In a perfect world, teams would always deliver on time without facing any project management challenges. But unfortunately, in the real world, that is not possible.
We are humans and making mistakes is inevitable.
As George Bernard Shaw said: “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” In some professions, making a mistake is not really a big deal. It could mean, for example remaking a meal (if you cook for a small group of friends) or redesigning a logo or a flyer.
Making a mistake could mean the difference between losing or saving a life. Depending on the industry, and the impact of the project, a project management mistake is or isn’t as important. However, it can lead to losing time, money and most importantly, it could lead to losing trust.
Familiarizing yourself with common mistakes might help you to prevent a project disaster. Opposing to the general idea, making mistakes is not such a bad thing, as long as you can use them as “lessons learned”. There is no “one magic recipe” for project success. Each project is different and that means that each one has specific requirements that need to be managed differently. As every project involves so many uncontrollable external factors, there are unavoidable mistakes that every project manager could make. Here are 10 common mistakes that every project manager makes in one way or another, and that could put the success of your project at risk:
1. Not having a bird’s eye-view of the project
By definition, a project is a group effort, has different stakeholders who often have different requirements for a project and it can only be completed successfully if the team and all others involved will be considered. Failing to identify everyone who is involved in a project, has invested and is affected by it, is one of the worst mistakes a project manager can make. If you fail to consider the interests of even one important stakeholder, this could cause many problems, multiple subsequent modifications or adjustments, and ultimately, undermine you and bring failure to your project.
2. Prioritizing scope or budget over the project quality
Many times, project managers become so focused on delivering projects on time and under-budget, that it becomes very easy to value deadlines over the quality of a project. Sometimes, project managers focus on the deliverables and would rather fulfill stages quickly, one after another, and move on to the next step in their project to-do list, while their teams are interested in doing things the right way and delivering good quality projects while respecting deadlines. That kind of project manager should take notes from their team members and focus on good processes that allow them and their teams to deliver good quality projects and find ways to do it on time.
3. Lack of communication
In project management, communication is the undisputed king. Therefore, if you let days go by without having regularly and clean communication with your team members and clients, the project will fall apart. Unfortunately, many project managers don’t have communication guidelines in place on their projects like regular status check-ins, deliverable reviews, in order to engage their team and motivate them to work together and meet the scope and budget expectations. However, having specific days and time scheduled in advance will help you keep everyone on the same page.
4. Mismanaging the team members’ skill sets
As you know, people are the most important resource. Good leaders know how to get optimal results from the people who work for them by best matching the team members’ skills and abilities with the tasks they have to accomplish. But many times, project managers don’t optimize their team’s abilities and assign inappropriate tasks to their co-workers, affecting the flow of the project. You can avoid that by having a clear understanding of what each team member can do and how much it can deliver. Surveys, rigorous planning and setting up quarterly goals are just a few mainstream methods of getting to know your team better. However, you can try something out of the box like taking them out for drinks or doing some awesome team building activities.
5. Setting the wrong expectations
Projects are about turning ideas into reality. Having clear expectations is important to measure success, as it allows project managers to compare the planned to the actual results. One of the most common mistakes project managers make is not clearly communicating expectations and the requirements to his team members and stakeholders. In this way, he risks causing misunderstandings and confusions during project development, so it is doomed to failure. Therefore, having clear, shared expectations is essential for project management and it should be a topic that is always the centerpiece of the project work.
6. Allowing scope creep
The project scope isn’t always set in stone and may require compromise, but the scope creep causes the failure of a project more than anything else. If changes of project scope appear, there should be a process to handle these requests. It’s important to know exactly how different requests will impact budget, milestones, schedule, and the final deadlines and if they can be accommodated. Unfortunately, there are many times when project managers spend too little time understanding project scope and don’t know exactly what it is they are aiming to deliver, thereby setting unrealistic deadlines or just jump into the project full of enthusiasm, but with little else, causing a certain recipe for failure.
7. Being inflexible and resistant to change
Being involved in project management means facing daily challenges like missed deadlines, missed meetings, changes in direction, unexpected added tasks and so on. As a project manager, you have to adapt to these changes in order to keep the project flowing smoothly. This could mean changing your approach, adding new resources to the project or even starting over. Even if these situations are typical, many project managers – mostly inexperienced ones – don’t understand this. They don’t know how to do what’s right for the project and they become resilient. Soon enough they’ll stop being open-minded and won’t talk with their team members about finding solutions to the project’s issues. Being rigid about processes, people involved, communication style or anything else affects the project development and will ensure the failure of the project.
8. Not using integrated project management tools
Project management tools don’t replace project management skills and experience and definitely don’t substitute project management work. However, as projects generate tons of documents, management tools are here to support the project team. Therefore, using the right tools is essential; otherwise, the project will very quickly turn into a chaos. But even when a project manager decides to put his efforts in using the right project management tools, a silo mentality will prevent the team from thinking of how these tools will integrate with one another. By not choosing project management integrated tools, the information will not flow freely through the team and the project is doomed to failure.
9. Underestimating team engagement
At its core, project management is about people. If people are not engaged in the project they are working on, it’s no project. Many times, project managers fail to recognize their co-workers’ efforts and don’t pay incentives to their team. Because of this, team members may feel unappreciated and will become less motivated to be very involved in the process and doing a good job. By not facilitating their team members’ engagement, project managers risk the project’s failure.
10. Not having a solid plan
Ultimately, projects are about turning ideas into reality. Having clear expectations is important to measure success, as it allows project managers to compare the planned to the actual results. One of the most common mistakes project managers make is not clearly communicating expectations and the requirements to his team members and stakeholders. In this way, he risks causing misunderstandings and confusions during project development, so it is doomed to failure.
Andrei is a Growth Hacker on Teamweek's marketing team. He is the person behind most of Teamweek's SEO-driven projects, including the budget calculator and the worst productivity tips generator. He enjoys writing about project management, graphic design, and anything tech.