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Project Pitfalls: Riding the Storm

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 4/4/2013

Do you know how to deal with project pitfalls? Some projects flow smoothly while others seem to have one kink after another. Jean Scheid takes a look at project pitfalls and riding the storm to success.

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    Failure to Follow Procedures...

    Probably the most common mistake project managers make is not following practical project management procedures. This can make an entire project fail. To revamp your project management skills, review the latest edition of a Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge or PMBOK and use it as your bible. Join the Project Management Institute and update your training.

    On the other hand, your project management skills may be fine but the same project pitfalls occur over and over again. To avoid them and learn how to ride the storm through them, here are the most common problems:

    • Lack of management experience and leadership - Do you accept projects that are over your head? Do you lack the finesse to deal with stakeholders? How strong are your management skills? Can you guide your team members or are they confused? To solve this pitfall, you need to obtain more training not only in management skills but human resource skills and client negotiation skills. If you fail to turn your skills around, your project's will continue to have these leadership and management problems.
    • The wrong resources - Do you use the same team members on every project? If so, do their skills match every project? More than likely they don't, so choose team members who have the right skill set for each project.
    • No methodology process - Do you lean toward Agile Management or Six Sigma methodology, or are you more of a risk management person? Whatever your style of project management methodology, how well do you follow its processes? If you fail to ignore each step of the project, you will suffer pitfalls. If this happens to you, choose a project management focus that is right for your projects. Ask mentors or other managers what works best for them. Follow through with the project's scope, schedule, delegation of tasks, and communicate with stakeholders on a regular basis. Project management systems are put in to place to stop those pitfalls from happening.
    • Over the top is often bad - Most managers have a clear understanding of the project's goals and stakeholders' needs. A common pitfall is to try and offer items outside of the project scope. If it's not in the project outline, skip it. All you are doing is setting the project up to fail if you add things as you go along just because you think it will please the client.
    • Project tracking - If you fail to review your project's timeline and budget and don't implement changes to your project using good change management skills, you will have pitfalls. Keep your projects on track by using good change management skills. Stay in control of items that could change the budget, timeline, or outcome.
    • Antiquated Systems - Your company may have won the bid on a project, but its success often depends on its IT resources. If your system is antiquated, no matter how good you are at managing, you will run into pitfalls. Make sure your IT equipment is current, adequate for your needs, and can be expanded or updated when needed.
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    Pitfalls Will Happen

    Whirlpool by Onkel Wart 

    Project pitfalls will happen so don't panic when they do. Riding the storm through those pitfalls will stop you from the whirlpool effect of repeating the same errors over and over again. Keep in mind that if you aren't able to identify your weak areas, your projects won't improve.

    Before your next project begins, to avoid pitfalls set some goals:

    Get organized - Take the time for a project initiation meeting, identify the project charter, statement of work, and implement a good communication plan.

    Use project planning - Use a work breakdown structure, choose the right team members, and implement risk management.

    Manage the project - Manage your projects by having regular meetings with status reports. Implement change management into your project and allow your team to develop and offer ideas.

    Learn from your pitfalls - Keep track of your pitfalls and learn from them. What went wrong and why? Identify how you can change pitfalls in future projects.

    Riding the storm through project pitfalls IS a management skill. Managers who are able to adapt, think clearly, oversee, and correct future mistakes are top managers.

    Make an investment in your management skills and become a member of the Project Management Institute; utilize their resource library, periodicals and seminar training to avoid stumbling as you move forward.

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