks then fall through the cracks, which can harm the project further down the line.
At the outset, the roles should be defined and the tasks assigned confirmed through regular meetings. There should also be a timeline for each of these tasks and a direct report, who will update should the task run over the anticipated time.
If there’s any ambiguity regarding these roles or if they change over time, you should be prepared to redefine them.
While you want to assign roles and responsibilities clearly, you don’t want to babysit those that oversee them. This is a waste of your time and of theirs, so give the team room to complete their tasks. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t step in to lead the project, but you don’t need to be involved in every single task.
With those regularly scheduled updates already in the calendar and comprehensive timeline, your team will know what is expected of them. If there are delays, they can let you know without you being required to look over their shoulder.
At the end of the project, you may never want to look at the outcome again! After a long period of time working on the project, it’s understandable that when it’s finished, you want to wash your hands of it.
However, an evaluation is necessary to improve the outcome. This retrospective should improve the end product and also inform the process for the next project. Noting any risks that have impacted the project will show you what you need to be aware of in future.
Polling the people that use the outcome of the project most often will also highlight issues. What may have seemed feasible on paper may not be fantastic in practice, but you won’t know this unless you communicate with the end users.
Lack of Qualifications
Project management qualifications are essential to the success of the project; without these, the project can quickly derail. Within methodologies like PRINCE2, you learn about the competencies, risks and roles that will boost your project to success.
As a PRINCE2 practitioner, you’re much better placed to control the scope and risks that a project contains. With this methodology, there are strict guidelines that can ensure the project stays on track, without spiralling out of control.
This gives your project management role a real direction, as you understand the steps that you need to take through the project. This kind of framework is ideal to take the project from initial concept to completion and evaluation.