The greatest mistakes new project managers make and how to avoid them

Every project manager strives for successful project completion, i.e., they want to achieve the previously defined goals. Whether this succeeds depends on many factors. These include resources such as personnel and materials, but also the skills and commitment of the project managers themselves. They are responsible for planning, coordinating and monitoring the project, for some tasks alone, for many others with the support of their team. In-depth knowledge is required to lead the project to success. But especially at the beginning of one's career, one can at best fall back on theoretical knowledge, but not on experience. However, since everyone has started from scratch once, this should not be an obstacle to successfully implementing a project. In this article you will learn which mistakes can occur and how to avoid them in order to lead your project to success.
An ice cream cone next to a melting ice cream scoop.


Not defining clear project objectives

The project's performance goal must be formulated clearly, precisely and verifiably to describe the desired state to be achieved by the project. It serves as a guideline and sets the direction in which the project should develop. The performance target represents the desired end result.
Before starting the project, it is important to define the initial situation. This should include an analysis of what the current state is, what the target state should be and what the goals and expectations are. In addition, the tasks that are necessary to achieve the desired goal must be identified. A helpful method for defining goals is SMART formulation, which ensures that goals are specific, measurable, attractive, realistic and timed. It is also important to determine when a task can be considered complete in order to perceive an achieved goal as such.
If the project goal is not clearly defined and the tasks to achieve the goal are not clearly defined, the magic triangle of time, cost and quality can be compromised. Without defined tasks, the quality of the work suffers, while time and costs keep increasing because things have to be done over and over again. Therefore, it is important not to constantly expand the project scope of work in order to avoid unnecessary work and rising costs. As a project manager, it is important to be able to say "no" once in a while. This creates clarity and enables efficient and effective work.

Poor communication

Communication is of great importance for achieving the common project goal and it can take place between the project participants in many ways. Each project participant needs information in order to successfully complete their tasks. Since every project is unique and different actors are involved, it is the project manager's task to clarify the individual communication needs of the participants in advance. Software can be used to facilitate the exchange of information and ensure that everyone is always informed about the current status of the work.
In addition, regular meetings can be used to maintain face-to-face contact and update everyone involved. Transparency plays a crucial role in ensuring that information reaches the relevant people in a timely manner. At the same time, good communication in dealing with stakeholders is of great importance.

Neglecting stakeholder management

Stakeholders have a great influence on the project because they have a legitimate interest in the project or have an impact on the project, which can be positive or negative. In order to know the attitude of a stakeholder and to be able to assess the importance of their interests and needs, a stakeholder analysis can be used. It makes it possible to classify stakeholders according to their importance and to identify possible conflicts. 
Stakeholders with great influence but negative attitudes should be accommodated as far as possible. Their interests and criticism should be taken into account and, if possible, compromises should be found. Something cannot always be implemented immediately, but if it is communicated well, conflicts can be avoided. In this way, a negative attitude that could have a negative impact on the project in the form of delays can be counteracted. But stakeholders with positive attitudes should not be neglected either. In this way, trust is built up with them and at the same time they are satisfied because their ideas are implemented - so they do not unintentionally become stakeholders with a negative influence.

Underestimating project risks

Timely and appropriate identification of risks is crucial for the success of a project and for efficient project management. Possible risks are identified and analysed before the start of the project and appropriate measures are defined to deal with them. If necessary, a contingency plan is also drawn up. Continuous monitoring of the project and adequate communication are essential.
A lack of risk management means that, in the worst case, necessary precautionary measures are not taken. This can lead to the project goal not being achieved and the project failing. To avoid this, risk management is essential. Experiences from completed projects, such as documents, consulting experts or holding a workshop can help.
Especially in complex projects, where new developments are constantly occurring, risk management is of great importance. This way, the contingency plan can be quickly resorted to. This helps to keep a better eye on the budget and calm the nerves of the management.
However, as risks may change during the course of the project, it is advisable to repeat the process regularly.


If a project manager repeatedly interferes in the tasks of his team members, gives detailed instructions and leaves no freedom to solve things in their own way, this is micromanagement. Especially in terms of creativity, this behaviour can be very restrictive and bring the project to a sudden halt. Micromanagement also gives the feeling that the project manager does not trust the staff and believes that control leads to better results. Often the exact opposite is achieved. Employees feel controlled and, in the worst case, lose motivation for their work.
Project managers who behave this way should find alternative ways to check the progress of the project. For example, regular meetings could be held in which all important aspects are discussed. Here, all team members have the opportunity to report on the status of their tasks, while the project manager can make suggestions for improvement. In addition, team members can ask for support at these meetings. In this way, the project manager maintains control over the project without monitoring or restricting the team members too much.

Inadequate project monitoring and control

Project monitoring and control is primarily about maintaining control over a project. To this end, data is collected throughout the project to enable decisions to be made about costs and deadlines. If this is not done, deviations can occur in the project, which means that deficiencies can be detected too late. This would unnecessarily delay the project and drive up costs.
The project manager should always keep an eye on the current progress of the project and initiate countermeasures in case of deviations from the plan. 
This goes hand in hand with risk management as well as stakeholder management and communication in the project team. After all, these points play an important role in monitoring and controlling and ultimately in the success of the project.


There are many reasons why a project can fail. One of these reasons is the project manager. As mentioned before, it is the project manager's job to monitor and keep track of many aspects. It is not always possible for everything to run smoothly and, depending on the size of the project, support may be needed as the project manager cannot manage everything alone. Nevertheless, it is important to realise that many factors in a project are closely linked. Over time, you gain experience, develop routines and eventually lead the project to success.

Mistakes made by new project managers - the IAPM logo
Author: IAPM internal
Keywords: Project management, Tip

The IAPM certification

The certification can be taken via a reputable online examination procedure. The costs are based on the gross domestic product of your country of origin.

From the IAPM Blog

Become a Network Official

Do you want to get involved in project management in your environment and contribute to the further development of project management? Then become active as an IAPM Network Official or as a Network Official of the IAPM Network University. 

For better readability, we usually only use the generic masculine form in our texts. Nevertheless, the expressions refer to members of all genders.