According to a 2019 Project Management Institute survey, organizations lost about 12 percent of their total project investments because of poor performance. Unfortunately, this value has not gone down for the past 5 years. Even though more companies are using standardized project management practices, a significant amount of their efforts continue to go to waste. One probable reason is that the business landscape is changing too fast brought on by advances in technology and disruptions. Keeping pace is becoming very challenging. Another reason is that project teams are committing the same mistakes over and over again.
Common PM Mistakes
Although projects are usually different from one another, the issues that affect them are quite similar. Here are some of the common project management mistakes that are the usual suspects for its failure.
1. Poor project initiation
The PMBOK identifies 5 project management phases or lifecycles. The first one is the project initiation phase. Most experts believe that it is the most crucial among the phases. A common mistake that usually happens here is when the project team does not meet for a proper kick-off. Without a kick-off meeting, members do not have a clear idea of their roles and responsibilities. Furthermore, they do not know what their deliverables are, individually and as a team.
Solution: Start a project formally with a kick-off meeting. During this meeting, each and every member, or stakeholder, will have a clear idea of the project’s goals, and their role and responsibilities. It is important that they know, understand, and accept what are expected of them.
2. Inadequate project planning
When project managers do not have clear objectives, the plans they create can be vague, inaccurate, or incomplete. The project plan is the team’s roadmap. Therefore, there is a danger that they can get lost along the way, down to the road to failure if the plan is improperly done. It is more than just a project timeline, too. The project plan involves details about budget, schedule, and quality metrics. With insufficient details, project team members can get confused about the full requirements of their tasks. In the same way, project managers will also have unclear ways to measure progress and success.
Solution: Take time to clarify the project goals. Identify all constraints, resources, activities, tasks, and deliverables that will help achieve these goals. Big projects should be broken down to smaller, more manageable items. Then, they should be assigned to people that can best complete them. Identify and capture success metrics as well.
3. Wrong priorities
Today, it is common for project managers to handle multiple projects simultaneously. The mistake is to give more time, effort and resources to projects that are lower in priority than those that are more needed or more valuable. With limited time, budget and resources, there is a danger that project teams will neglect those important projects that should be prioritized. Even though they are able to complete other projects, what they failed to complete will outweigh what they are able to achieve. This can lead to a lower team morale.
Solution: Project managers should have a clear and updated understanding of the priorities of their projects. Sometimes, priorities change during the course of the project. Therefore, they should also update their team members and inform them of new priorities and their related tasks.
4. Forgetting people management
Many project managers focus more on the hard components of project management. They eagerly watch over the scope, schedule, budget and quality. Often, they forget about the people who are working on the tasks. This can affect the working environment and may also lead to delays, poor quality of work, and cost overruns. Micromanaging can have a negative effect that distracts team members or create an atmosphere of distrust. Forgetting to celebrate the team’s small successes can also be detrimental to teamwork and productivity.
Solution: Instead of policing team members, communicate clearly during regular meetings. Ask questions and hear their answers. Also, celebrate small wins and individual successes along the way. This boosts morale and productivity. Have a performance review system that considers not only the end result but also the day-to-day activities.
5. Failure to communicate
It is easy to get caught up with the tasks and activities when a project is underway. Meetings may seem to be unwelcome interruptions by team members who are racing up to finish their tasks. Project managers may even find it more convenient just to send emails than call everybody to a room for discussion. However, it is just as important to temporarily break off from doing the tasks to meet with the team and other stakeholders regarding progress, issues, or updates. The implication of miscommunication or missed communication can be severe.
Solution: Set a simple communication strategy at the start of the project. Meetings can be short if there is a culture of open communication among the project team. Set regular check-ins and deliverable reviews. When team members encounter an issue, bottleneck or problem, they should proactively raise it up rather than wait for someone else to notice.
6. Mismanaging change
Change is bound to happen. However, change can affect the scope of the project to the point that it strains resources and negatively affects the outcome of the project. This happens when scope continues to increase without adjustments in time or budget. Without properly controlling scope creep, it can surely affect the project’s success. Scope creep usually happens when there is misunderstanding on the real outcome of the project by its stakeholders.
Solution: Clarify project goals at the outset. During project planning, there should already be a clear understanding of what can change and how to deal with it. Establish a procedure for approving requests and its overall impact on the project, including the budget and schedule.
The 2019 PMI report shows that although 93 percent of the organizations surveyed are using standardized PM practices, only 23 percent are using them across their entire organization. This is one likely cause of project failure. However, there are basic ways to apply PM practices consistently across the organization. First, train people properly so that they have the knowledge and skills in project management. Second, choose the right project management methodology and follow it correctly. Last, use project management software that helps enforce and support standardized PM practices.
Bridge24 is an online application that enhances reporting and exporting capabilities of PM software like Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and AceProject. Online project management software improves communication and transparency. With Bridge24, users have access to more views, charts, reports, as well as powerful filters, groupings and sorting features. It is also simple and easy to export reports to various formats such as PDF and Excel.