When it comes to running a project from ideation to execution and completion, teams undergo a series of stages and sprints to get the work done. But there’s more to just completing the tasks lined out in a project plan; project managers also need to keep a close eye on the project timelines and budgets to execute all of it within the proposed and finalized scope of work. This is where the most number of project management mistakes occur!
According to the statistics shared on Rebel's Guide to Project Management, only 15% of project managers have the privilege of focusing on one project at a time, while the rest have to juggle between two or more.
For many, balancing an entire team, multiple projects, planned sprints, coordination and everything that comes with it soon becomes overwhelming. With that amount of responsibility, project management mistakes are bound to happen.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the most common project management along with actionable insights on what you can do to prevent them.
Common project management mistakes you need to avoid
Project management processes may look different based on the industry you are in or the nature of your project. But more often than not, the following project management mistakes are what result in delays, resource misallocation and other problems.
Mistake #1: Not having clear objectives and success metrics
The very first project management mistake that can have a ripple effect on your progress, is not having clarity on what you want to achieve.
Every task charted out in your project scope of work should be aligned with a clear business objective and success metrics. This is important because it helps the team prioritize their work and resource allocation accordingly.
The most effective way to set doable and realistic objectives for your project is to use the SMART framework, which works as per the following:
Mistake #2: Not having defined processes and responsibilities
According to the Harvard Business Review, "collaboration improves when the roles of individual team members are clearly defined and well understood." By evenly dividing the tasks and giving precise process descriptions, project managers ensure everyone knows what they need to do and how.
This is where investing in a task management tool comes into play. A good tool will let you move the tasks lined up for the project into easy-to-follow lists and also assign each to the right member in the team. Having additional features like deadline setting, progress updates, priority setting and integrations with communication channels can further help streamline the process and responsibilities, avoiding overlaps and optimizing for efficiency.
Mistake #3: Ineffective and scattered team communication
Poor team communication can cause resource overlaps, inability to set priorities and inefficiency across processes owing to the number of roadblocks created. This eventually results in loss of motivation, productivity levels and in most cases, creativity.
As a project manager, it is important to create a process for seamless communication between team members. From choosing the right platform to creating specific channels or groups for updates, setting up integrations, and designing communication plan and overall workflow for streamlining conversation.
Mistake #4 : Poor resource planning
Another common project management mistake we see organizations make is improper resource planning or use of the resources available to them. This includes the budgets, tools, team members and the skills you have onboard for the project, as well as the experience they may hold over certain tasks. Imagine nudging a web developer to create a product how-to video; not just will you take them off what they are best at, but also increase the amount of time it will take to make the video.
This is where it is important for a project manager to focus on understanding the skillset of the team members before assigning tasks to them. The idea is to create work sprints that each member is good at, leaving just enough room for learning and development. It is also a good practice to not overload resources; 6 proficient team members are better than 24 who don’t hold any relevant experience.
Mistake #5: Not tackling “scope creep” proactively
Scope creep is one of the most common project management mistakes owing to how naturally it tends to occur. It refers to the changes requested during the execution of a project scope to accommodate dynamics like market response, stakeholder decisions, budget reallocation and similar. This has a direct impact on the overall project schedule due to the deviations, added budgets and costs and compromised goals.
To tackle this more proactively, you should be creating a scope management plan that includes work breakdown structure, scope statement and the process by which the scope will be altered and approved by stakeholders. It is also a good idea to create change and risk management plans that include strategies, roles, responsibilities and funding for what may occur as a result of scope creep.
As a practice, automate pulse surveys at every milestone completion in the project. This will help you proactively understand the roadblocks, preventing scope creep in the sprint created ahead.
Mistake #6: Prioritizing scope over quality work
Another mistake that stems from the ones listed above, is the need to move through the project scope of work at a rapid pace. To be able to do this, project managers start to focus on checking things off the list, compromising on the overall quality of the work being done at each stage.
Project managers should focus on establishing accountability in the team assigned to the project and encourage them to deliver their best work. This can be done by engaging teams to understand the value of quality work and the long-term impact it will have on the organization, and also take time estimations from the actual doers at the stage of project planning instead of using assumptive data.
Mistake #7: Not evaluating your completed project
Oftentimes, project managers simply create an update on the tasks completed or the timelines within which the scope was brought to a close. But they miss out on evaluating how the project fared before, during and after the execution. This leads to them following the same project management practices in future scope of work, resulting in similar results - positive (but stagnant) or negative.
Gathering for a debrief meeting once a project is completed can go a long way. Ask the team questions about the work they have done, the challenges and roadblocks they faced and take note of what could be done differently the next time. Keep this data well categorized and in a centralized place to make the learnings accessible to all.
Make mistakes, but don’t let them stop you
No one's perfect, and the odds are that you'll face these challenges and potentially fall prey to them at one point or another. But don't let this paralyze you or your team!
Think of these as learning experiences that come naturally from managing a team or running a new project. It’s a wise idea to build a culture of accountability in the team before starting out on a project and build agility into your project management plan to accommodate unpredicted situations.
As a refresher, project managers should:
Create clear and transparent goals for each project their team works on
Define all responsibilities and the details of the roles of each team member
Communicate efficiently and effectively with individual teammates and the team as a whole
Avoid overloading your team with additional work with no allocated resources
Set clear timelines for every task in the project
Account for changes and risks in the project scope
Set clear timelines to measure progress of the project
Optimize the project management plan for agility
Always debrief your team to create a list of learnings and actionables for future projects
What is one of the project management mistakes you have made, and how did you recover from it?