November 14, 2022

5 Critical Project Management Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

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At its heart, project management is about mitigating risks and maintaining predictability. Regardless of what project management strategies are used, your primary task is to make sure the project goes as planned.

One way to ensure this is to avoid common project management mistakes. These mistakes can creep into even the most well-laid plans and impact your project’s success. Kanban boards, stakeholder management solutions, automated task prioritization, and other project management tools help keep teams on track, minimizing critical mistakes that may arise from human error.

1. Not Setting Clear Project Goals

Many projects fail because they did not have clear goals set upon kickoff. Stakeholders may have a desired outcome in mind, but often, that outcome has not been explicitly communicated. One of the best ways to pinpoint a nebulous goal is to hash out helpful key performance indicators (KPIs) or determine what a deliverable would look like at the end of the project before work begins.

Poor goal-setting also happens when there is no consensus among stakeholders about the project’s direction or project success criteria. Additionally, a change in requirements or an unplanned risk can cause projects to have unclear goals.

Tools that help establish clear project goals

Establishing clearly defined project goals is as simple as ensuring they meet the SMART criteria. Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely usually come with easily identifiable KPIs.

With a KPI tracker like Domo, project managers can keep track of goals and point to concrete data points that measure success when managing projects. This will also help establish a consensus among stakeholders on the project’s direction once kickoff has occurred.

Tracking project portfolios can also help align project goals. This is an excellent way to track team workloads and provide feedback to stakeholders. KeyedIn provides a suite of portfolio management, reporting, and prioritization features that can act as historical records and aid in goal calibration.

With the ease of project portfolio access KeyedIn provides, it becomes a simple matter to compare similar past projects to current projects, and it gives team members easily accessible data to point to when collaboratively creating project goals.

2. Not Focusing on Personalities During Team Selection

The seventh edition of the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) mentions that a team is more than a set of hands. Every member of your project team has two roles:

  • A functional role based on their skills
  • An emotional role based on how they fit into the team’s culture (Do they engender trust, empower teammates, etc.?)

The best teams don’t just have the right mix of skills; they also have the right mix of personalities. After all, if your team members can’t get along with each other, you can’t really expect them to guide a project to success or collaborate well, regardless of their skills.

“The dynamics of interpersonal relationships depend on individuals’ personalities, not on hard skills or expertise,” wrote Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Dave Winsborough in Harvard Business Review. “The only way to create a team that’s worth more than the sum of its individual contributors is to select members on the basis of personality, soft skills, and values.”

This isn’t exactly a new belief in project management. Experienced managers might already be familiar with personality-focused team models such as Belbin’s 9 Team Roles. These models divide team members into different roles based on their personalities, values, and energy levels.

Thus, team members might have different roles, such as:

  • Managing stakeholder relationships
  • Evaluating results, following best practices, and keeping the project on track
  • Motivating the team and challenging them to perform better

Selecting for personality and skill ensures your people perform well not just as individuals but also as a team.

Tools that help choose the right team

Trello’s kanban boards give teammates the ability to organize themselves in terms of capacity, skills, and ability to work together. By putting work up for grabs in accordance with the capacity of the team, and allowing members to assign themselves to tasks, work will more easily fall into the hands of members that are best suited to the project tasks at hand.

3. Not Reporting Necessary Data

Successful project management will usually rely on effective and meaningful reporting. Managers sometimes see creating project reports as a mundane task and fail to include all of the necessary information in them. Routinely failing to dig into project reports will come back to haunt project managers sooner or later in the form of tasks that have fallen through the cracks or unaddressed roadblocks cropping up down the line.

For example, if a task is delayed because a distributor could not provide raw materials in time, and that delay has not been reported, stakeholders will be left in the dark, further delaying projects that have already run into a bumpy road.

Tools that create effective reports

Kissflow generates stakeholder-friendly reports without any need for additional coding. The software helps project managers create simple-to-understand, narrative reports like project health and status updates. These data views come with clean visualizations of KPIs and data organized according to different priorities, so team members can see granular KPIs, and executives can focus on big-picture progress.

Kissflow also allows teams to create status reports with stakeholders in mind. Short, data-rich reports give stakeholders the information they need without bogging meetings down with useless data points that clutter presentations and slow down meetings.

4. Prioritizing ‘Urgent’ Tasks Over ‘Important’ Tasks

The Eisenhower Matrix is taught by the Project Management Institute to this day because being mired in urgent tasks has been the bane of project managers for decades. An Eisenhower Matrix is an excellent tool when creating a to-do list at the beginning of the day, but it can be difficult to prioritize tasks correctly as time goes on.

Project managers need to be able to separate the urgent from the important to avoid spinning their wheels in “urgent” muck. Sticking to a project plan and effectively delegating small fires to team members will keep a project on schedule and within budget.

Tools that manage task prioritization

Project management tools that have built-in task prioritization will take the mental load off of project managers and their teams, allowing them to efficiently meet project needs in order.

For example, Planview has portfolio analysis tools that keep track of project portfolios by allowing project managers to rank and interconnect projects. The portfolio-wide views and analysis Planview offers keep the big picture at the forefront of the project management process, ensuring teams don’t get lost in the daily minutiae.

5. Not Managing Scope Creep Proactively

Scope creep is the addition of features, functions, or tasks to the development process that were not previously included in the initial scope of a project. When the scope of a project grows out of control, teams will find themselves over budget and over schedule, and the morale hit can fray in-office relationships in the long run.

Scope creep usually happens when there is no consensus on the project’s scope. If stakeholders and managers have different expectations, one party is liable to over-ask or over-charge the other.

Preventing scope creep demands proactive change management. You need to keep a close eye on every change request and keep stakeholders alerted to the same. When a project team is able to offer data-backed explanations for a rejection, most clients will understand.

This approach also gives teams the opportunity to discuss realistic alternatives that will head off the threat of creeping scope altogether while maintaining the flexibility project management often requires.

Tools that manage scope creep

Project management software is designed to manage the organization and implementation of a project, but these tools also come packaged with tools that will assist project managers in avoiding scope creep.

With monday work management’s sprint planning tools, for example, teams are able to take an open and honest look at the workload they have been presented with ahead of time and allow wiggle room for creep appropriately. Sometimes this means there is no room for creep, sometimes the opposite is true. Regardless, this can be set in stone early in the planning process, and it should be adhered to should any changes in scope crop up that push the boundaries of an already-established workload.

The Right Software Can Help Keep Your Projects Afloat

Project management is a difficult science. It requires careful planning, proactive client management, and judicious use of resources. However, kanban boards and Gantt charts alone are not enough to flawlessly execute a project plan.

Outfitting an attentive team with an arsenal of flexible, user-friendly tools will make it easier to sidestep many roadblocks with ease. Finding the perfect solution for a project can be daunting, but our Project Management Software Guide is a simple starting point for you and your team.

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