Project management mistakes you should avoid at all costs

Two Post-its on a table with the inscription "Plan A" and "Plan B".
Project management is a multifaceted and very complex matter in which no one can be prepared for all situations. However, experienced project managers can anticipate many things and are always prepared for unexpected turns. Just as there are promising tactics and strategies, there are also many standard mistakes that can lead to everything going wrong in the course of a project.

Project failures

If you ask entrepreneurs how important they consider project management, almost all of them answer that project management is essential for the success of their company. It is therefore all the more important to entrust project management to someone who really knows the ropes and avoids rookie mistakes. While one statistic says that 97% of all business leaders consider project management crucial, another statistic says that less than 3% of all companies actually complete 100% of their projects successfully. Shockingly, the average failure rate is almost 70%. This may also be related to the fact that, according to a study by Wrike, only 56% of all project managers have a certification.

Defining goals is the absolute foundation

But enough about numbers and statistics. It can be summarised that by far not all projects are brought to a successful end, for various reasons. This article is about mistakes that people like to make and that put the success of your projects and thus your company at risk. Analysts name the lack of a clear business objective as one of the main mistakes. This applies to all projects: If you have not defined where the journey is going, you will never reach your goal. Sounds completely banal - and yet many companies make the mistake of not setting a clearly outlined and defined goal at the very beginning. It is also a question of recognising when this goal has been reached. Especially in development, one sometimes overshoots the mark, which can lead to problems. When defining the goal, it also does not hurt to think about what the purpose of the project is and why the project is important for the company and its strategy. The KPIs that are to be measured and achieved must be defined as well as the actual goal.

Setting smart goals

A good strategy for setting goals is SMART. The SMART criteria are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. This means that the project criteria must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. By checking these criteria, one can easily find out whether the goals set are realistic or not. When setting goals, it also doesn't hurt to involve the teams. Studies have shown that collaboratively developed goals are more realistic and therefore easier to achieve.

Establish clear responsibilities

Mistake number two relates to responsibilities in the team. It is essential for success that everyone knows what their tasks are and what KPIs apply. Surprisingly, this simple premise is usually not given. A very simple way to deal with this is to hold a kickoff meeting where all responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly spelled out. Often, "We didn't know where to start" is a sentence that can be the undoing of a project because it is meant very seriously. If everyone knows exactly what they are starting with and what they are responsible for, this also contributes a great deal to motivation.

Prioritising for success

The third mistake that is often made in projects is prioritisation. This has many levels. On the one hand, the individual projects within a company must be weighed against each other and prioritised. To do this, it is worth taking a look at the overall goals of the company and classifying the projects here. In addition, priorities must be created within each project. Which tasks are the most important? Which ones have to be done first or under all circumstances by a certain date? Perhaps it helps to set up a stage model where tasks are divided into either critical or important or good when done. This way, motivated employees will rush to the critical tasks first. Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? In practice, it shows that 20% of all tasks result in 80% of productivity, while people spend a disproportionate amount of time struggling with the remaining 80%. This rule - whether it applies 100% or only partially - can help enormously with prioritisation.

The right people and the right communication barriers

It can also be a mistake to have the wrong project managers on a project. This does not mean that you only need top managers, but that you should spend a little time finding the right people for the right job. Not all managers are the same and if you know your staff a little bit, you will surely already have an idea who is the right person for which job. Sometimes an affinity for a particular subject makes all the difference in motivation, ability and success. Finally, a word must be said about communication. It has to be, even if you have heard it many times now: Communication makes the difference between failure and success in any project.
Inform, share, explain and listen! Find good ways to share information, maybe through a platform or even in meetings or with agile best practices. But put enormous emphasis on ensuring that everyone always has access to and uses up-to-date information!
Author: IAPM internal

Key words: Project management, Project goals, Project planning, Project structuring, Tip, Guide

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