Project management is fine art. It requires attention to detail, while at the same time keeping perspective on the bigger picture. It's no surprise then that many within the industry are floundering. Inefficiency is a constant, and with a number of companies I observe, I think to myself: where's the larger sense of a project here? In this article, I want to talk about five major project management fails that will keep your company from generating any momentum.
I hope that by talking about each of these, it might help you or your company sidestep these pitfalls and run efficient and effective projects.
1. Failure to Communicate
Among the most annoying project management face-palms is the inability to communicate with staff about their responsibilities. If people don't know what they're supposed to do and how it fits in with the larger picture, they will never be able to add up to anything.
Sometimes, it can seem like a project manager is jealously guarding each component of a project. I can’t emphasize enough how harmful of a tendency this is. Duplicated work and demotivated staff are just a couple of symptoms that arise from this mentality.
Keep everybody in the loop. This can take the form of concise and regular emails, or frequent directed meetings. The point is: the channels of communication should be wide open. Not only should staff understand what is expected of them, but they should also feel comfortable to ask the project manager to clarify those expectations at any point.
2. Failure to Delegate
Another common project management mistake is confusing management for doing everything yourself. Whether it stems from a need to control, or a lack of faith in staff, it doesn’t matter: a failure to delegate can quickly impact a project.
Management is itself a full-time job. That doesn’t mean project managers shouldn’t get their hands dirty (they should), but, as in many other aspects of life, it comes down to knowing how to pick your battles.
You need to be keeping the bigger picture in mind so you can constantly square up the nitty-gritty that’s being done to see how the project is staying on track.
3. No Accountability
This is a huge face-palm, and it usually stems from some combination of the first and second points. Accountability—of the staff, of the project managers themselves—is an essential driver that should not be ignored at the peril of the project.
Leaders need to know how to lead. That means rewarding good performance and encouraging under-performers to get with the program. That can mean assigning desirable tasks to high performers, it can also take the form of friendly, candid chats with both those who have done very well and those who have not.
Everybody, yourself included, needs to feel some stake in the success of a project. If the success itself is too abstract to elicit motivation, then it may be time to consider other incentives.
4. Poor Knowledge Management
I’ve observed it too many times. Project managers stretching themselves thin well into overtime hours to figure out a significant problem. After days of toil, they finally figure out a solution. The only trouble is, a way to solve this problem was already figured out months ago, but nobody remembers. Cultivating this kind of institutional memory is key, and it comes down to knowledge management.
Make sure that everything you’re doing is documented and accounted for. Instituting knowledge management processes makes for the kind of project where some poor sap isn’t marooned for hours trying to reinvent the wheel.
5. No Vision
I’ve saved the best for last, and it really ties all the others together. A good project manager has to possess the answer to the question, “why?” And he or she must be able to share it with the staff.
It’s okay for some things to disclose themselves through experience, but the project manager has to have the vision for why things are being done a certain way, or why they are being done at all. Otherwise, you may as well be some mindless robot of efficiency.