Eight Common Mistakes of a Project Manager
By: Mudassir Iqbal - Consultant and trainer
As project managers, we wear multiple hats—from being facilitators and problem-solvers to translating corporate needs into actionable plans for teams and supporting assets.
This exposes our weaknesses on multiple fronts. I strongly believe that when it comes to project management in this advancing digital era, it’s equally important to identify your weakness—and work on them—as it is to know your strengths. Let’s look at some common weaknesses in many project managers…
1. Infrequent communication with team members: No one negates the significance of consistent communication. Nonetheless, project managers often forget to meet with the team and provide updates to key stakeholders once the project is underway. Formulating the groundwork for everyday meetings—including who will join them to keep things on track—is essential. Project managers need to focus on having the appropriate number of people involved—and communicate with them to get regular updates and resolve any complications.
2. Neglecting quality: Oftentimes, project managers focus so much on delivering the project on time and within budget that it becomes easy to overlook quality. They might emphasize the deliverables needed to fulfill project stages immediately, one after another, and move on to the next phase in the project plan.
But team members might be more focused on delivering a quality project (while still respecting deadlines). Here, it’s important for the project manager to take notes from the team and concentrate on effective processes. This allows the team to deliver a good quality project—and determine multiple ways to finish it within the given time frame.
3. Mishandling team member skill sets: Good project managers know how to get optimal outcomes from the people who work for them—by perfectly matching their team skills and competencies with project tasks. But sometimes, project managers don’t optimize the abilities of team members; consequently, they allocate unsuitable tasks. This eventually affects the entire flow of the project.
This can be prevented with a clear understanding of what your team members can deliver at their full potential. Set up demanding plans and periodic goals; these are efficient ways to know your team and each member’s strengths. You can also think outside the box and go for an outing with your team, or conduct other unique team-building activities.
4. Allowing scope creep: Project scope isn’t always set in stone; it might require compromise. At times, scope creep results in project failure. If any modifications of project scope occur, there is always a process to manage them. It’s crucial to understand how these varying requests influence the financial plan, milestones, agenda and closing deadlines. Unfortunately, project managers often invest too little time in understanding project scope. They don’t comprehend exactly what it is they need to deliver, thus end up setting unrealistic deadlines.
5. Not being brutally truthful with project sponsors: Project sponsors play an imperative role in the success or failure of a project. As noted in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), “project sponsors typically work with the project management team and assist them in various matters such as monitoring progress, project funding, clarifying the scope and influencing others to benefit the project.”
One important responsibility of a project manager is to keep project sponsors sufficiently apprised of the project’s success—and potential limitations. Project sponsors represent power; therefore, many project managers fall into the trap of portraying a positive picture that doesn’t always reflect reality.
This might affect the project in multiple ways, such as:
Setting very high expectations that may not be practical for project outcomes Putting the project manager in a challenging position to explain why certain problems were not explained to stakeholders or sponsors earlier Minimizing the sponsor’s confidence in the project manager’s estimating skills Communicating a message that the project manager doesn’t have enough willpower to speak the truth
6. Being resistant to change: As a project manager, you encounter a number of challenges such as missed deadlines and meetings, unexpected changes and last-minute task additions. A good PM has enough determination to adapt to these changes and keep the project flowing smoothly. This means you need to change your approach, add new resources to the project and start over.
Some project managers, however, become stubborn and won’t communicate with the team to figure out all of the possible solutions to the project’s issues. Being inflexible to various processes, not involving enough team members, and showing a lack of communication will affect overall project development and ensure project failure.
7. Not using assimilated project management tools: PM tools don’t completely replace project management skills and experience, but they can be an effective alternative (for example, a project is comprised of several documents; a tool can quickly put them in the right sequence). If you don’t use PM-integrated tools, there won’t be a free flow of information through the team—and the project is likely to fail.
8. Not acknowledging hard work: People are a fundamental element of project management. Many times, project managers fail to acknowledge their co-workers’ hard work and don’t give them incentives. As a result, team members might feel unappreciated and become less driven—which will be a threat to project success.
Final thoughts Familiarizing yourself with common mistakes can help you prevent a project disaster. One magic technique for project success is understanding the fact that every project is different; each comes with specific requirements that need to be achieved differently. Therefore, learning about your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths. This can be achieved in many ways, like asking for an honest review from a colleague, manager or even a team member. Another thing that will help you become a better project manager is to learn from the habits of successful industry leaders.