10 Mistakes Which are Common in Project Management
By Christopher Scordo PMP, ITIL
“To err is human”, and project managers are no different when it comes to making
mistakes. However, knowing which mistakes are common might help you prevent a disaster.
Here are 10 common mistakes most often made by leaders and project managers that
can put the success of your client’s project at risk.
1. Mis-managing Team Member Skill Sets Your team resources are
crucial. Matching them to do the right work is critical for the success of a project.
A good leader knows how to get the optimal results out of the people working for
him (or her), and they know exactly how to best match team members’ skills and abilities
with the task at hand. For example, its no longer enough to know that you have three
web developers on your team that are “jack of all trades”. Knowing their strengths
and weaknesses between database development, business layer coding, or user interface
(UI) scripting will allow you to optimize your team’s abilities.
2. Putting an Inexperienced Project Manager in Charge Taking charge
of a project is hard. it’s even harder if the person in charge doesn’t have enough
experience. For highly visible projects, projects with complex activities, or projects
with more than 10 team members; it’s best to have a project manager who is experienced
in everything from status meetings to managing risks and expectations. Do not compromise
on project manager experience when it comes to critical project activities. If the
project at hand is a complex web development activity, do not assign a project manager
with zero technical experience. In theory, a competent project manager should have
the ability to execute across subject matters. In reality, successful project managers
frequently have a background in a specific expertise.
3. Mis-managing Project Scope Scope doesn’t always have to be set
in stone. It does sometimes require compromise, and project managers should have
a scope management process in place for handling requests that change scope; and
know and understand exactly how the request will impact everything from budget to
schedule. A project manager then needs to make a call on whether or not the request
can be accommodated. Contrary to popular belief, the most common issue in managing
a project’s scope is NOT accepting unplanned requirements; its when project managers
do not accurately communicate those new requirements via the project schedule and
4. Poor Scheduling Project schedule are there for a reason, they
help the project stay on course (and finish on time), and are one of the most crucial
measures of project success. It also helps avoid the domino-effect, which results
in project tasks falling behind. Project managers need to run a tight ship when
it comes to scheduling, and ensure ALL project stakeholders are aware of the project
timeline and any changes that occur. One of the most common “surprises” that cause
issues on a project is when a client is unaware of scheduled deadlines, so be sure
the project schedule is always front and center.
5. Ego Problems Project managers should never have an ego that
discourages team members from making suggestions. While the final call will always
rest with the project manager, taking an approach of “my way or the highway” is
dangerous and often results in valuable feedback from team members not being laid
out on the table. It also appears condescending to the client, cultivates poor team
morale, and over-values the role of the project manager. The project manager’s role
is to ensure team members work optimally to achieve project objectives, not to be
a “king” of others.
6. Underestimating Project Effort Project managers have to ensure
they remain realistic about what the project requires in order to prevent problems
further down the line. Often times during planning activities, project managers
are keen to appease their client and ensure there are no conflicts regarding the
cost, schedule, or budget of a newly awarded project. This can sometimes lead to
a “sunshine policy”, where new project managers are hesitant to accurately reflect
the effort involved with project requirements. This type of underestimating is especially
problematic, because the burden falls on team members to ensure work is performed
faster or cheaper.
7. Letting Small Issues Evolve into Big Problems When project issues
surface, they need to be addressed straight away. Whether it is a project requirement
that was misunderstood by a team member, and requires re-work, or a mistake in the
project budget; it is the job of the project manager to clearly address these issues
(and own up to them) as they arise. Many projects fail because small issues turn
in to huge problems, causing distrust among the client and project team. As soon
as an issue rears its head, tackle it directly.
8. Not Knowing when to ask for Help If you are stuck as a project
manager, ask for help. You do not need to know everything and being arrogant and
not asking for help can put a project at serious risk. If it is technical or subject
matter expertise you need assistance with, start by asking your team for advice.
If you need assistance managing your client or project, reach out to a colleague
or upper management. Most importantly, be honest and positive with your request
and you will find others will respect your ability to ask for help.
9. Saying Yes to Everything As a project manager, you should be
flexible and visibly eager to assist your client. But saying yes all the time is
a bad habit that can ultimately lead to projects that spiral out of scope, and team
members who are over worked. As a project manager you need to know when enough is
enough, and most importantly, how to diplomatically reject client requests that
do not allow for more time (or budget).
10. Ignoring Team Mistakes Mistakes happen, it’s human nature.
As a project manager, it’s up to you to spot team member mistakes and deal with
them immediately in a diplomatic, positive fashion. If the client is affected, inform
them of how you plan on fixing the mistake, and (most importantly) how it will be
prevented in the future. Failure to address team mistakes results in a culture where
resources no longer care about quality, and this can poison a project.
As project managers, our highest priority is our client’s success. As such, this
can sometimes lead to decision making that, while good intentioned, does not result
in a well-run project or happy team resources. Being a project manager is no easy
task and while mistakes will happen, knowing what the most common errors are could
help you nip them in the bud before they derail your project.