03 Feb 10 Common Project Management Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
For each of the 5 Stages of Project Management, there are two common mistakes made by those who are in charge – the Team Leader aka “the Project Manager”- and tasked with ensuring the Project is completed as agreed to, within the parameters of the agreed upon time frame, costs, and outcome.
Here’s how to avoid those mistakes in each of the 5 Stages the next time you are the Team Leader/Project Manager:
Stage #1 – Initiating:
1. Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager “assumes” they know what their Boss/ the Project Sponsor (the high-level person who wants the project done) considers to be an acceptable project outcome.
How to Avoid the Mistake: Every Team Leader/Project Manager must have a crucial conversation with the Boss/Project Sponsor to establish realistic Measurable Objectives for the project. These Measurable Objectives should include:
- The Outcome (expected Objectives),
- A defined Timeline–When does it start? When is it supposed to end?
- The Cost of the project (How much money, labor, and staff is required and where are the resources coming from?).
I guarantee the Team Leader/Project Manager who acts as if telepathy will somehow occur with the Boss/Project Sponsor–instead of open, honest, candid conversation–ensures Mistake #1 will happen. It’s amazing how many people believe in telepathy!
2. Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager doesn’t identify all the Stakeholders (those people who will benefit from or be affected by the Project and those individuals who need to be involved in the Project at some time during the Project).
How to Avoid the Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager needs to talk to the Boss/Project Sponsor about who they believe are the primary Stakeholders. The Team Leader/Project Manager should then identify the secondary Stakeholders who will be indirectly affected by the project’s outcome and which Stakeholders’ support will be needed to provide the required resources for the project. The Team Leader/Project Manager should include additional Stakeholders as the progression of the Project reveals them.
Stage #2 – Planning:
1. Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager fails to include the Team Members in the Planning that defines how the Outcome will be achieved.
How to Avoid the Mistake: It is essential for the success of the project that the Team Leader/Project Manager get the Team’s ownership of the project and a commitment to produce agreed-upon results on time and within budget. Team ownership happens by involving Team Members in:
- Deciding roles and responsibilities of Team Members;
- Creating a project schedule;
- Determining the resources needed – personnel, time, material, etc.;
- Creating a communication plan for the project; and
- Identifying the risks in the completion of the Project, and creating a Risk Response Plan if necessary.
2. Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager fails to keep everyone informed.
How to Avoid the Mistake: After reviewing the Stakeholders, the Team Leader/Project Manager and the Team create a Communication Plan that addresses how, when and about what the Team will communicate to the Boss/Sponsor, each Stakeholder and each Team Member who is not always working on the project. Typical reports are Status Reports (where the project is now); Progress Reports (how it got there); Change Reports (significant changes and how they affect the Project).
Stage #3 – Executing:
1. Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager does not hold enough Team Meetings.
How to Avoid the Mistake: Team Leaders/Project Managers should start every large project with a Team Kickoff Meeting to go over Plan and generate momentum. The Team Leader/Project Manager should hold weekly Team meetings to discuss progress (were all activities completed on time and within budget? Did the Team exceed, miss or meet targets for the week), problems (conflicts and disputes) and potential issues.
2. Mistake: The Team Leader/The Project Manager does not celebrate success enough with the Team.
How to Avoid the Mistake: Celebration provides momentum for the Team. Team Leaders/Project Managers need to celebrate even small successes, perhaps on a weekly basis, by recognizing Team and individual achievements, as well as success defined by reaching the Milestones identified in the Project Action Plan.
Stage #4 – Monitoring:
1. Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager is not constantly looking for trouble.
How to Avoid the Mistake: Good Team Leaders/Project Managers are constantly looking for trouble. They must constantly be aware of and manage, any issue that is going to affect the Outcome, Time Frame or Cost. Some examples of these matters are:
- Time Slippage (keeping the project on schedule by tracking project activities);
- Scope Creep (prohibiting others from enlarging the project by not saying “yes” when the answer to the request must be “no”); and
- Project Changes (knowing what every change does to the quality of the Project’s outcome, cost and time frame).
2. Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager loses track of the project’s outcome, time frame, and cost by not using an appropriate tracking system.
How to Avoid the Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager needs to use tracking systems (i.e. Microsoft Project, QuickBooks, Excel) to reveal any issues or problems. Timely corrective action needs to take place by examining the outcomes produced and provide results with the resources used during a defined performance period.
Stage #5 – Completing:
1. Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager attempts to complete or “hand the project off” without tying up all the loose ends.
How to Avoid the Mistake: When the Team Leader/Project Manager determines ninety percent of the project is completed, he/she should meet with the Boss/Sponsor and primary Stakeholders and develop a Closing Checklist and Punch List identifying any uncompleted tasks. Those items must be completed before handing the project off or declaring the project completed.
2. Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager fails to debrief and, if warranted, celebrate with the Team.
How to Avoid the Mistake: The Team Leader/Project Manager holds a debriefing session about the project with the Team using an “After Action Review” to share lessons learned, mistakes made and overcome and successes achieved. The Team Leader/Project Manager and Team discuss what went right and what went wrong and evaluates the Team and individual Team Members’ performance. If the Project’s objectives have been met, the Team leader/Project Manager and Team celebrate and recognize the Team’s and individual Team Members’ efforts and accomplishments.
The Bottom Line:
While Project Management is replete with the opportunity to make mistakes, a Team Leader/Project Manager who avoids the mistakes described above can enhance the probability their project will end in success.