By Elina Panayotova August 31, 2018

Top 5 Project Management Mistakes

Successful project management is within everyone’s reach.

The more serious you are about managing your programming project, the more likely it will be completed on time. The better control you have over the activities within the project, the better your team will perform.

But there are several common project management mistakes that will slow you down. As a project manager, it is your responsibility to both avoid them and build an effective team. By doing so, you and your team members will be on track to implement a project that meets all its requirements.

I undertook some extensive research recently with information technology (IT) companies that have faced the same drawbacks we all face in project management. In this article, I’ll tell you how to avoid these mistakes and be on your way to more effective management.

1. Unclear Plan or Objectives

Project managers need to have a well-developed plan, a plan based on their IT capabilities and their company goals. The plan should be communicated with management according to the company’s values, since the future of the project may depend on it.

The project plan usually changes from the starting point of the project to the end, doesn’t it? However, I have noticed that it serves as a good guideline for the life of the project. In IT, the project plan must include a project scope statement with clear objectives, tasks, and a communication plan. The plan is the core of your project, where your main purpose is to present the requirements clearly. Further, your plan always needs to include the project documentation, deliverables, and deadlines.

The project implementation is less feasible if you fail to deliver any of these key elements.

A misleading or unclear project plan could be rejected by both the client and management, resulting in failure. An offer to manage a project with an unclear plan could be rejected by both the client and management. On the other hand, if your project is precise and well thought out, the project is much more likely to fit in with the project requirements.

A good project plan can streamline your management process if developed according to the project needs. Hence, the more comprehensive your documentation is, the greater the chance your plan will be accepted and perform better.

Are your project plan and goals set up properly?

2. Neglecting Control Over the Communication Channels

Throughout the project’s life, there will be several communication lines: with customers, between different teams, with suppliers. To ensure effortless contact across these lines, the project manager should set up a fixed means of communication. Face-to-face communication helps to build a collaborative environment where employees participate in meetings and feedback loops. Consequently, it is the most effective way to talk with your team.

However, personal communication is not always possible. Moreover, it can’t be recorded consistently.

Therefore, a communication plan should also include emails between team members and management. Of course, the IT project should also detail and monitor other online communication, phone calls, and meetings. But email chains are hard proof and useful for backup should something go wrong. The official confirmation that emails provide is crucial to a responsible IT team.

For example, no one should start a project because a manager happened to mention it over chat, or verbally during a meeting.

In my experience, one of the must-haves is a communication hierarchy. Communication flow should be set up so that IT specialists don’t talk to clients without supervision or authorization.

The tools you can use to manage communication are countless: Microsoft Office, Slack, Google Docs, Asana, and Trello are just a few. Whatever channels you choose, you should make sure they are easy to understand and use. Communicate how to use these channels within your team and with your client.

Communication is one of the driving forces supporting effective project management.

Do you have consistent communication channels?

3. Overlooked KPIs and Employee Performance

Management may have the most effective project plan and communication channels, but employee performance still provides the most crucial measurement of all.

While I was working at an Angular development company, I learned that defining clear key performance indicators is what helps the project progress. Further, to improve any performance, you’ll need to monitor and analyze your results. In software development, there are various measurements that can be recorded. Some essential key performance indicators (KPIs) could be:

  • The number of bugs found in the testing phase. It is important to see where they come from. Tracking your faults could lead you to the right solution.
  • The number of people involved in writing the requirements. Too many might lead to different writing styles, which could cause confusion.
  • Тhe number of times the initial plan has been changed. If it’s several times, perhaps something in the core idea is causing disruption. Revision might be the key here.

Many companies rely on standard six- or 12-month evaluations even during project time, but that won’t be frequent enough.

Short feedback loops are really useful for evaluating employee performance. This might take the form of monthly, 10-minute conversations, and bigger goal- or performance-oriented meetings every three months. These can help employees feel more integrated and engaged with the project.

With more regular meetings, your IT personnel will get used to asking the right questions and expressing their opinions. For example, if someone on your team is unhappy with the work, waiting for the standard six- or 12-month evaluation could be too much time. Perhaps an earlier meeting with management would be enough to answer the team member's questions. Consequently, they would perform better in the future rather than just wait in silence.

Is everyone on your team performing at their best?

4. The Responsibility Should Be on You

When it comes to project management, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to start leading a project without taking full responsibility for it.

If the team is failing, then you are not monitoring them and making changes to correct that.

If someone is failing at their task, the odds are you assigned someone who was unprepared for it.

Usually, failing to deliver a final product in time comes down to mistakes your employees have made because you failed to supervise them properly. As the project manager, you are in control of scheduling activities and timeframes and delegating tasks.

Keep on track with the team from day one until the end of the project even if the flow of work seems smooth. Tools like email, meetings, and training will improve your control over the work. Regular conversations and technical checkups are also useful for tracking progress.

With this method, there should be no surprises.

Don’t be indecisive. As an assigned leader, you should be an expert at dealing with issues relating to the project. Your developers will ask you for help once, twice, and probably three times. If you don’t provide them with relevant answers, decisions, and opinions, they’ll just bypass you the next time. Then, if their decisions are wrong, it’s your fault again.

A manager should plan for situations when they aren't there to help. In times of unforeseen circumstances such as sickness, is there someone who can take your lead? You need to have a right hand in the office: someone who can deal with the management if you need to be away for a while.

Is the project going to meet the right metrics for software quality without your supervision?

5. Be an Expert With Your Tools

Planning tools, presentation tools, and communication tools all speak to your preparation and confidence as a project manager.

Demonstrating your knowledge of the project tools you provide to your workers can truly make the difference in their overall attitude toward the project. Your expertise in responsibilities, tasks, and goals of the project should serve as an example to your team.

As a project manager, you are in charge of guidelines and giving feedback in a professional way.

The working methodology of the software development plan is an important factor on your way to success. Make sure you delegate tasks responsibly and that your communication channels are always on point.

Your project management approach should satisfy the needs of your clients. Therefore, your tools should be up to date. Examples of such tools are Agilean, Wrike, and GitHub, which summarize the project’s results over time and help customize your project plan easily.

To avoid failure, you should be honest about your management abilities before accepting the project.

Although technical tools can make or break a project, I’ve also seen leaders fail because of a lack of social skills.

In the end, project management is about management skills. So, before starting a project, be crystal clear—and honest with yourself—about whether you are experienced enough to take on the job.

At the end of the day, you need to be chosen as a project manager for a good reason.

Are you an expert on the use of your tools?

Hopefully, what I’ve learned about project management mistakes has been useful to your future project. Comment below for further discussion on the topic or to submit any questions!

About the author

    Elina Panayotova

    Elina Panayotova is an Assistant Marketing Manager at Dreamix Ltd, a software development company, where she processes marketing campaigns from start to finish, including various client’s engagement strategies. She has extensive knowledge in consumer psychology, business strategy and development. At Dreamix, Elina is involved with the design of a winning business model, whilst creating and improving marketing and sales strategies.