In any successful business environment, projects need to be consistently brought in on time and — ideally — under budget. This can bring a tremendous amount of pressure to bear on the team, who need to be effectively managed to meet the demands of the task.
This is where good project management enters the picture. Get it right from the start and you can proceed at an orderly pace, giving workers a chance to meet their objectives to the best of their ability. Misjudge requirements and situations, and you could experience a snowball effect that accumulates towards the end of the project.
So what are the most common mistakes project managers make — and more importantly, how can you avoid them?
Failing to achieve the buy-in and support of your team
Preparation is key in any business activity — but it’s not only about getting the materials and procedures in place. What about the mindset of your team members? Take the time to get to know what they think about the project – dreams and fears both included.
If you can win hearts and minds early on, or better still inspire and excite with your own energy, then you are kicking off the project journey right. As you get further down the road, this exercise will give you a brilliant resource when it comes to re-motivating the team. Don’t forget to check in with them periodically to not only handle problems as they happen, but to also show your support.
Not being able to deviate from the initial plan
When it comes to the execution of any project plan, there will always be unforeseen difficulties. It is actually the mark of an inexperienced project manager to ignore these in favour of a set plan.
Each of the individuals in a team is usually an expert in their own area – so make sure you leverage this accordingly. Give them breathing space when it comes to finding solutions to the challenges you meet along the way. If you want to ensure your project is the best it can be, then you have to let team members own their key decisions.
Micromanaging individual activity
Trust is a huge part of any interpersonal relationship. However, there’s a big difference between talking to people and bestowing confidence and capability on them and watching their every move. A good manager not only knows how to delegate, but also gives an individual the space to complete the task in the way they work best.
No one performs well when they feel they are under constant scrutiny. It undermines your faith in their abilities and can even have the knock-on effect of compromising the end result of their work. People always make mistakes, and this is a vital part of the learning process. The biggest mistake is expecting perfection from your team.
No formalised plan or structure of improvement
You’d be forgiven for thinking that performance indicators, employee metrics and all kinds of statistics form a rod for your staff’s back. In fact, the opposite is true. Individuals are more productive and their work is of a higher quality when they have standardised systems of improvement that help them grow and understand their role.
The PDCA cycle is perfect for project management:
- Plan what you are doing
- Do what you said you would do
- Check that you did it right
- Act on anything that went wrong to avoid errors of the same nature in future
PDCA also forms the structure of management systems, like the ISO 9001. This is an internationally recognised standard that ensures internal and customer handling processes meet in-house metrics for performance. If your staff are accustomed to following set procedures, and have a handbook they can refer back to, everything from the day-to-day running of the company, to the efficiency of individual projects, is improved.
Withholding information and progress reports
Everyone loves to share the good news about a project’s progress, but team members need to hear about failings and problems too. Keeping information and feedback away from the team creates an us-and-them mentality where they’ll feel you are not being completely straight with them.
Instead build a culture of sharing in your team and you will receive support and solutions to your failings, encouraging growth from challenge. There is no better feeling in life than succeeding — particularly when that success involves overcoming huge difficulties, which is one of the sweetest moments you can experience in business.
Remember that project management is a process, not a set of milestones or deadlines set in the sand and adaptability and evolution are the footprint of excellence. Your team should function as a single entity, with everyone pulling together to create a sum where the whole is greater than the parts.
To achieve this, it is essential to keep communication lines open, have clearly defined goals and an atmosphere of positivity and confidence where success is not only possible, but inevitable.