Four Project Management Pitfalls To Be Aware Of
Summary: Whether you are new to project management or a seasoned project management professional, chances are you have been faced with a scenario that can seriously impact your project. If you follow your project management tools and resources, you can avoid some of the common issues however there are some pitfalls that you may not see coming. Let us explore how some pitfalls can be avoided based on lessons we learned through our project management journey.
Project Management Institute defines Project Managers as “Change Agents who use their skills and expertise to deliver on project goals and inspire the project team with a sense of shared purpose and drive business results”1.
The role of Project Manager is to deliver a project successfully within scope, time, and budget. There are many factors that make a project successful. Therefore, it is equally important for Project Managers to also be aware of any red flags that can derail their project.
Four Common Project Management Pitfalls
Let us take a closer look at some commonly occurring missteps that if not managed early and effectively can impact your project.
Lack of Communication
The importance of communication cannot be emphasized enough in a project. Lack of communication or not tailoring the messages to your audience can negatively impact the project. Communication is an art. The ability to cater to your messages at all levels ranging from the project team, vendors, senior leadership, and your executive sponsors is a skill that will serve you well.
It is critical to ensure that project communication is timely, effective and serves the purpose of the audience. Setting up a regular cadence with various teams will ensure that all are kept in the loop on a regular basis.
Failing to Manage Expectations
Another key aspect of managing a project well is to ensure all stakeholders are in alignment and know what to expect. Managing expectations and communication go hand in hand. The way to think about this is, managing expectations is the ‘What’ and communication is the ‘How’. For example, if a project has unrealistic timelines, your role as a project manager is to leverage tools such as Project Plan and Risk Assessment to articulate what can be realistically delivered by that date.
It is important to utilize your Communication Plan to ensure all stakeholders are aligned on project expectations.
Ever heard the phrase, “While the hood is open…” clients love that phrase! A traditional example of scope creep is client’s initial ask is to build a bicycle but with every conversation, it takes you away from the original ask and you are now charged with building a motorcycle instead. This is scope creep and yes it happens often. If you do not control it early, it will impact your project. At times added scope may be the right thing to do because if you do not, it may create other issues. However, be sure to clearly state the impacts of added scope to your schedule, budget, and resources. The way to deal with scope creep is to understand what the client wants and why? Is it aligned with the objective of the project? or is it additional scope? If it is the latter, is the client ready to expand timelines and most likely accept the increased cost to support it? A well-managed project is one where all stakeholders are aware and aligned on the project scope as it forms the nucleus for all other project management elements.
Any changes to scope that are accepted must be tracked via a change request that includes the impact on schedule, budget, and resources.
Insufficient Resources on a Project Team
Delivering a project successfully is a team sport! It is important to understand what skill sets and knowledge are required to deliver a successful project. Sometimes you are assigned resources that have the capacity but not the right skill set. Do not try to plug the holes on your own or by relying on strong players on the team as it may impact their capacity. An overworked team will have a low morale which can be an issue if not addressed. It is also important to note that not having the right skill or knowledge is different than lack of experience.
Assess your players early and be clear with your clients on the needs of the project. You can have a perfectly planned project, but it is useless if you do not have the right project team to execute against it.
A good Project Manager is one who knows which tools and resources to use throughout the project lifecycle, but a strong Project Manager also has soft skills to lead their team and stakeholders to project completion. Being a strong communicator, with solid people skills and knowing how to leverage your resources will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls and become a successful Project Manager.
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1. Project Management Institute, ‘Who are Project Managers’,
(Accessed 21 February 2021)