"If only I'd thought of that earlier!"
Even the most experienced project managers find themselves making avoidable errors with every project they do. With so much to keep a handle on, it's pretty much impossible not to.
But that doesn't mean you can't prepare yourself for these unexpected eventualities.
1. Inadequate project evaluation
“Evaluation? Shouldn’t that be at the end?” Don’t worry, this isn’t a mistake. Leading the line of project management mistakes starts with your analysis of previous jobs. The golden rule here is nothing new: fail to prepare; prepare to fail. Every time you tie up a project, you need to look into your analytics and identify where things went wrong. If they threaten your company’s entire existence, make them a priority for your risk management response.
The smaller issues can be resolved by identifying blockers and making changes. Perhaps all you need is a different practice, but you may need to restructure departments. After every project, take time to evaluate what worked and what didn't, and write up a plan of how to improve your efficiency in the future.
2. Not convincing your executives
Among your most crucial stakeholders are the decision-makers who can give you the green-light on your projects. They hold the purse strings and can allocate — or withhold — human and financial resources. To keep your executives on side, you need to have faith in your project for them to have faith in you.
Make sure to prepare an impactful presentation that goes into detail and has been well-budgeted. Most importantly, you need to let them know what's in it for them. If they don't have a clear idea of the benefits, you'll start off on the wrong foot with a lack of confidence that could cause your project to fail. By keeping your executives informed and inspired, you will enjoy their confidence which is a life-saver if — or when — times get tough.
3. Not convincing your team
Once you have your executives on board, you still need to sell projects to your team. Not inspiring your team is one of the most overlooked project management mistakes you can make, so make them aware of the opportunities it will bring and make everybody feel valued. If you fail to get your team on side, you'll quickly come across situations where tasks run behind schedule due to a lack of motivation.
Honesty is crucial: if you know a task or two can seem tedious or irrelevant, acknowledge that so your team knows you understand, but highlight its importance to the overall success of your project. It's always best to make everybody working with you aware of the less-pleasant aspects, but also those that they will relish. This way, expectations are clear and your team is far less likely to become jaded as your project progresses.
4. Failing to pinpoint success metrics
If you don't know where you're going, you're never going to get there. Having some solid targets to achieve helps to avoid one of the biggest project management mistakes: not understanding what success is. Discovering your success metrics isn't an exact science and it will change for every project. You need to be aware of your client's needs and how it reflects on you as a company.
To create a roadmap that ticks all the boxes, schedule meetings with all your stakeholders, identify what a successful project will look like, and plan your tasks with those goals in mind. Keep this list on your Kanban board, at the bottom of your emails, on your notice board — anywhere to keep it present — and you'll find you don't waste time or resources on actions that don't drive you towards where you want to be.
5. Inadequate or insufficient communication
Poor communication is one of the most common mistakes in project management. We've all been there: you've got all your tasks lined up but you're so involved in the nitty gritty that you forget to give updates. Without regular communication and project collaboration, your clients can lose faith and your team can lose motivation. However, if you have the right communication software, you can keep everybody in the loop which keeps your project on track.
Be sure to set the right communication policies though — nobody wants an overloaded inbox, a phone that never stops ringing, or a quagmire of instant messages. Avoid these common mistakes in project management by setting expectations from the outset. Most task-specific communication can go through your task management software, general announcements by email, project collaboration via instant messenger or video call, and emergencies by phone.
6. Spreading yourself too thin
If you overload your schedule with too many commitments, something has got to give. Freelancers often have their own special brand of project management mistakes and a big one is taking on too many projects. All that enthusiasm and effort is sadly repaid with sleepless nights and poor decisions, so to avoid project failure, don’t fall into this trap. But that's not the only way you can make common mistakes in project resource management.
Some eager project managers, early in their careers, want to keep everything in-house. And why wouldn't you? It's cheaper and you already have relationships with those in your office. Even so, this can often lead to issues as you put over-worked, and often under-qualified minds on tasks that would be better done by external providers. Overstretching your resources is one of those mistakes that only reveals itself when it's far too late. Plan your weekly schedule to include gaps for reflection or to deal with red flags and your future self will thank you.
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7. Not scheduling enough meetings
As we've mentioned, communication is key to making sure everyone is on the same page. You can avoid some of the easiest project management mistakes simply by scheduling meetings throughout your project to inspire confidence and provide updates to all those involved. Book in regular video calls with all your stakeholders and you'll find people are far more receptive to changes when they're aware of them in advance.
You can be far more agile by using meetings to make small, regular tweaks, rather than huge shifts when it's almost too late. For these meetings, you need to come fully prepared, so take organized notes whenever you see something that needs to be discussed and send out agendas in advance of your meetings to help them run smoothly. With well-planned, structured meetings, you'll quickly develop a reputation as a trustworthy project manager and even solve a few issues you wouldn't have gotten to the bottom of by yourself.
8. Letting your project creep out of control
Let's be real here, nobody can create a plan for a project that goes down without a single hiccup. You're almost always going to come across a certain amount of cost or scope creep, but there are ways of reducing it to a manageable level. A detailed risk management analysis is one way of reducing some of the common mistakes in project resource management. As part of your planning, consult with your department leaders and external providers to see how you can avoid or mitigate any risks to your project.
With your risk management strategy up and running, you have a contingency plan for when things don't go as expected and you can call on it to remove one of the most detrimental project management mistakes. Along with smart planning, conduct regular analyses to check your progress, quell any potential problems, and avoid project failure.
9. Setting unrealistic timelines
For project managers who are new to the game, it's all too easy to be overly optimistic about your deadlines in order to secure a deal and to keep your clients happy. However, this is one of the biggest traps you can fall into. By underestimating your timelines, you can put an unfair amount of pressure on your team and overshoot your deadlines.
One of the mantras used by experienced project managers is to under-promise and over-deliver. This doesn't mean you need to compete yourself out of business, but allowing yourself a bit of leeway to correct mistakes or offer added value will gain you an enviable reputation as a project manager. Gantt charts are one of the most user-friendly ways of taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture, but ensure that those priceless gaps are scheduled in to give you and your team the flexibility needed to adapt when necessary.
10. Slipping into micromanagement
Project managers should be aware of each part played in their projects, but they can't be an expert in every area. Intervening at every small detail can come across as insulting, frustrating, and is one of the biggest causes of a lack of motivation among teams. We get it, you want things to go smoothly, but aside from anything, by getting involved in other people's tasks, you neglect priorities such as communicating with clients, planning for unexpected eventualities, and analyzing the overall performance of your project.
Micromanagement is one of the project management mistakes that you can't plan for in advance. You've got to always be aware of overstretching your position and causing rifts in your team. With clear, yet detailed instructions and team members you trust, you can stick to your role as a manager and oversee the macro, not the micro.
11. Not getting project management software on your side
Old school techniques are dead in the water. With so much to deal with, modern project management tools can be the solution to so many project management mistakes. With task management software, you can set up your ideal project from start to finish. But even better than that, you can prepare templates for contingency plans that are ready to deploy at a moment's notice. Similarly, time tracking can help you monitor your team's performance as well as helping you plan future tasks in a data-driven way.
Your project management tools are where all your task-based communication should take place and everybody involved gets notified for every update and change.
12. Ignoring automations
Administrative tasks are of course a major part of projects, but this doesn’t mean you need to bog yourself down with it. If you’re not already using automations, it’s about time you started. Not only do you save a lot of time and focus more on the job at hand, but you reduce the margin for human error — especially on stressful projects. Automations can be as simple as sending reminders or recurring tasks, but you can also use dependencies to automatically assign a task once a previous one has finished.
By adding smart technology like automations to your team, you will set aside far more time to let your team get on with what they do best. If you haven't already made these mistakes, we hope you've learned lessons for your future in project management. Of course, you can never expect the unexpected, but by bearing our list in mind, you're far less likely to make these project management mistakes in the future. Having said that, many of the errors mentioned above have a pretty simple solution: choose a great project management tool and you can cut out all kinds of potential issues.
Bitrix24 offers you all the features you need to keep your projects on track and it's so easy to use, you can get up and running in no time. But that's not the best bit. You don't even need to invest anything to get started! Sign up for Bitrix24 today and see how it can facilitate your work and cut out those classic mistakes in project management.
What can be avoided by project planning?
Meticulous planning can help you avoid these classic mistakes in project management:
- Losing teaming motivation.
- Creeping over project scope.
- Repeating mistakes.
- Unmotivated workforce.
- Losing conifdence in your clients, your team, and executives.
Why do projects fail?
Projects fail for a vast array of reasons, such as:
- Poor planning.
- Undefined goals.
- No contingency plans.
- Unmotivated workforce.
- Insufficient communication.
What software can I use to stop making project management mistakes?
The most obvious answer is "project management software", but getting into more detail, the best tools to use are:
- Task management.
- Time tracking software.
- Collaborative documents.
- Cost tracking software.
- Cloud-based storage.