Insight: 5 project management pitfalls to avoid

Whatever industry or organisation you work in, good project management is essential. More organisations are creating project based structures rather than traditional functional structures. Regardless of your organisation’s structure, change is the only constant in the workplace now. Leaders and managers are required to drive a continuous range of projects within their team and across teams.

Here are five pitfalls in project management that every manager and leader must avoid.

1. Not scoping well

Be very specific about the scope of your project. Get agreement from everyone up front  to avoid delays and getting sidetracked. This allows every team member to be clear on their priority tasks. Day to day work can be checked against the scope. A detailed scope helps create a sound budget that is not going to blow out with changes and additional costs.

2. No flexibility or adaptability

Having said that a detailed scope is essential, the reality is things change. Your organisation’s operating environment and priorities will often shift, particularly in long projects. Staff members change and new information becomes available. You don’t want to blindly follow your project plan without having one eye to the context in which your project is operating. Build in review points and environment scanning to ensure the project and its scope is still on track. Take time out for a fresh look.

3. No process for change management

That brings us to pitfall number three. When there is no organisational process for approving changes, this can often lead to delays or break downs. Agree on a process up front with the right delegations. Your system for tracking changes must include the reason for the change, its cost, how it impacts other elements of the broader project.

4. No measures or poor measures of success

In the excitement of starting a project, make sure you pay enough attention to measuring success. A clearly defined scope is a good start to defining metrics. “Completing the project” is not usually enough of a measure. You need interim measures as well as end game indicators.

Make sure your measures are SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely.

Another pitfall occurs when others in the organisation have different ideas about what success looks like to the project manager. Documenting and gaining sign off before the project commences is the way to go.

5. Poor project management systems

Before you get into the project, invest in an agreed system for managing and reporting. A good software system can save a lot of time and money in the long run. An ideal system must be cost effective relative to the size and benefits of the project. You also want it to automate as many aspects as possible, particularly report generation. Look for an organisation wide system or at least one that fits well within the organisation’s skill set and culture and any other systems that are in use.

Spend some time avoiding these pitfalls as part of your initial project planning. It will be time well spent in the long run.

Forsythes Training offers nationally recognised qualifications in project management through a Diploma or Certificate lV course as well as a short course in project management fundamentals. Book online today. For more information about these courses call an expert from our team on (02) 4922 0122.