Common Project Management Mistakes That Could Risk Your Job
With all the different tasks that businesses juggle, project management is truly a necessity in nearly every field to ensure projects stay on schedule and on budget. In fact, 97 percent of organizations believe project management is an essential part of their operations. However, it’s because project management is so important that any number of project management mistakes can put your job at risk. These mistakes can cost a business time and money, in addition to costing you your job, so it’s imperative that you know how to avoid making them.
Below is a list of 13 of the most common project management mistakes—mistakes that can tarnish your professional credibility or even end your career as a project manager.
1. Working Without Prior Experience or Training
Many people are hands-on learners by default, not choice, and find themselves in a new role with little to no previous experience. Sometimes employees learn on the job and it works out fine. However, one of the biggest project management mistakes is lack of experience and/or training. This includes not only foundational project management skills, but also a full understanding of all the available features and tools offered through the project management software they’re using. More complex projects and those with more than 10 members require a project manager with experience in activities ranging from conducting meetings to dealing with risks and project expectations. In addition, a good project manager possesses technical expertise in any technology that is employed by the project.
2. Unclear Scope
Clarity in the project scope is essential to the success of the project in that it allows the project manager to concentrate on the important facets of operation while cutting off unnecessary activities. Unclear scope diverts the focus of the project from its goals and objectives over time. A good project scope is carefully planned and should contain the goals and constraints of the project, the resources to be used, and whether those resources will be sourced internally or externally. Moreover, the scope should be generic and subject to interpretation. When creating a project scope, all of the project team should be involved, since they have necessary knowledge and skills. In addition, the project statement agreed upon by the team members will form a basis over which future decisions with regards to the project will be made.
3. Poor Project Scheduling
Poor project scheduling is a huge project management mistake. Scheduling keeps the project on course to finish on time. Hence, it is a crucial measure for project success. Project managers should be scheduling tasks depending on their chronological order. They should also ensure that all the project stakeholders stay informed about the project timeline and changes that could occur in the process of executing the project, thereby affecting the schedule.
4. Not Planning for Potential Scheduling Conflicts
Oftentimes, the successful completion of one task relies on another team member completing their tasks first. But what if a team member has another project come across their desk that they need to tackle first? What if one step getting delayed results in all following steps getting delayed? If failing to meet a deadline means that other team members won’t complete their tasks on time, it’s important to plan in advance for this possibility. It can be easy to overlook the importance of giving team members some extra time to complete their tasks—just in case something unexpectedly pops up. That’s why identifying risks and knowing time constraints can help you better predict potential hurdles.
5. Overly Optimistic Deadlines
In addition to not allowing for scheduling conflicts, project managers sometimes set overly optimistic deadlines. Tight deadlines often overlook the amount of work required to be done in order to meet the deadlines. This causes people to feel pressured as the deadlines draw near, which may lead to incidences of apathy where everyone looks busy but there is no real progress towards the goal. To counter this, the project manager should set realistic deadlines which will allow optimum performance among the team players—as well as allow for scheduling conflicts or other delays.
6. Failing to Prioritize Tasks
Let’s say you’re setting up a list of tasks for a specific team member. You’ve covered the details of what the project entails and the steps required to complete the project. But as a new project manager, you may have overlooked one very important part of the task assignment: the priority level. While deadlines can be helpful when it comes to completing projects, they don’t necessarily highlight which tasks are of high importance and should be worked on first. After all, several items may have similar due dates. If other important projects or tasks pop up before high priority tasks have been completed, it can be problematic. Avoid potential pitfalls by prioritizing tasks from the beginning.
7. Biting Off too Much
There is a saying that you should not bite off more than you can chew. This applies to project management because you’ll probably do a few projects at one time. If a project manager drives too many competing projects at a go, however, there is a high risk that there will be depletion of resources, both in terms of personnel as well as time and money. Keeping the number of projects in check can help to prevent this mistake from happening.
8. Setting up Tasks as Overwhelmingly Large Projects
On the other hand, while you may be reluctant to set up too many projects at once, you also must be aware of overwhelmingly large projects. Sometimes, it’s necessary to break down a single project into several smaller ones. With a single project that’s too big, team members may find the entire project to be too overwhelming and confusing. Minor details can be overlooked. And even though certain parts of the project may seem insignificant, missing deadlines or forgetting about them completely can cause the entire project to fail.
For big projects, use a project charter template to document the project. That way, you can identify subtasks that may run simultaneously, as well as subtasks that must be complete before the next step can begin. A charter template should also help you assign people to each task so that each person on the team is clear on their responsibilities.
9. Insufficient Communication
Like with so many departments in a business, communication is key for successful project management. Lack of communication between the different parties involved in a project can lead to poor execution of a project or even failure. The entire team should be on the same page and should be up-to-date with the project status at all times. Everyone must understand what they are required to do at every stage and document their progress on each task.
As a project manager, it’s important to explain to other team members what’s needed and expected of them. Many project managers don’t realize this early on, and when there’s a lack of communication, important tasks fall through the cracks. To avoid any communication issues, hold regular meetings with team members to review their progress. If you work with a remote team, schedule regular calls and/or email check-ins.
10. Ignoring Team Mistakes
Ignoring the mistakes made by the team running the project is a rookie error that can cause a project manager to lose their job. As human beings, members of the team may err. However, letting mistakes get out of hand can lead to a fiasco, since the team members learn to sweep their mistakes under the carpet. In the long run, it will be the fault of the project manager if the overlooked mistakes were propagated to other areas of the project hence leading to failure.
As a remedy, a project manager should be able to identify the mistakes made by specific team members and resolve them immediately in a positive and diplomatic manner. In addition, the team members should be informed about the consequences of their actions. Failure to address mistakes will lead to a culture where members take mistakes as normal and will no longer care about quality of the job done. The accumulation of mistakes over time will lead to a higher chance of projects going over schedule or over budget, or being a failure altogether.
11. Insufficient Support from the Concerned Parties
To get the project moving ahead, it is important to look for support from all the concerned parties, starting from the top management to the manual labor employees. The project manager should communicate with every team player about their roles in making the project a success.
Employees tend to do what they are allocated, or anything that will keep them relevant to the task at hand. They should therefore be aware of the objectives of the project and their progress thus far, not to mention the knowledge of what they are required to do to accelerate the process of realizing the milestones of the project on time.
12. Using the Wrong Team for the Project
Just because you have a team doesn’t mean it’s the right team. And using the wrong team members will eventually destroy your credibility as a project manager when projects fail. The trick is to get team members with the right credentials, even if you’re facing a lack of resources, a tight timeline, or a directive from above. And putting someone on the team simply because they have the time to take it on is the wrong approach. Hold out for people with the knowledge and skills you need on your team to ensure project success.
13. Improper Management of the Project Risk
Risk is real. And things will go wrong. If there are no measures in place to mitigate the risks that may befall the project, progress could be derailed and the project could get off schedule or go over budget. Be aware of all potential risks by relying on your training and experience, and learn to identify those risks early on. In addition, pay attention to the other 12 mistakes described above, all of which can increase project risk.
Above all, Get Trained
You can avoid the 13 project management mistakes described above by following the advice, but training is the best way to ensure the best project management (and job security). According to research, more than half of organizations don’t have a project management training program in place. Whether you’re training a team of project managers at your company, or you’re just starting out on your own as a project manager, training can make a significant difference in your success rate.
Simplilearn offers a wide range of courses specifically tailored to product management education that can provide you (or your team) with the skills needed to succeed in project management. Whether you’re looking for a brief foundational course to teach you the basics or a course that can take you from beginner to certified Project Management Professional, we can get you there.
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