Thoughts of a Project Manager about “Common project management mistakes and how to avoid these”

Views expressed in this article are my own.

We all have witnessed some projects which have been completed seamlessly; but there can be many issues, which can arise along a project's journey from ideation to sign-off. Dealing with all such problems calmly, patiently, and efficiently is the crucial aspect of a project manager's role. Some of these challenges a project manager will face can be relatively easier to handle on the fly. Others, however, will have a more significant impact on the success of the project. There are inevitable common mistakes that play a vital role in every project's success. So, we need to understand each one of them, along with strategies to manage the according risk and advice for heading them off before they could derail the project progress.
A light bulb in the middle of a process circle.

Misaligned strategic objectives

All the projects that an organisation launches must tie back to organisation-wide goals and objectives. When we have valuable resources and time to execute a project which is not aligned with company vision, then it placed the project at a higher risk as well as the long-term success of the business. Each project should have a strong and approved business case which spells out how it aligns with the goals set by the executives, to ensure misalignment of strategic objectives. Each of the project goals must be documented to ensure the project is specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant to organisation-wide goals and objectives. The best option is to identify all the goals and document them in the project charter so that it creates better clarity about the project's purpose and stick to those purposes by revisiting the project charter and aligning team efforts according to this.

No project sponsorship

The way the project team and stakeholders rely on the project manager for support and guidance, the project managers rely on the project sponsors for the same. A project sponsor is ideally a member of the executive team, and the person is treated as a project champion as they can provide project insights and help the project managers to resolve the conflicts when escalation is necessary. Sponsors also play a vital role in setting up the right tone for the project to influence buy-in throughout the organisation. Change is usually not accepted by most of the stakeholders. Without a sponsor, the project managers can be left flounder with executives, cross-functional teams, clients, and end-users. So, a sponsor can help pave the way for the project managers. Every project should have a sponsor who initiates the conversations with executives and other leaders about why a project should go ahead. Not only start the conversation, but they also convey the benefits, who will be assigned to lead the projects, and request the cross-functional leaders to share the information with their department.

Poor capacity planning and resource management

Before the organisation can allocate and manage project resources, they need to plan the resource capacity. During the planning phase, the right set of resources required for the project need to be determined and the pool of available resources needs to be identified. Passing through this process could therefore endanger the project. Usually, many organisations use various tools to run what-if scenario planning during the planning phase as well as the resource management phase. They use the what-if scenario planning as a risk management tool to test the impact of assigning, managing, and shifting project timelines and resources. So, what-if scenario planning offers many benefits, e.g. it helps an organisation to identify resource options in real-time, balance the workloads, and optimise the usability of all the resources to ensure that the team members and stakeholders are not being overallocated. Alongside this, the what-if scenario also ensures that the task or project start date is not negatively impacted.

Misaligned methodologies

Project management methodologies provide a set of standards which are to be followed by the entire project team. Choosing the right methodology to execute the project is a crucial aspect of the fast and accurate delivery of the project. So, executing a project without an effective methodology or aligning project and team expertise to a wrong methodology can increase the risk factor for the project. There are methodologies to choose from, each of these methodologies serves a different purpose, but sometimes they also serve an overlapping purpose. Project management methodologies usually guide the project team to meet project goals and objectives. Some well-adopted methodologies are meant to reduce product defects; some ensure the project processes are effective, and some ensure faster delivery of products or services. So, it is significant to choose the right project management methodologies, which matches the project team capability.

Communication breakdowns

As per a PMI research, 20 % to 30 % of all projects failed due to ineffective communication. Many factors contributed to poor communication and communication breakdown in day-to-day activities and project work. Communication styles or methods, existing tensions, conflicting goals & objectives, untimely communications, and miscommunications are among the other issues which can cause severe damage to a project. Considering communication as an essential aspect of effective project management, so developing an effective communication strategy is vital for achieving project goals and objectives. To develop an effective communication strategy, it requires a project manager to know and understand the interlocutor and value of each of the audience. Communication should be timely, frequent, clear, and transparent. It is equally necessary for a project manager to be inclusive, respectful, and consistent throughout the project, as this can help the projects to progress smoothly.

Right software and tools

It is not possible at all to successfully deliver a project or to meet the project goals and objectives without project management software and tools in place. Without having proper tools and software, it will be riskier for the project manager to plan, execute, and monitor the project and unlikely to be successful. Without having proper tools and software, even the smallest company and the smallest project will struggle. Managing larger projects that have multiple goals, tasks, and resources can be a daunting task without having the support of the right software and tools. Before contemplating which project to tackle its necessary to identify and evaluate the right project management solution which can help the team to manage tasks, resources, and schedule of work and collaboration.

Conclusion

Addressing these standard project management issues can help overcome the daunting risks and always keep the project right on track towards benefits realisation. It is crucial to take a serious look at the topics mentioned above and take necessary steps to consider them before it is too late, so that project sponsors, project managers, and project teams can conlcude the projects successfully and are able to derive the benefits realisations. Projects seldom perform as planned, so it is better to leave project managers with small number of flames to put out, so that such common issues won't become a showstopper in a project.
About the author:

Abhishek Mishra aims to create a new platform or forum to facilitate discussion when people or leaders feel they are stuck and confused or unable to add value. A platform where people help and support each other, where there is no gender differentiation and where people become role models for each other.

As a writer, he has accomplished and accolades for his ability to express his feelings through his words. He has written multiple articles which were liked by many professionals over platforms like LinkedIn, PModay.co.uk, and Medium.com. His first book — “The Book of Powerful & Exceptional Quotes — launched in May 2020 and second book – “Stereotypical Leadership” – launched on 9th July.
When he is not writing books, you can find him doing project management. He is a seasoned project manager with more than 14 years of experience, he has been associated with multiple non-profitable groups to learn and discover ways to help the community and society.

Keywords: Project management, Tip, Guide, Communication

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