Avoiding Common Mistakes in Project Management

Project management comes with its share of pitfalls and problems. Avoiding common mistakes while managing your project is step one for guiding ideas to reality. Watching a project get derailed is a painful experience – and watching a project go off the tracks for a simply preventable reason hurts even more. Let’s take a look at some common mistakes in project management that are prevalent around the industry, and how you can avoid them.

Failing to Get Team Members Engaged At The Beginning

We all know our project is only as good as its team. In truth, it goes a little further – it isn’t just about the team, but about how invested and engaged they are in the project. A motivated team is more productive than a lackadaisical one, hands down. A good project manager isn’t only looking at deadlines and workflows – you need to create the environment within the project that brings everyone to work each day raring to go and make things happen! A seasoned PMO put it this way:

I think that the most important thing is engagement. And I’m not talking simple collaboration tools, but actually creating the feeling of being part of the team for every team member. Such engagement drives efficiency and accountability for everyone part of the project. Individuals will contribute to the team goal when they feel they have responsibility and are being trusted. These elements, alongside a good understanding of the path forward, are the building blocks of team engagement.

Skip this, and you’ll be battling lethargy and disinterest over the course of the project. Address it at the beginning, and you’ll start the project with momentum.

engaged meeting

How To Get Team Members Engaged: Utilize the kickoff meeting for this very purpose! Serve some food, get people comfortable and chatting. Listen to people, and seek out their opinions and ideas – people feel valued when they feel heard! Be liberal with positive feedback, and give people the feeling of being valued and competent. Delegate responsibility – nothing says you believe in someone and value them more than saying you trust them to get something done.

Expecting People To Understand/Help Your Project

There’s always a race for resources within the company. You may know that your project needs something desperately, and that without it, it will face insurmountable difficulty. The thing is, other people in the company don’t know that. They don’t have the same perspective of the project that you do – they’re not involved, they don’t see the need nor the solution. Don’t assume what’s clear to you is clear to others! If you want people to know what’s going on with your project, you need to communicate. Fill people in, craft a good story around what you are doing and why, and use it to help people “get it.”

You can also take that a step further, and learn to actively market your project within the company. You can create a buzz around your project that draws people in, gets them involved, and willing to help. When people are interested in the project, they want to understand it. And when they understand it, they will want to help.

How To Get People To Understand Your Project: Create a short story outlining the problem your project is addressing and how the project creates the solution. Keep the story short and simple. Use examples relevant to the person that they can relate to.

Failing To Provide Feedback

People have a need for feedback! No one likes being in the dark. We all need to know where we stand. Am I doing it right? Was my opinion valued? Did my work contribute to the project? Am I valued? We all ask ourselves these questions all the time. Your team is asking themselves those questions too. Left unaddressed, they become obstacles to team cohesion and productivity.

elephant in boardroom

Give feedback! On everything. “Hey, John, that report you put together was perfect.” “Paul, the Fogerty contract still needs some work, we need better numbers on import taxes.” “George, you were drowning out Ringo in the last meeting – make sure he has a chance to speak, too.” Little things, sure. But they make a big difference to your team. Every question someone is asking themselves about their work, their place in the team, or the project as a whole is an elephant in the room. Address those elephants! If your goal is avoiding common mistakes, you don’t want to give them a place to flourish – and elephants in the room are where common mistakes often start.

How To Provide Effective Feedback: Always lead with a positive. Don’t sidestep issues, even when they’re uncomfortable. Dish out praise for jobs well done, and criticism where necessary. Be informative, explanatory, and search out what people want to know!

Avoiding Common Mistakes

These are only three examples of common mistakes in project management. Of course, there are countless others! Don’t take anything for granted. Be methodical and patient. Ask questions, be on top of what is going on, and keep clear channels of communication with all team members and stakeholders. You’ll be in the right frame of mind, which is key to avoiding common mistakes as they arise. Do that, and you’ll guide your team to success.