To err is human and, when it comes to making mistakes, project managers are no different than the rest of humanity. However, familiarizing yourself with common mistakes might help prevent a project disaster. Here are 10 common mistakes that
could put the success of your project at risk.
- Mismanaging team member skill sets. Team resources are crucial and matching them to the right work is critical for project success. Good leaders know how to get the optimal results out of the people working for them. They know how to best match team members’ skills and abilities with the task at hand. For example, it’s not enough to know that you have three web developers on your team who are jacks of all trades. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses between database development, business layer coding or user interface scripting allows you to optimize your team’s abilities.
Putting an inexperienced manager in charge. Taking charge of a project is hard. It’s even harder if the person in charge doesn’t have enough experience. For highly visible projects, projects with complex activities or those with more than 10 team members, it’s best to have someone experienced in everything from status meetings to managing risks and expectations. Don’t compromise on project management experience when it comes to critical project activities. If the project is a complex web development activity, don’t assign someone with zero technical experience. In theory, a competent leader should have the ability to execute across subject matters. In reality, successful leaders frequently have backgrounds in a specific expertise.
Mismanaging project scope. Scope isn’t always set in stone and may require compromise. There should be a process to handle requests that change scope. It’s important to know exactly how the request will impact everything from budget to schedule and whether the request can be accommodated. The most common issue in managing scope is not accepting unplanned requirements, it’s when those new requirements aren’t accurately communicated via the project schedule and budget.
- Poor scheduling. Schedules are there for a reason. They help the project stay on course and are a crucial measure of success. It’s important to run a tight ship when it comes to scheduling. Ensure all stakeholders are aware of the timeline and any changes that occur. A common surprise that causes issues is when a client is unaware of scheduled deadlines. Make sure the schedule is always front and center.
- Ego problems. It’s dangerous to take an approach of “my way or the highway.” This attitude often results in the reluctance of team members to provide valuable feedback. Not only does it over-value the project leader role, but it cultivates poor team morale and implies condescension.
- Underestimating project effort. Remain realistic about what the project requires so that you prevent problems further down the line. If you hesitate to accurately reflect the effort involved with requirements, it can become problematic because the burden will fall on team members to ensure work is performed faster or cheaper.
- Letting small issues evolve into big problems. Many projects fail because small issues turn into huge problems, causing distrust between the client and project team. Whether a team member misunderstands a requirement that results in additional work, or you discover a budgeting error, tackle the issue as soon as it rears its head.
- Not knowing when to ask for help. If you’re stuck, ask for help. Start by asking your team if you need technical or subject matter expertise. If you need assistance managing your client or project, reach out to a colleague or upper management. Be honest and positive with your request and others will respect your ability to ask for help. Acting arrogant and failing to ask for help can put a project at serious risk.
- Saying “yes” to everything. Remain flexible and visibly eager to assist, but don’t say “yes” to every request. It’s a bad habit that can lead to projects that spiral out of scope and overworked team members. It’s important to know when enough is enough and how to diplomatically reject requests that don’t allow for more time (or budget).
- Ignoring team mistakes. Mistakes happen, but it’s up to you to spot those mistakes and immediately deal with them in a diplomatic, positive fashion. If something affects your client, explain how you plan to fix the mistake and how you will prevent any future repetitions. Failure to address team mistakes will poison a project and result in a culture where quality isn’t a priority.
Success is your highest priority. However, in an effort to achieve that success, you may make well-intentioned decisions that don’t result in a well-run project or happy team members. Although mistakes will happen, being aware of the most common errors can help you nip them in the bud before they derail your project.