10 Experts Share Their Advice on Project Management Mistakes That Must Never Be Made

Why do good projects fail? Project management is planning, time management, and good old-fashioned organization put together. But way too often, things go haywire and we’re left wondering why we did a shoddy job at managing the whole task.

We surveyed 10 experts who dole out their expert advice and tell us how to avoid these time-taking and costly blunders.

1. Keep an eye on project resources

“We tend to talk more about keeping projects on track, rather than putting projects on the right track in the first place. What is the right track? There are a few factors that are instrumental to project success. The translation of the future end-state in the project scope definition is crucial. This is oftentimes a poorly managed activity at the start and throughout the project when scope changes. Another factor is stakeholder commitment and alignment. From the outset, stakeholders appear to be all focused on achieving the same thing. But in reality that is hardly the case. The third most important factor is to keep a close eye on is qualified project resources. Projects aim for change and improvements. To make that happen you need to make the best people available, which is not an easy task” advises Bas de Baat, a business technology leader.

2. Don’t ‘own’ a project

“In my opinion, by far, the biggest mistake project managers make is to believe and act like they “own” a project. They don’t, they can’t! A project manager is like an orchestra conductor. They don’t write the music. They don’t play the instruments. They’re not the audience. Their job is to make sure that the goal is clear, the necessary skills and resources are in place and working in concert, those affected by the project are on side and a plan that articulates everyone’s role in the effort is in place and actively managed to achieve the desired end” says Drew Davison.

3. Don’t ignore the slacker

“Ignoring the slacker in the team is a big mistake. Identify and remedy the matter early on. Also, failing to establish team ground rules (and enforcing them) is a big blunder. Ask those important initiating questions to vet the project early on and hopefully avoid those projects from hell altogether”advises Dana Brownlee, a corporate trainer, speaker, and meeting facilitator.

4. Avoid getting bogged down

“One of the most important things project leaders should avoid is getting bogged down with just the mechanics of the role. I've begun using the term project leader more frequently instead of project manager because it is in fact a leadership role, and one that should do more than simply manage projects, teams and stakeholder expectations. Project leaders should continually ensure all efforts are directly linked back to high-level strategic goals if they are to be effective and offer true value to businesses” opines Moira Alexander, founder and president of Lead-Her-Ship Group and a co-founder and director, Information Systems & Technology Advisory at Conture Business Advisors, PS.

5. Believe in the project you start

If you don’t believe in your own project, don’t start them. Because if you don’t, then there are high chances of failure and issues will spread into other parts of your work and life. Also remember to be pessimistic when estimating. We tend to be over optimistic when we calculate duration and workload of projects, often forgetting that there are many interdependencies and external factors that influence our tasks. Add at least 20% to your first estimate”suggests Antonio Nieto Rodriguez, director of program management office at GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines.

6. Ensure that PMs have the requisite skills

“The biggest project management disaster I encountered in 2016 involved a case where the Project Managers did not possess the industry-specific skills required to drive the project to a successful outcome. The project was a nine-figure disaster because the PM’s let their egos get in the way and they rejected all legitimate input and criticism from end users. Don’t let that happen to you” says Jeffrey-Morgan, president of e-Volve IT Services.

7. Do Not Create Fear

“The best initiative I have ever seen is the Red Button initiative. If anyone on the project has concerns, they are entitled to push the red button and project manager needs to address and solve the issue before the project can go back to normal. This prevents that in the (sometimes) many layers in the project, the different layers start to wave away their issues in the hope they can resolve it. When the problems then really become visible, it is too late and irrevocable. By creating an open culture where people can express concerns, your project will flourish” says Frank Wammes, CTO for Capgemini Applications Services for continental Europe.

8. Plan for the process

“A lot of project management mistakes can be spotted a mile away. For example, if you can see that a project has unrealistic deadlines or that a client has unreasonably high expectations, the project could very well be a nightmare. It's easiest to avoid these common problems by simply being mindful of project goals and expectations from the start of the process, and by working closely with clients to ensure everyone involved is on the same page. These are common practices at WebpageFX, but we also take it one step further: We offer custom-built project management tools designed to keep all communication between our clients and teams transparent and easy to access.” William Craig says. “My advice in a nutshell: Plan for the process, not just the end result” he adds.

9. Communicate Clearly

“We tend to focus more on whether or not a message was sent, than whether or not the message was received. Project information needs to be communicated deeply, broadly and repeatedly throughout an organization and you need confirmation that messages being sent are being received” says Theodore May.

10. Build an efficient team

“There is no way that you will achieve a project on your own, you will need the support and contribution of your colleagues and stakeholders. Make sure they have a place to contribute and feel part of the team too” opines David Miller. “Also, focus on the value of what you are offering. Focus on the impact and the benefits – that is what will help you overcome resistance and gain supporters. Moreover, don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong or that the project failed. Take ownership and learn from them” he adds.

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