In project management it can be easy to make mistakes. There are lots of moving parts in terms of tasks and people to keep track of and, if you’re in IT, you’ll often find that there are a range of technologies you could be dealing with.
While no two projects are the same, the issues that are faced and the impact these issues have on the project are often quite similar. And even senior project managers can make mistakes when tangled up in a large and complex project or faced with multiple change requests.
To help, below we’ve created a list of six mistakes project managers commonly make and how you can avoid them.
1. A lack of resources and skills
A shortfall in the resources needed for a project can cause failure. Plus, in the same way, if you’ve plenty of resources available but none of them have the desired skills needed for a given task, it will also be hard for the project to succeed. In our experience, the latter can often be more damaging than the first as you could find yourself going beyond the budget assigned to the project in order to fulfill the objectives that were set out at the start.
So, ensure at the start of the project that all tasks created have the correct resource available to avoid scope creep and the budget being stretched.
2. Doing everything yourself (including considering issues and opportunities)
Project managers should be open to suggestions from their project team, and it’s therefore important for communication lines to be open for members to approach the project manager as this can help aid the workload of both parties.
A project manager will not have all the best answers and if a project team finds that their suggestions are not wanted or ignored, this can discourage the sharing of ideas which could have contributed to the project in a positive way. Nor will they always have the bandwidth, and perhaps even the right skills, to do everything that’s needed to run a project effectively.
Hence, in terms of “the doing,” learning how to delegate to the correct resource is key in a project management role to ensure that resource is used effectively and without waste.
3. The incorrect estimation of time and budget
When it comes to estimating a budget, and an amount of time, for a project it can be easy to overlook potential problems or “things you should know.” At a bird’s eye view there may be tasks that you might not have considered potential costs for – so, it’s important at the start of the project to get some expert advice surrounding any areas that you’re not fully knowledgeable on.
This third-party input and a bottom-up budgeting approach will mean that you’ll arrive at a reasonable estimate of project cost that’s based on the needs of the project team.
4. Failing to manage project scope
A change in scope can be a common cause of failure in any project. Although it would also be naïve to think that there will be no changes once the project scope has been agreed during the planning stage.
It’s therefore vital that there’s a procedure in place to handle requests to change the project scope – with any change request reviewed and assessed to manage the impact of the change on the budget and schedule. By managing change requests with such a procedure, it helps to avoid scope creep where uncontrolled changes in a project scope occur.
5. The project objective is not clear
If you don’t have a project objective that’s widely understood by the project team and all stakeholders, then this can adversely impact the success of any project.
Conversely, with a solid and clear objective, there then comes the need for the objective to be measured – i.e. how can we track and agree that the objective has been met and the project can close? For instance, will it be when a network is up and running with traffic passing through it? Will it be based on a satisfaction survey completed by external customers?
It’s therefore important to spend sufficient time at the start of the project on agreeing a measurable objective to ensure that all project members understand everything they need to achieve at the very start.
6. A lack of honesty with the project sponsor
One of the many responsibilities that a project manager has is to keep the project sponsor informed of the project’s progress and potential problems. However, issues will occur where a project manager falls into the vicious cycle of repeatedly painting a better picture of the project than what actually exists.
This can damage the project in a number of ways, the most concerning being that it reduces the sponsor’s confidence in the project manager and their planning skills. It also puts the project manager in the difficult position of having to explain at a later date why the project board and sponsor were not alerted of the problems earlier.
Honesty really is the best policy with project management. Being honest with your project sponsor can be challenging though – however, be ready to offer data and facts, and to share your recommendations or an alternative solution if appropriate.
So, that’s six of the project management mistakes that we commonly see. What would you add? Please let us know in the comments.