How to Avoid Common Project Management Pitfalls

Part of the Project Management For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The pressure of having to complete a project with little time and few resources often causes people to cut corners and ignore certain issues that can significantly affect a project's chances for success. Avoid the following common pitfalls and instead address the issues early in the project to help reduce their possible negative impacts:

  • Framing vague project objectives: Project objectives are the results that must be achieved if the project is to be successful. The more specific the objectives, the easier it'll be for you to estimate the time and resources required to achieve them and the easier it'll be for you and your audiences to confirm they have been met.

    Be sure to include measures (the characteristics of an objective you'll use to decide if it has been achieved) and specifications (the values of the measures that you believe confirm that you have successfully achieved your objectives).

  • Overlooking key audiences: Be sure to determine your project's drivers (those people who define what your project must achieve to be successful) and its supporters (the people who make it possible for you to accomplish your desired project's objectives). Important drivers who often get overlooked are the ultimate end users of your project's products.

  • Failing to document assumptions: People almost always make assumptions regarding their projects; however, they often fail to write them down because they figure everyone else is making the same ones.

    Documenting your assumptions allows you to confirm that all people are operating under the same set of assumptions and reminds you periodically to check whether project assumptions have been confirmed and/or new ones have been made.

  • "Backing in" to project schedules: Backing in to a project schedule entails trying to determine the time and resources you feel would enable you to achieve project success while ignoring the question of how likely it is that you will be able to get the required amounts of time and resources.

    Instead of backing in, consider the time and resources that you realistically feel you would be able to secure and to explore different ways of using them to increase your chances of being able to successfully complete your project.

  • Not getting key commitments in writing: Not putting commitments in writing increases the chances that what people intended to commit was different from what you thought they did commit. In addition to increasing the accuracy of communication, writing down commitments helps those who made them to remember them and encourages people to modify the written statements when necessary.

  • Failing to keep the plan up-to-date: If a project is being run correctly, you and your team members should frequently consult the most current version of the project plan to confirm what each team member hast to do to produce the intended results.

    Not keeping the plan up-to-date means you have no reference explaining what people should be doing to successfully perform the required project work. It also suggests that adhering to the most recent version of the project plan isn't really that important, a belief that significantly reduces the chances of project success.

  • Not having formal change control: Failing to follow a formal process for evaluating the impact of project changes increases the likelihood that important consequences of those requested changes will be overlooked when assessing the potential effects of those changes. In addition, it makes it more likely that some of the people who will be affected by the changes may not receive timely and accurate information about what those effects may be.

  • Not communicating effectively: Problematic communications increase the chances that people will work with different information when performing project tasks, as well as decrease team morale and commitment to overall project success.

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Project Management For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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