5 common project management mistakes to avoid

Despite the best laid plans if you aren’t mindful of these errors, you could be headed for disaster.
By Satyaki Sarkar

When dealing with critical, large-scale projects, there is a frightening possibility of things going wrong, no matter how experienced or able the leader. With so many moving parts and infinite possibilities, it is extremely important that a project manager knows how best to mitigate crisis situations, take on the spot decisions, and utilise the resources available in a way that maximises returns while reducing the risks. However, in spite of keeping all these things in mind, delays, failures, and mismanagement are a common occurrence. Here’s how to ensure your projects don’t get derailed.

1. Incomplete employee performance evaluation
Large projects usually involve both a functional manager as well as a project manager. And while employees need to report to both, the work that they do is very often assessed based only on defined job roles, and not the additional work they have to do for the project in question. So employees feel that the work they do for the project is like a burden, with no benefits or incentive, and is therefore treated as secondary in importance. Not only does this affect the quality of their work, but in the long run it can have a very negative impact on the project’s success. The best approach is to develop an evaluation process that takes into account all the contributions an employee has made, so that appraisals and reviews incorporate their regular work performance as well as that on projects. This motivates them to treat both with the same priority.

2. Unclear goals and lack of interaction
A project manager needs to clearly define the aims and goals of a project at the very beginning and communicate this precisely to entire team. He/she should be available to discuss any doubts or concerns team members may have about their roles and responsibilities. The lack of well-defined goals creates confusion, with employees unsure of what they are working towards and why. Additionally, a project manager should regularly meet with the team and work alongside them to understand the status of the project, it’s weak points, employees’ pain areas and resolve any conflicts that might arise. It keeps the team focused, motivated, and more self-dependent as they have a clear understanding of the project, the process involved, and how to achieve the desired results.

3. Micromanagement
While it is important for project managers to be involved with their team and regularly interact with them, it must not be used as an excuse to micromanage each and every aspect of the project and the employees’ work. Everyone has their own process and way of working, and as long as their approach keeps them on track a project manager should allow them a certain level of freedom and independence. The only thing that he/she needs to ensure is that team members have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the processes involved and the project itself. Not only does this help facilitate a smooth operation, it also allows employees to come up with their own methods for improving efficiency and saving time and money.

4. Not adjusting to changing situations
In any kind of a project, despite the best laid out contingency plans, safeguards, and processes, there’s always a possibility that something will go wrong. In such a situation it is extremely important for the project manager to be able to adjust direction and adapt on the spot to get the project back on track. However, more often than not, the fear of failure makes them do the opposite, reinforcing rigid rules and processes in the blind hope that things will fall into place if only the rules are followed. To avoid such a situation, a project manager should stay updated with information on a real time basis, so that whatever the calamity, he/she can take executive decisions immediately, adjusting budget, processes, resources and delivery expectations to mitigate the situation and ensure success.

5. Inefficient risk management
Last but not the least, a lot of projects fail due to inefficient risk prediction and management, which forces employees to scramble about trying to identify the problem and look for the right mode of action. Project managers need to be proactive instead of reactive; predicting as many possible risks and crisis situations that might happen during the project’s lifetime. This will help them test out their mitigation measures, as well as speed up the identification of the root cause of a problem, thereby ensuring that any kind of a crisis can be managed and dealt with immediately.

Photograph: Pressfoto/ 

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