The Biggest Mistakes to Avoid as a Project Manager
Identifying the biggest mistakes to avoid as a project manager can help your team prevent and work through common obstacles.
Project management is not a new discipline. The need for quality project management is more necessary than ever given the pace of the economy. Strong project management positions an organization to reap the benefits of the depth of resources available to them.
Aristotle summed up the role and complexity of project management in the following quote, “First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”
Project management exists in the three aspects of this quote: identifying a course of action, acquiring resources, and being adaptable to the shift in course that inevitably comes with an organization in motion. Project management includes the ability to “adjust all your means to that end,” to maintain focus and momentum in the face of internal as well as external obstacles. Our goals motivate our actions. Our planning prepares us to move forward. Adjusting our team ensures that we won’t ever be held back too long by complications.
We can learn a lot from the mistakes we have made as well as the mistakes of others. What are some of the biggest mistakes that even seasoned project managers can make, and how do we avoid repeating those? What should be on our to do list of what not to do? We will identify five of those common project management mistakes in an effort to help you and your team recognize and work through these ills.
1. Addiction to complexity
Far too often, when presented with a simple solution and a complex one, we are attracted to the harder of the two options. We have an unhealthy addiction to making things harder than they need to be. We have smart leaders and intelligent teams, but for as talented as we are, we often act in ways that defy logic.
It’s important to remember that our profession is broken down into two components – the project and the management. Clarifying our project mission, developing consistent systems for progress, and being accountable to each other helps us to achieve our goals. Successful project activities are as much about simplifying what we do as what we don’t do by prioritizing our time, resources, and efforts.
2. Analysis paralysis
As project management professionals we deal with issues on a daily basis. We analyze, strategize, and implement what we believe to be the best solutions to a variety of needs. Many teams get held up in analysis paralysis. We know that failing to plan is planning to fail, but it can be just as dangerous to plan and analyze without acting. This can surface as over-reliance on even the best project management software or simply getting caught up in the planning process. As noted by Team Gantt, “No functionality can replace the brainwork needed to come up with a plan, track a budget, or report on your status.”
Collaborating on a plan and following through on key benchmarks are essential to successful team momentum. Setting a realistic timeline can assist in creating pressure that forces the team to work through obstacles rather than spend too much time analyzing them.
3. Improper utilization
There are many project management tools. Failure to identify and utilize the right tools can set your team back from releasing their full collaborative potential. Resources such as Monday.com (formerly dapulse), carry a five-star user rating and provide a project management platform that is both simple to use and a visually based platform. Project management software should expand your capacity as a team rather than bog your team down with extensive management of your chosen resource. Monday.com boasts ease of use, visually constructed timelines, and centralized communication for teams of any size. Most of the project management software available has been reviewed by practitioners in our field with earnest feedback. The best software also offers risk-free trial periods for your team to experiment with those platforms.
4. Failure to adapt
Charles Darwin’s principle of survival of the fittest is often misunderstood as “the strongest will survive” when in fact he stated that the species that is most adaptable to its surroundings is the one most likely to survive. Being the smartest, the strongest, or the fastest does not guarantee sustained success. The ability to receive, respond to, and adapt your systems to new information in real time will position a team for success. Communication is a key aspect of adaptation. The larger the team or the more spread out they are, the greater the need for expedient shared platforms. We have to be honest with ourselves and our teams if we are going to adapt to our project needs and conquer the obstacles to our process.
5. Atychiphobia – fear of failure
Atychiphobia is the fear of failure. Too often those charged with growth are fearful of sticking their necks out for a new idea or program because it is easier to creep along with the status quo. Hedging your bets is safer than risking total ownership in the face of potential failure. The reality is that the market is moving at a rate that doesn’t allow for an organization or team to resist change.
Those organizations that do not adapt their thinking, methods, and systems to be agile will be overrun by the force of the market. The market is ripe for those teams that are positioned to reap the benefits of acting upon calculated risks. Waiting too long to make a decision is often more hazardous than making the wrong decision.
We are creatures of habit and often need reminders not to repeat the mistakes we have committed, observed, or that plague our industry. We can learn from the failures of others. By recognizing the biggest mistakes that project managers make, we can structure our thoughts, systems, and efforts to work around or through these common issues rather than be entangled by them.
As Aristotle noted, have a clear goal. A major component of adjusting our means to the end of our goals includes resourcing from ourselves, our teams, and the experiences of other professionals in our industry. Finding the right project management tools and software can be key performance boosters for staying on mission, as well as recognizing in real time where the complications in the current project are.