Some common mistakes in project management

7 March 2013 | By Catherine Wheatcroft

Mistakes do happen, it is a fact of life and without these mistakes there would be no requirement for learning lessons from them. But there are many simple mistakes that can be avoided, whether that is at the planning stage, during management of the project, at communication level or fundamentals such as time projections.

This article highlights some of those simple, yet fundamental mistakes that do happen all the time in even the most high profile projects.

1. Wrong team or resources: Putting the wrong team of resources to a project will have dire results. It is vital to ensure that the right skills, attitudes, experience and abilities are going to be used on a given project. It really is not just a matter of whoever is available or has the least work in their schedule at the time that the project comes in.

2. Wrong choice of project manager: The right project manager will make or break the project. The role of project manager is challenging enough but can be made even more difficult if they do not have the right experience or lack of expertise in a specific area that is crucial to the project. The project manager will lead the project and be the main channel for everything, including managing the stakeholders. So the person chosen for this role needs to be right from the start.

3. Not enough buy in from team members: Too often projects fail because they did not get enough support from the departments and people involved. This can be down to a lack of clarity on everyone’s roles, failure to generate a sense of urgency, lack of deadlines and schedules set, not enough ‘selling’ done on the projects benefits.

4. Poor scheduling: A well planned schedule for the project will ensure that it has a hope of reaching its defined deliverables and objectives. The project manager needs to set a schedule that has realistic time scales and has been thought through in terms of resources and risks.

5. Lack of process planning: Well planned and thought out processes goes hand in hand with managing risk. The whole project needs to be thought through in terms of what needs to be completed in each stage and how this will be implemented. This will decrease the chance of the project running into risk areas.

6. Poor management of the project team: Good communication is the key here and that is more important for the project manager than anyone else in the team. The project team need to feel that they can feed into the project, make suggestions or mention impending issues. So there needs to be good leadership for this to happen.

7. Paying lip service to governance: Project governance helps to make sure that a project is carried out according to the standards of the organisation. It creates accountability by defining the project recording system. It will outline the specific roles and responsibilities for everyone involved in the project. Without it or by skipping over it, the project will soon find itself in difficulties that will be difficult to rectify later.

8. Underestimating at the start: There is a lot of pressure to be competitive nowadays with time, budget and resources are being squeezed constantly. But if your organisation does not estimate these elements correctly, the project will not be the success it should be or may even be perceived as a failure. It is in no ones interest to set yourself up to fail.

9. Not being on top of potential issues: When small issues arise they should be dealt with so they do not manifest into something larger. Larger issues cause delays to the schedule and may mean having to use extra resource to fix. A practical solution should be developed so that these issues do not escalate.

10. Allowing the project scope to change frequently: there needs to be a formal procedure in place to handle changes to scope or requests to change or they will lead to cost and time overrun. Define the scope of the project from the outset and monitor it regularly to ensure that the team are keeping within it. Track changes requests separately and provide estimates on how it will affect the overall schedule. All change requests should be formally approved.

11. Not learning for the future: All projects should be reviewed regularly to see how they are performing against their overall objectives and schedule. Understanding what is not going well and how to fix it is vital, as is knowing what is working so that you can continue to do things well. Reviewing projects for lessons to learn can be beneficial to the project objectives, functioning of the team and managing supplier relations.