Can you remember that time when you had this perfect idea, when you had the implementation plans all figured out and it gradually evolves into a budding beautiful project but before you can say Jack Robinson, the project slips to a downward spiral? The once promising and perfect project thus never became a reality.

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If you have ever experienced the above or hope never to experience it, then this topic is for you. Today we will examine some common mistakes in project management and what causes them.

1. Using square pegs on round holes.

This happens more often than we can imagine. A lot of energy and effort is usually put into gathering resources for a project while overlooking the single most important resource – the project manager.

It is not surprising that a lot of times, project managers are chosen based on availability at the time of the project rather than the skill sets they possess. It sometimes gets as bad as hiring a “project manager” with no or inadequate project managing experience to oversee a project. We often forget that the job of the project manager is to coordinate other resources in an effective manner that gets the project completed.

The task of identifying a suitable project manager should begin from the period of project conception. Appropriate attributes and skills that the project manager must possess should be listed in clear and specific terms. The search for the project manager should begin early with significant plans on proper remuneration and little or no compromises being made on project management skills.

The perfect team, perfect ideas and perfect resources in the hands of the wrong project manager can only lead to a disaster.

2. Failure to understand peculiarities of individuals and personality politics.

The ability to manage team members determines its overall success. Being able to manage personality politics and individual peculiarities helps a project manager get optimal performance from each team member.

According to a popular classification, humans are broadly divided into four temperaments – sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic. It is therefore important to identify the specific temperament key team members belong to and know how to pacify the needs of each.

An unhappy employee would naturally produce a bad output. A proper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of these temperaments is crucial in decision making for an employer. For example, your sanguine team member would most likely do more talk than work but can then help mobilize others, while your melancholic most likely has an uncanny attention to details that your choleric may overlook. Never forget to utilize each individual according to his or her areas of strength.

3. The superhero syndrome.

It’s always an awesome feeling to be the one who saved the day. It feels good to know that you blew the client’s mind by meeting impossible targets or deadlines, making you begin to feel like the superhero that you actually are.

The superhero syndrome is an easy trap for any project manager to fall into and time is the most implicated culprit in this picture. We get into neck breaking, aggressive and usually impossible timelines just to please the client. The truth is it’s very likely to fail when we engage in this behaviour. We are then faced with the inevitable reality that the timeline we gave is impossible to meet.

The availability of every other resource doesn’t overrule this single all important factor: time. My favourite example is that you can’t fast track the process of pregnancy to a month instead of nine months by making nine women pregnant. This goes the same for the timeline of some projects.

An objective professional should be able to predict the timeline for a project and correctly evaluate the shortest possible time. Any time less than this promises an impending disappointment and eventual loss of credibility as a project manager.

4. More talk, less work.

The moment a project manager is commissioned to work is when he begins the planning process. He makes inquiries and gathers relevant information on the project, recruits necessary team members, and initiates team meetings. Some people spend more time in team meetings arguing back and forth and less time doing real work. The core issue of these discussions are usually of little value and gets dragged continuously. The project manager ends up with near perfect planning on paper but little to no time for execution.

The ample time spent on planning unfortunately does not eliminate all the risks involved in a project. In light of the unknowns that lie ahead, a project manager needs to know when to leave the drawing board and move to the implementation phase.

5. Poor communication.

Communication can be the defining factor between a successful project manager and a failure. In the absence of communication, project team members drift away as though they were pulled by centrifugal forces.

One of the greatest threats to communication in a team is assumption. The project manager may assume that all team members understand the information passed across at each point in time without actually confirming. We send emails without receiving responses and believe that the message has been understood and is going to be carried out. The scales fall from our eyes on the day of evaluation when we realize that a team member has drifted far away from the overall objectives set for the project.

A project manager should ensure that there is no ambiguity in the flow of information on the part of both the sender and the receiver.

6. Poor project flexibility.

The project plan is seen in many quarters as a constitution for the project; it must be adhered to strictly without any deviations or corrections. This holds true for a significant portion of the project lifespan and truly the success of the project depends on the project plan. However, the defining moments for many projects depend on our ability to make important impromptu decisions that present themselves during the course of project execution. Every project manager needs to have enough elasticity for flexibility to adapt to changing project environments.

Project managers should always be open to suggestions that come along the way. It’s important that, as different milestones are achieved in the course of project execution, we take a new holistic look at the project, examine the procedures and processes so far and seek for avenues to improve on the work to be done in future. This would improve the overall efficiency of the project process without any adverse effects on effectiveness.

7. The one-man army.

This type of project manager is always easy to identify when there’s a major project milestone ahead. They look weary, tired, and walk as though the weight of the entire world is on their shoulders. They are always on the move with without any breathing space.

While this might paint the picture of a project manager without a team, sadly these project managers do have a team, sometimes very large ones. They just do not know how to effectively delegate duties to team members. They simply do not trust anyone to do the work as well as they can; as such, they delegate duties but end up doing it all by themselves.

The first requirement for these project managers is to develop trust in their team. They need to realize that everyone can do a good job if given the chance. They need to understand that mistakes are an avenue for correction and not a stimulus to take over the job from the individual handling it.

8. Lack of performance measurement.

A lot people are never successful because they never know when they get there, so they keep working to get what they already have. A detailed understanding of performance measurement tools and techniques helps us to know that on the moment we declare that our project has come to an end, every party involved can walk away with the satisfaction of a job well done.

The project manager’s definition of success must correlate directly with the end user’s definition of success. The project manager, as early as during project planning, must consult the client and end-users to ascertain their definition of success. He then sets milestones in tandem with the final definition of success as agreed to ensure maximum satisfaction from all parties upon project closure.

Conclusion

Today we explored some of the common mistakes a project manager makes when overseeing a project. Although we were able to create a list of some of the most common mistakes a project manager can fall into, it is important to note that the list is non-exhaustive.

We hope this article has served its purpose of highlighting common pitfalls and would help us escape them. As usual, do let us know your thoughts in the comment box and we may just bring a sequel to this post.