Project management is undoubtedly a highly stressed role and project managers may be forgiven for making some genuine mistakes due to stress or time constraints. However, there are some mistakes that project managers make that really can be avoided; whilst being common, they are exceptionally easy to avoid, once you know what they are!
1. The first mistake is perhaps the most common. That is to ensure that risk is managed effectively. All project managers think that they will be able to manage risk and they think that they are doing this simply by maintaining a risk log. It is obviously important to manage risk but this requires more than a risk register but must include mitigation steps and actions. This may be stressed in all project management books and guidelines, but it cannot be overemphasized. Failure to manage risk one of the key reasons behind cost and schedule over-run.
2. The second most common mistake that project managers make is to fail to communicate. The project is a team effort and it is the role of the project manager to ensure that everyone in the team is aware of what is going on aware of the time schedule and so on. Communication should instead be regarded as being critical.
3. The definitive end result of the project needs to be established right at the beginning of the project. This may seem obvious, but in reality the end result can often be rather nebulous and ill defined. Clearly agreeing the results of the project will help to ensure that everyone knows what is expected and what needs to be delivered. Project Managers must be able to clearly answer – “How do I know I’m finished?”
4. Failure to adopt an agreed methodology for a project can result in lots of time being wasted as different methods are tried and tested. So the methodology is key to a successful project.
5. Project management is about effective delegation and task/stage control. PM’s often assume that no one else is capable of doing tasks, apart from them. This is dangerous because the project can simply fail because the project manager would not delegate. The role of a Project Manager is not someone that will execute all the tasks!
6. Failing to pay attention to the details of tasks is also another big problem that project managers can experience, usually to the detriment of the project. It is necessary to ensure that all details are dealt with to effectively manage risk.
7. Project managers can fail to keep a tight rein on the budget. Without good financial awareness projects are at risk from failure. The budget should be firmly managed or projects are definitely vulnerable.
8. Project managers need to be realistic about resource requirements to ensure projects are delivered against the schedule. If understaffed the project will be at risk of schedule slippage or in worst cases complete failure.
9. Often project managers fail to be realistic about how long things will take. Project managers need to be completely up to speed about how long things will take and what the risks are in terms of time. Time can really kill a project if the project suddenly demands more time than is available.
10. Finally project managers need to maintain the right records and documentation. It is fine to think that a project manager can retain information ‘in their heads’ but if they are incapacitated suddenly or taken ill, then the information will be inaccessible to the rest of the project team. If good records are kept, then this is not an issue. Consider the usage of PID’s, Schedules, risk logs, task/activity breakdowns etc.
These mistakes are common but they are avoidable. Project managers need to remember that they are human and that there are risks associated with every step of a project. Then avoidable mistakes don’t happen and the project is successful!