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How to Avoid a Total Project Meltdown

Posted on 7.26.2017

Perhaps you’ve experienced a total project meltdown. The project got off to a rocky start – some of the stakeholders were fighting among themselves over whether the project was even a good idea. Then, one of the top team members – a recent hire – completely dropped the ball. He failed to get even half his work done, and then he quit abruptly, leaving behind a total mess. Meanwhile, it turns out the rest of the team was busy working on something that wasn’t even in the project scope. 

If you haven't experienced this, great. Know, however, there are some common project management pitfalls to avoid. And, knowing them is half the battle.

5 Project Management Pitfalls You Must Avoid

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The better you know how to manage projects, the easier it will be to take on bigger challenges and contribute more to your company’s success. While it’s important to develop effective project management skills, you must also learn to recognize the common pitfalls that can quickly derail your efforts. By doing so, you’ll have no problem dodging these issues and letting your superior project management skills speak for themselves.

1. Putting the Wrong Person in Charge

Always take a top-down project management approach. This will ensure you’re focused on who will be leading various elements of the project. While every other part of your project is important (e.g., who else will be involved, what resources you’ll need, etc.), if you don’t pick strong team leads, you may be setting the project up for failure.

Influencer Brian Tracy has advice on this important form of delegation:

  • Don’t just think about management skills – think about the project’s other requirements and who has the appropriate skillset to match them.

  • Delegate specific deliverables to your team leads – others can be involved, but one person must be take responsibility for each deliverable.

  • Make the outcomes clear to the team lead before handing them responsibility.

Putting the wrong person in charge of a deliverable will only create more work, so pick the best candidate for the job based on their skillset as it applies to the project at hand.

2. Moving Forward Before Everyone is on Board

Don’t assume everyone involved will immediately jump on board a project because an authority figure tells them to.

The CEO of Communispond, Bill Rosenthal, cites four project management mistakes managers make before beginning that results in low team buy-in. These are failures to:

  • Define everyone’s role: Everyone involved should know exactly what is expected of them.
  • Explain the payoff for everyone involved: If the project is a success, what does this mean for the people involved? This might mean commissions are paid out or it could simply be that the project is essential for keeping the business afloat – that’s definitely a good motivator.
  • Identify how everyone will be evaluated: Just because the project is a success doesn’t mean everyone did their job. Explain to staff members how you will be critiquing their efforts.
  • Generate a sense of urgency: Urgency is an important motivator. Even if the project doesn’t need to be completed for a year, you want people moving forward with a sense of urgency. Cut the project up into smaller milestones, so people are constantly watching the calendar.

Fortunately, something as simple as giving a group presentation to all those involved can immediately bring people on board.

3. Forgetting About Those Above You

Your project management efforts failed if you reach the finish line, only to find out from your higher-ups that you “achieved” an unnecessary or unwanted goal. This is why you always need someone above you to buy in and support the project. Make sure you keep the communication lines open to stop any scope creep in its tracks.

Involving key stakeholders can also help increase that sense of urgency. Your staff will immediately understand how important the project is if your superiors are engaged.

4. Chasing Too Many Goals at Once

Prioritize your company’s goals and then work through them accordingly. Depending on the size of your company and its goals, you might be able to tackle two or more at a time. You might only be able to work on one.

Whatever the case, it’s better to underestimate how many projects you think your team can handle than let ambition get the best of you. It’s not project management if you have more projects than you can manage. 

5. Not Following Up on a Project

If you don’t monitor the progress of a project, you could be in for a nasty surprise when the deadline arrives. There are a number of ways you can do this.

It could be as simple as holding a meeting to discuss it. Many companies use software to ensure everyone is on the same page, as well. Making project goals clear and coming up with milestones are very simple steps that can help a lot.

Common Project Pitfalls Can Be Avoided

While every project is going to be different, common challenges can be mitigated. Recruiting strong team leads, getting stakeholder buy-in, and maintaining consistent follow-up are just a few tactics to improve your chances of success. Over time, you’ll learn to quickly spot and avoid common pitfalls entirely.


About the Author
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com, which specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the Web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn

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