Published here April 2020


Musings Index

How to Avoid These Top 10 Project Management Mistakes — by Aimee Laurence[1]

Max Wideman's comment

As author Aimee Laurence observes, especially regarding projects running late and over budget: "Many businesses are familiar with derailed or delayed projects, but these happen for a variety of different reasons. Indeed, why do projects fail or go over budget in the first place? Well, there are a few common mistakes that even project managers with experience suffer from."

If you are a project sponsor or a project manager, here are Aimee's top ten basic mistakes that you should definitely and deliberately avoid.

1. Appointing the wrong person to manage the project. A frequent mistake that occurs is when the business doesn't spend the right amount of time finding the right person for the project and instead, they focus all their efforts on finding the resources. It happens so frequently that a business chooses a project manager based on whether they are available, rather whether they have the necessary skills.

As Ken Greene, a project manager at State Of Writing and Boom Essays says: "Choosing a project manager that's not experienced or not the right fit for the position can actually derail a project before it begins. To avoid this mistake, take the time to choose a project manager with the right skills."

2. Failing to get team buy-in. If the team affected or involved doesn't support the project, it will fail. Some managers fail to clarify the roles of the project's team members, or fail to explain how the project will benefit those involved if it is successful. This can also happen if people don't understand the project's urgency or necessity for the business. To fix this problem right at the beginning, project managers should meet with their whole team, and hold a presentation about the purpose of the project and its importance.

Another buy-in problem is if no one at the top of the organization owns the project and champions it. If there is no guidance from the upper echelons, it will surely fail.

3. Projects not prioritized. Managers often try to multitask on many projects at once, thinking that it is more productive. It's actually the opposite. When people multitask, they actually end up producing more slowly and the quality is also affected negatively. Moreover, these delays end up pushing all projects behind schedule due to bottlenecks here and there.

To avoid this issue happening, prioritize key projects and reduce all other work accordingly. That means all those involved can spend more time working on their tasks, and handling issues as they arise.

4. Not holding enough meetings. For a project to be successful it needs good communication throughout its life. If the project manager fails to communicate with his or her team clearly and regularly, the project will inevitably peter out. The necessary meetings can be short ones; just pick a regular day and time of the week to meet in person or online, and be regular about it until the end of the project. Make sure it works for the whole team. This keeps everyone on the same page and the project moving along.

5. Modifying the scope halfway through. If the project goal is not clear, or is changed throughout, the project will not succeed. This is very troublesome and one of the main causes of misallocation of cost and time. Even small changes have a trickle-down effect and end up delaying the whole operation. Instead, have a clearly defined scope from day one and keep an eye on the project to make sure that it does not significantly change as the project moves forward.

6. Being too ambitious with timelines. Certainly, project managers and their sponsors want to keep their executives and clients happy, but don't be persuaded to be unrealistically optimistic about the timeline. If you are, you'll just miss all your deadlines, or cause your employees to burnout by working too much overtime. You could also find your client losing trust in your project. Use appropriate project management tools to manage the timeline, and include reasonable time and money contingencies to cover evident risks to your project.

At the same time, your project plan must include everything that needs to happen, who is responsible for which tasks, and the important sequence of steps of the project. That doesn't mean you cannot be flexible and adapt to changes during the process. Therefore, at regular intervals, take a step back and look at your plan to keep improving your work ahead based on what has happened already. You don't need to make constant changes to the schedule, but you should at least be open to doing so.

7. Failing to track changes. When you are called upon to make changes to your project's outcome, be sure to track these changes and who has approved each change per a recognized approval process. Samantha O'Brien, a tech writer at Coursework Writing and Paper Fellows, explains that you should: "Choose this approval system from the beginning so that every detail can be monitored and tracked. This is really helpful after a project is done if there is a performance audit or an argument with the client."

8. Micromanaging. Project managers should not micromanage their team, because if they do, they are making a big mistake. You should have regularly scheduled updates and meetings to get progress reports. This builds trust in the team's work, and allows the manager to focus on the "big picture" aspects.

9. Relying only on tools. Project management software is not the answer to everything. Choose software and tools that the whole team will be able to use and give training on hoe to use it. However, don't prioritize software over getting the right team members for the job.

10. Not having metrics for success. How can you determine whether a project is successful? To the extent possible, you should establish with your client what their vision of a "successful project" looks like and, in particular, what "project success" looks like.

Undoubtedly, the client's view of a project's success will shift over the life of the project, but if don't have any benchmarks at all, you will not know whether or not the project has been done to the client's satisfaction.


Thank you Aimee — you have provided valuable advice. However, there are a couple of points I would like to comment on.

• Item 8: At what point does "Necessary, detailed supervision" become "Micromanaging"?

• Item 10: While establishing prioritized "Success Metrics" at the outset of the project is theoretically essential for providing a basis for prioritizing decisions during the course of the project. However, it is not often done.

Such a requirement should be just as important as having an approved Business Case justifying the project in the first place. Otherwise why bother?

1. Aimee Laurence is a tutor for the companies Personal Statement Help and Essay Help Service. She focuses her work on project management and different ways for businesses to bring projects to completion. Aimee also works in Human Resources as a freelancer for the website Buy Assignment.
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