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7 Common Project Management Mistakes and Ways to Tackle Them

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Depending upon the organization, a project manager handles multiple projects at a time and it is a project manager’s skill to handle these projects without a mess. While handling these multiple projects, the manager tends to make common mistakes. However, these mistakes lead to loss of time, money, and confidence. Reworking on the mistakes delay in the deadline of the project. This direct impact on the original budget of the project, which ultimately means the failure of the project. After the final submission of the project, the project manager realises that some common project management mistakes could have been avoided. And the loss could have been reduced. The most common project management mistakes which every Project Manager tends to commit are:

  1. Incompetent Project Manager and Team
  2. Poor communication among the team and Stakeholders
  3. Poor Resource Management
  4. Scope Creep & Gold Plating
  5. Not Acknowledging Team’s Successes
  6. Doing Everything Self
  7. Poor Risk Management

Let me just explain to you in detail the above points.

1.    Incompetent Project Manager and Team

One of the key factors that contribute to project failure is hiring an unskilled or inexperienced project manager or team member. By taking into consideration the nature of the project, the best people with the right knowledge, skills, and experience need to be preferred to work on the project as a project manager or as a team member. If people with the right knowledge, skills, and experience are not included in the project, the poor buy-in may lead to the project in jeopardy. While selecting the project manager or team for a particular project, the implementation of competency evaluation techniques plays an important role to select people with the right knowledge, skills, and experience.

For any project with complex activities, it’s better to appoint a project manager who is experienced in everything right from status meetings to managing risks and meet expectations. It will be very harmful to compromise on the project management experience when it comes to critical project activities. While executing the complex project, it is always better to have the project manager who is a subject matter expert or have a background of specific expertise. Moreover, appointing a PMP certified project manager who has years of diverse project management experience and skills will turn out to be a key factor while handling complex projects efficiently. It is also equally important that the team which is going to work under a certified and highly skilled project manager is competent enough to complete the project successfully.

2.    Poor communication among the team and Stakeholders

Communication plays a key role in the success of every project. Poor communication and lack of collaboration among the team members and stakeholders always lead any project to the disaster. For the success of the project, it is very important to properly communicate with the team, client, and all stakeholders on a consistent basis and try to keep them united to achieve a common goal.

It is also important to understand that most often the main reason behind the failure of the project is lack of interest of stakeholders. It is always hard to keep busy the stakeholders involved in the project. However, it is very important and fruitful to keep them informed about the project progress and take feedback. Once the stakeholders see value in the project, they will start to take a deep interest in the project. Hence, all these benefits can be gained by adopting effective communication to communicate with the team, client, stakeholders, etc.

To lead a project and for its success, it is necessary to create an environment with open communication and trust. Open communication allows team members to get more engaged and understand that how important is their role in the success of the project. It is also useful to make sure that every team member understands the picture and the part they play in the success of the project. It will also help them to understand why decisions are made and how those decisions will impact them and the project as a whole. Effective communication will lead everyone to be on the same platform; moving in the same direction toward the same goal.

Simple communication strategies from the beginning of the project, such as regular check-ins and deliverable reviews, will give a clear view of project progress to the team and project manager. Moreover, it will help to spot and resolve any issues coming to the surface proactively.

3.    Poor Resource Management

It includes choosing wrong team members to work on the project and it impacts adversely as the project progresses. In many organisations, it is common to select and allocate the team members to the project based on their availability and not their skills and experience. Wrongly casted team members in the project always put the project in jeopardy. For any project, it is important to select a project manager and its project manager’s responsibility to select team members very wisely who can deliver expectations successfully and contribute to the project’s success and align the objective of the project with the business case.

 

To select the team of right people with the right knowledge, skills, and experience it is important to use competency evaluation tools for the selection process. This creates a very effective project team as the best people with the right knowledge, skills, and experience suitable for the project are included in the team. It is also crucial to identify the gaps between the project requirements and resource capabilities. If any such gap exists, the project manager needs to work on this very closely to close this gap by providing training, coaching, and/or mentoring to the team members.

It is not necessary that providing adequate and competent resources to the project will make the project successful. In many organizations that handle multiple projects, it very common that on one side the project manager faces scarcity of resources and on another side, project managers are provided with adequate resources. Both the project fails at one side due to scarcity of resources and at another side due to inefficient management of the resources by the project manager. For efficient use of the resources, it is necessary to create a work break of the structure for the allocation of resources effectively.   

4.    Scope Creep and Gold Plating

In project management, scope creep, as well as gold plating, are the most common and biggest causes of project failure. As per PMBOK and other Project Management books, Scope Creep is “The uncontrolled expansion to the product or project scope without adjustments to time, cost and resources”. As well as the Gold plating refers to giving the customer extras (extra functionality, higher-quality components, extra scope, or better performance).  

Scope Creep: Scope creep is a result of the customer or stakeholders requesting for a scope expansion. The scope creeps generally take place when a project is not defined and controlled properly. It usually starts with a small change request by the client or sponsor and which followed by a number of more requests as the project manager is accommodating these changes very easily. These frequent changes always result in unclear and incomplete project scope which leads to “scope creep;” as the project focus on changes over the time period. These changes generally affect the planned cost and the schedule of the project and ultimately project manager losses control over the project over the period of the time. Hence, scope creep is the most common cause of project failure.

To avoid the scope creep it is necessary to involve clients/sponsors in the process of the scope planning process. This will help the project manager to collect their requirement while creating the project scope document. Moreover, the entire project team needs to be involved to create the project scope as the individual has knowledge, experience and insights that will help to provide valuable inputs to prepare the final Scope Statement. A good scope statement should include the project goal, deliverables, inclusions-exclusions of scope, project constraints, etc.

Once the project scope statement is created the important job is to get it approved and signed by the client, sponsors. The approval of the client, sponsors should be taken before the project plan is finalized. This approved scope statement will become the basis upon which all decisions related to the project will be made in the future. Moreover, to avoid the scope creep it is necessary to have a robust change management plan in place to handle the changes.

Gold Plating: – Gold plating is always bad as the project team is delivered extras to customers/clients without their consent assuming that it would be beneficial to the customer/client. The customer is not going to pay for those extras’ work as it is not included and agreed upon in the signed scope statement of the project. Moreover, the cost, resources, and time that is being utilized in this work while delivering these additional features; could be utilized in doing more productive work in the actual project scope. Hence, the gold platted project always considered as a failure as this gold plating is delivered features, functions, or services, which are not part of the scope baseline.

5.    Not Acknowledging Team’s Successes

In many organizations, the team is involved in dual reporting i.e. functional manager and to a project manager. This kind of system may cause an obstacle to the success of the project unless the work done by the team on a particular project is properly assessed, recognized, and rewarded. For the success of any project, the productivity of the team is highly dependent on team morale. If the teams’ efforts and success are not recognized properly, it adversely affects the team morale and team as well as productivity.

In most of the organization, the performance of the employee is accessed and reviewed by their manager or supervisor and it generally reflects only their work as stated in their job description. It is very rare that these job performance reviews include other quality work performed by the individual who is assigned to a particular project, as a project team member. As a result, a project staff often considers the assigned project work as an interruption to their own department’s work and they will keep this work on second priority and which generally affects the project work adversely.

It is very important to keep in place the performance management system to assess and recognize the performance of the team members on a particular project. This system will be helpful to measure the work performance of the team member on a project other than his/her daily work. These performance reviews must be incorporated in the employee’s regular performance and the combined performance needs to be considered in their performance appraisal. This is the project manager’s responsibility to develop a performance review system as part of the project management plan and ensure that performance of the team working on the project is measured, reviewed, and recognized.

The main objective of recognition of team success is to let the team members know that their work is appreciated and no one is unnoticed. It will also keep the morale of the entire team-high and keep motivating them to do better and better throughout the project. Moreover, implementing recognitions transparently will help all the team members to understand the particular benchmark to achieve particular reward and recognition so that they can rigorously try for achieving the same. This will build a healthy competition in the team members, keep the morale of the team high, and always keep the team motivated to achieve the ultimate project goal.

6.    Doing Everything Self

For any project manager, it is obvious that he/she wants control of everything. However, it does not mean that the project manager completely ignores the team and confronts all ideas, suggestions of the team members which could help in overall project success. It is the biggest project management mistake that a lot of project managers make frequently as they try to manage everything on their own and doing everything manually. The side effects of doing everything by the project manager is not utilizing the expertise of the team members effectively. Moreover, the project manager doing this work instead of doing some important project management work which the project manager should have done actually.

The key to being an effective project manager and a good leader is listening to the team and always try to encourage them to express their ideas and give their suggestions. If a project manager fails to do so, the project team finds that their suggestions are ignored which will discourage them to share ideas and give suggestions, which could have contributed to the project positively.

The project manager must create an atmosphere of open communication among the team and make sure that each team is comfortable to share their ideas and suggestions. This will minimize the problems with the team which could affect the entire project positively.

7.    Poor Risk Management

Most of the time professionals underestimate risks on the project. The most common mistake the project manager do in the project is not paying sufficient attention to effective risk management. The project manager must work very closely to make sure that the assessment of the risks and their probabilities are done very carefully and the plan of action must be created in such a way that those risks can be mitigated smoothly if those can be not eliminated.

The project manager and team always work proactively to identify the risks and always look for solutions to manage these risks based on their experiences. Thus the project manager and team should always look to identify risks and assign the risk owners and mitigating actions before these risks are triggered. 

The process of identifying, analyzing, and responding to the risk in the life of a project is called Risk Management. Effective risk management involves identifying the possible risks in the project life cycle and respond to those risks in a proactive rather than a reactive manner. This will not only reduce the probability of occurrence of risk as well as reduce its magnitude of impact.  It is very important to carry out risk assessments at the early stages of the project’s execution and then continuously monitored after the predetermined span throughout the project’s lifecycle which will increase the probability of project success.

Even though the risk management plan is kept in place and the project manager and project team put their best efforts, situations may arise where the risk is triggered. In such an event it is very important for the project manager and team to undertake a project audit to identify the root causes which will help to identify the correct options and solutions to tackle the occurred risk to bring the project back on track. Moreover, after addressing the risk response to the triggered risk, the project manager and team always look for the residual risks and the response should be addressed to eliminate the risk completely.

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