To err is human and to forgive, divine pretty well sums up project management. Everyone makes mistakes and project managers are not immune to unforced errors. With a host of complex and interdependent issues to juggle, it’s easy for a project and a project manager to go off piste.
3 Traps For Unwary Project Managers
While there are a number of technical areas projects frequently fail in, there are three mindset factors which frequently lead project managers astray with dire consequences for their projects:
1. Over Ambition:
Over Ambition involves a project manager taking on too much at once. Doing more than is really necessary can lead a project manager to lose sight of what can potentially be achieved. Sometimes, a project manager may push his/her team to achieve more. Not only does this lead to failure but it can also result in a bad relationship between a team and its project manager. As a project manager it is important to not be over ambitious. Understanding what can be achieved in how much time is a sign of a great leader and in this case a project manager. Therefore it’s important to remember that with today’s technology pretty much anything is feasible, but not at the same time, within the same project and on a limited budget.
It’s easy to be seduced by the prestige attached to a high profile project. Prestige is frequently (but not always) a corollary of ambition. In some instances, prestige can be useful as it brings team members together and encourages them to work towards a common goal. Prestige can also gain a project access to scarce resources. However, an overconfident project manager can be a danger to the project, team members, clients and other managers in the organization. When overconfidence takes over, this strange sense of pride blinds your sense of judgment. An over confident project manager is a liability as he/she will not calculate any decision. Also, an overconfident leader can get into feud with team members if someone doesn’t agree. It also quite possible that an overconfident leader would never listen to team members in a game which is team driven.
Denial can lurk at every level of a project; project management, project members, project originator and in the line organization. Poor understanding of the project’s goals and its connection to the business’ strategic objectives can quickly head a project in the wrong direction. Moreover, there is a tendency for the steering group or the project owners to manage the information they share with the project team. A project manager in denial is as bad as a man killing people with a gun and denying that he doesn’t have a gun. It is important as a project manager to accept your failures and mistakes when they happen. Accepting it when they happen gives a lesson on what’s not to be repeated and what needs to be changed in order to avoid such situations in the future.
All these issues can readily distract a project manager from the task at hand; delivering an effective project.
Project Management Failings
Since the mid-1980s, the Standish Group has published the world’s largest study on IT projects, the Chaos Manifesto. Over the years they have examined over 70,000 projects, and what’s startling is the failure rate for IT-related projects. Over 70% of all IT projects fail. Many of these failures can be attributed to just five common causes. Here are the five deadly sins of project management you should avoid:
1. Poor Communication
Effective communication plays a critical role in driving successful projects by providing clarity about roles, tasks, resources and priorities. As a project requires the effort of each team member, it is important that all the team members are always on the same page. Any kind of miscommunication can lead a project down the drain. It is important to stay in active communication with your team and regular follow ups are also important.
By taking advantage of cloud and web-based project management software including project-tracking tools, project managers can keep their project focused. Such tools offer collaboration options such as discussions, task dependencies and reminders to avoid any kind of miscommunication. Online task management reduces confusion and helps defuse conflict and mistakes, which could otherwise hinder the project’s completion.
2. Inadequate Project Planning
Many project managers opt to compress the project-planning phase in order to deliver against tight project deadlines. Limiting the project-planning phase undermines the ability of the project team to effectively manage emerging issues and allocate resources against project priorities. It is also important to take extra care when planning a project. As a project manager, the planning should be done by taking into consideration each team member and what they are capable of. If a project manager is unable to comprehend his own team then it will without a doubt lead to a failed planning.
Take advantage of flexible online project management tools to prepare a solid project plan and place your project on a solid footing from launch to completion. A project team can easily create and allot tasks during the planning phase as mocks sessions to see which plan is suited well for the entire team. Adding dates to the project calendar in such tools is highly effective. A team can also have discussions on each task and project which keeps conversation stored online. This can help any team member to go back to check the discussions and be informed about the plans and dates corresponding to each task.
3. Poorly Defined Project Scope
Many factors usually play a part in failed projects however, an unclear project scope or scope creep or is one of the most frequently cited reasons for a project floundering. If a project’s scope is not clearly defined, it can directly lead to major cost and time overruns. Even small changes in scope can induce a negative impact on your project’s performance. It is important to have a clear and crisp vision about how each step of the project will unfold. A project manager should define the project scope early and on an iterative basis, so that it can be flexible and can accommodate any ongoing changes during the time of project.
4. Unrealistic Deadlines
Having unrealistic expectations for a project is a recipe for disaster. While aggressive deadlines and tight budgets may be well intentioned, they inevitably lead to extra stress on the project and the project team. Unrealistic expectations frequently result in missed deadlines, budget blowouts, and resource constraints. Compounding this problem is the negative impact these factors have on team morale and motivation
Setting unrealistic deadlines can prove detrimental rather than beneficial. It is better to build in buffers around budgets, deadlines, and resources rather than compressing them unnecessarily. A project manager should estimate the deadlines after discussion with the team and each of their work potential. The deadlines should also have a buffer period for the team members and in case of any delays or discrepancies.
5. Poor Risk Mitigation
Identifying the potential pitfalls and roadblocks that can affect a project is a sound investment of time to prevent potential catastrophe further downstream. Neglecting risk mitigation can lead to preventable delays and even failure. A project manager should have the foresight to comprehend possible risks and should always have backup plans handy. Keeping backups can always save a project and it also offers a peace of mind for all the team. Adopting a proactive approach to risk mitigation using any of the online project tracking tools or project management software available will contribute significantly to a trauma-free project. A backup plan can easily be generated on such tools and anybody from the team will be able to access it. Other point of excellence with these tools is that a project manager can lay down the project on a calendar, which visually empowers to make better risk analysis.
When The Business Fails Project Management
One of the major deadly sins that many businesses realize but ignore is over-extending their business in order to take on or deliver a crucial project. Over-extension can apply both to taking on too many projects simultaneously and to committing to a project that is too big for the business’ current capabilities or resources. Business owners often find it difficult to turn down work because they don’t think the company can handle it. However, as with proposing a timeline that’s too aggressive, if the business is unrealistic about its capabilities, the costs will almost inevitably far outweigh the benefits.
Successful project management involves establishing a process, not staging an event. The key objective of any project manager is to ensure the project is delivered on time and within budget. For that to occur, the project manager needs to ensure their project does not fall prey to any of the five deadly sins of project management.
The advent of project tracking tools, project management software and online task management tools has greatly aided project managers to plan for success and mitigate common risks attached to their project. By adopting these technologies, a project team can deliver value to the organization quickly, employees are more likely to accept change, and costs can be minimized as the project builds incrementally.
Author Bio: Jason Grills is a technical writer currently associated with ProProfs Project. He enjoys writing about emerging project management products, trends in the project management industry and the financial impact of using such tools. He lives in Los Angeles, California. In his spare time Jason enjoys long walks on beach, listening to blues and doing all things creative.