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Top 10 Mistakes in Project Management

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 1/2/2011

This article lists and describes the top 10 mistakes made by new project managers. It also gives advice on how these mistakes can be avoided.

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    Picture courtesy of Stock.xchng When we are new at our jobs, we often make unintended mistakes. One way of avoiding mistakes and saving money is to prevent mistakes before they occur. Knowledge is a benefit here. In order to help you best avoid mistakes beginning project managers make, here is a list of the ten most common mistakes, and how to avoid them.

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    1: Project Scope is Too Big

    The most common reason projects fail is a project manager bites off too big of a project scope. Large project scopes are very difficult to manage because oftentimes, they keep growing and snowballing out of control. Inexperience plays a big role in large project scope. The best way to avoid having a gigantic project scope is to brainstorm until you have the smallest manageable goals. For example, if your original project idea involves completing an overhaul of your company's data management protocol, start smaller. Start by overhauling just one target area. Trust me, it will be a large enough project.

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    2. The Schedule is Too Ambitious

    A second common pitfall for beginning project managers is the overly ambitious project schedule. What happens is that one team member falls through or one resource isn't available when needed, and the whole project snowballs into failure. A better way to plan the project schedule is to build in extra time. If you think something will take five days to complete, add some time in. The PERT formula can help you to correctly estimate how long tasks will take - and it can help you build in that much-needed "cushion" time.

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    3. The Project Doesn't Follow A Standard Project Management Methodology

    One of the easiest ways to avoid mistakes in your project is to follow a tried-and-true project management methodology such as that outlined in the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge). By getting your hands on this valuable resource (or on another project management methodology) you can reduce the likelihood of chaos in your project management process.

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    4. Communication Breakdowns Between the Project Manager and Team Members

    Project managers have to be good communicators. You need to be able to receive updates from team members, keep clients informed, and help coach team members to get their tasks completed on time. One great way of avoiding this problem is to formulate a communication plan for each project.

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    5. The Risk Assessment and Management Process was Skimped On

    Let's face it, things will go wrong with your project. The important thing is that you are prepared in case of disaster. The best way to prepare for disaster is to take the time to conduct a risk assessment and form a risk management plan at the beginning of your project.

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    6. The Team Members are Not Productive

    There can be two causes to this problem. The first potential cause is that team members lack the proper training to carry out their tasks. The second potential cause is that team members do not get along well with one another or they lack cohesion as a team. Make sure that tasks are assigned to the right person for the job - and add some team building activities to your schedule at the beginning of that project.

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    7. Resources have Been Overallocated

    Sam, George, Connie, and Janet all work overtime and weekends on a regular basis. Why? Because their project manager, Rachel overallocated them. In order to finish the schedule on time, team members have to work their hardest, often costing the company money. Avoid overallocation of resources at all costs.

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    8. Not Cracking Down Hard Enough on Productivity Leaks

    When you walk past Jane, you notice that she's posting updates on FaceBook. She does this every day. When this happens, instead of scolding her, you decide to walk past. The problem is, at the end of the week, she asks for an extension. If you had nipped the problem to begin with, it wouldn't be an issue now.

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    9. Incomplete Data

    Many projects require monitoring of metrics and data. If the data is incomplete or isn't valuable enough, the project can quickly get off-track. Make sure that your metrics fit your project.

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    10. Not Saying "No"

    This happens to all of us. Someone asks you to help them out and you say, "Yes." Someone else asks you and you say, "Yes," again. Pretty soon, you have so much on your plate that the project takes a hit. Learn to say, "no" and feel good about it. The sooner you can do this, the greater your chances are of coming out ahead.

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