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Top 8 project management mistakes: Here’s how to tackle them

Top 8 project management mistakes: Here’s how to tackle them

Introduction:

Nobody is born an expert. As they say, ‘you live and you learn’. Just like everything else in life, nobody just wakes up one day and turns into an exceptional project manager. That’s how the process goes. You ask any accomplished project managers, they will surely say that they built the skills over the course of their journey. You make mistakes, you learn from it, and you grow.

Unsurprisingly, most project management mistakes are common. That means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  So, if you study the common problems of project management, then you can learn from the mistakes that others make and try not repeating them while managing your projects. 

Below mentioned are 8 common project management mistakes and advice on how to solve them:

1. Not making the project objectives clear

One of the primary steps that a project manager has to take to ensure project success is to set clear goals. Can you start your journey without knowing where you are going? Not likely, I suppose. Likewise, if you don’t have answers to questions such as ‘what is the purpose of this project?’ ‘Why is it important for the organization?’, then the chances of you delivering the results will be quite low. 

What happens when you don’t clarify the purpose? One, since most projects have multiple tasks you could get lost in the nitty-gritty details. Also, when you don’t understand the big picture you will struggle to define what is a priority. Finally, with no clear destination in mind, you will not be able to come up with an effective roadmap. 

There are many ways through which a project manager can identify the objectives. One of the most popular among them is ‘SMART’. It is a criterion used in project management to define goals. SMART stands for

  • SPECIFIC: Is the goal addressing a specific area of improvement? Or, answering a specific need?

  • MEASURABLE: Is the goal quantifiable? Or, does it, at least, allow for measurable progress?

  • ATTAINABLE: Is the goal realistic? Does it take into account available resources and existing constraints?

  • RELEVANT: Does the goal align with other business objectives?

  • TIME-BOUND: Does the goal have a deadline?

You can also adopt the above strategy to simplify the process of setting objectives. This ensures that you take a strong first step towards project success. 

2. Not setting the priorities right

‘If you don’t have time, you don’t have priorities’ – Timothy Ferris

One of the complaints that you constantly hear from project managers is that they are struggling with deadlines. Many times, it is not because they have not been dedicated to the projects but because they couldn’t prioritize tasks. In fact, it is safe to say that the difference between a successfully executed project and a failed project is the art of prioritization. 

As a project manager, you have to deal with multiple tasks. In an age of demanding business environment, if you don’t know what your priorities are, you will end up spending your precious time on unimportant tasks. It is quite common to find managers making everything a ‘high’ priority. The result is that nothing becomes important to work on. Work will pile up and deadlines will not be met. But, if you want to be productive and get more from your team, you need to categorize tasks as critical, important and good-to-do. 

Heard of 80-20 rule? It states that 20% of the causes determine 80% of the effects. Then, to be an efficient project manager, you need to understand what those 20% tasks and assign a high level of importance to them. 

To know more, read the following article:

https://www.greycampus.com/blog/project-management/six-step-process-to-priroritize-project-tasks

3. Not effectively communicating with the team members

Some project managers make the mistake of not spending enough time communicating with their team members. They feel it is a waste of time. They would rather do some concrete work than indulge in discussing their decisions/ideas. But, what they forget is any project is a collaborative effort. Though you are the leader of the project, you need to make sure that your team is on the same page as you are on. 

It is simply not possible to do all the tasks on your own. That is why you have a team in the first place. Think about this. How will you know what the team members are working on? How will you monitor their progress? Without knowing the goal of the project, can they work at their optimal levels? Will they take the ownership of the project if you don’t involve them in the decision making process? When you mull over these questions, you will understand how important communication is. It has the potential to grind your entire project to a halt. 

In order to avoid this common project management mistake, hold regular meetings to take updates and feedback from team members. Make sure you communicate to them any important changes to the project or any decisions that could impact the direction of the project. 

4. Not being open to changes

Inflexibility is a big no in project management. Changes tend to be inevitable in any project. And, if you cannot adapt to them, then it could spell a disaster for the entire project itself. While perseverance is a virtue that we need to pursue, a project manager shouldn’t drag it to the level of doggedness. 

Accepting change is a difficult task for most project managers, especially for those who are new to the job. They view changes as problems which are messing up their schedules. But, such resistance is completely futile. The best way to look at change requests is to see them as opportunities to improve the project and deliver the best results to the customers. 

However, this doesn’t mean that project manager accept every change requested by the stakeholders. Most times, these changes could be due to resource issues in project management. An effective manager has the skill to ensure which requests can be accepted and which cannot be. For that, he/she needs to clearly define the criteria for choosing and implementing a particular change.

5. Failing to manage risks

Being reactive and not planning ahead can make you fall short on deadlines and resource targets. It’s a mistake that you find many project managers making. Who likes to think of the worst case scenario? Don’t we all believe that everything works in our favor? In project management, however, this view can spell trouble for the goals you want to achieve. 
When the project fails, it is easy to complain that something unexpected came up and it was not in your hands to control it. But, a true leader is a visionary who can anticipate problems and plan for them accordingly. That’s what separates an excellent project manager and a mediocre one. Therefore, if you want to stand out from the rest of the crowd in your organization, make sure you brush up your risk management skills.

So, how do you manage risks in a project? Below are some steps one can follow for effective risk management:

  • Identify the potential risks

  • Analyse the effects those risks could have on the project

  • Develop a mitigation plan in case the risk becomes a reality

  • Assign a team member to handle the risk (in case, the risk is small)

  • Monitor the status of risks on a frequent basis

  • Communicate with the stakeholders about the potential threats

6. Not working with a project management tool

Managing a project is a demanding task. So, it makes sense that you take as much help as you can to make the project less complex. In this age of project management software boom, it can be costly to not use a software tool to help you manage the projects. If you two people lead the similar projects, the one who uses a project management tool will be much more efficient than the one who doesn’t. Projects are all about meeting deadlines within the specified time. Therefore, you can understand how important these tools are.

How does a project management tool help you become productive? It can automate mundane and repetitive work, allowing you to focus on important tasks. Also, it helps you share documents, contacts and other information conveniently with your team members. Further, a project management tool helps you communicate effectively with the stakeholders. Finally, tracking and monitoring a project becomes easier by using a tool. 

How to choose a project management tool? Read the following article 

https://www.greycampus.com/blog/project-management/five-useful-project-management-tools-for-agile-projects

7. Forgetting to focus on people involved

Project management is mostly about people management. And many project managers fail to understand this. If you cannot manage your team well, can you help them work efficiently? If the customers are not convinced by what you say, can you meet their expectations? The answer to both these questions is ‘no’. As a project manager, you spend a significant part of time communicating, contacting and managing people. Hence, if you fail at this, you also fail at executing your project.

An efficient project manager is an enabler. He contributes to a positive and healthy environment in which his/her team members thrive. He/she understands that people are different and hence has the skill to handle people across the spectrum. The other important aspect of people management is the ability to listen. A lot of team members complain that they don’t get a say. Rather than forcing decisions down their throats, a good project manager works collaboratively and gives ownership to team members. 

Learning how to manage people is a life-long skill. There will always be something you can improve on. The best way to build it is to analyze your interactions with people and how else you could have reacted. 

8. Not delegating the tasks 

Some perfectionist project managers try to do everything on their own. They like to be in control of everything and end up micromanaging. They don’t realize that projects happen through collaborative team effort and not by single individuals alone. In the end, they burn themselves out without achieving the targets set for the team.

Why should you delegate? Delegation allows the project managers to utilize the different capabilities of the team and deliver optimal results. It frees up his/her time to focus on critical and important tasks. When you hand down tasks to your team members, they feel that they have an important role to play. Without job satisfaction, a team member cannot be motivated to give his hundred percent. 

Further, a project manager is expected to coach the team members to improve their skills. Delegation gives an excellent opportunity for the project manager to share his skills and knowledge and in turn empower the team. 

Want to be a successful project manager? Then, build skills to identify which tasks can be passed down to your subordinates. You should learn to be comfortable with somebody else doing the tasks in their own way. Even, if you are ultimately responsible for such tasks. 

Takeaway

Every project will have something to teach us. It is very unlikely that you will be able to avoid mistakes completely while managing a project. Each project is different and comes with its own external variables which you cannot control.  But, there are some common mistakes that majority of project managers make. By learning about the common issues with project management, you can at least avoid some of the mistakes that others make. In order to grow in your project manager, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you learn from others’ mistakes, it’s a sure way to achieve success in your career. 

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About The Author

Madhavi Bodepudi studied organizational psychology and she believes that success in the corporate world depends on Kaizen (Japanese philosophy on continuous improvement). As such, she follows up on the latest tools and techniques to improve personal and professional efficiency. She regularly writes blog posts on Project Management and Quality Management. In her free time, she mentors students preparing for various international tests. 

Madhavi Bodepudi

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