The Biggest Problems Facing Project Managers (PMs)
If you have been managing projects for a while, it's very likely that you've come across one of these challenges in your project management efforts. If you're a new project manager, you might not be aware of some of the challenges you might face. Regardless of whether you've been managing projects for years or you've just been hired on to manage projects, knowing what the biggest problems facing PMs and how to confront these problems is an important part of your toolbox. Without further ado, here's a list of the five biggest problems facing project management professionals.
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1. Communication, Communication, Communication
One of the biggest problems project managers run into is in communication. Sometimes team members do not communicate well with one another. Sometimes stakeholders are out of the loop. Sometimes x doesn't know that y has been working on the same task until it's too late. There are a few key tips for keeping communication from derailing your project.
- Create a solid and well-thought out communication plan that thoroughly covers the different scenarios that may crop up during the life cycle of the project. If you have a plan for communicating, including communication with your stakeholders, who to communicate with should things go wrong, and how often meetings will be held.
- Don't rely on everyone to report back on what they are doing unless you require it. If you don't require communication from your employees, some will assume that you know what's going on.
- Don't overlook the power of a brief morning meeting to check in with everyone. While your company may not be into using Scrum methodologies, you can use the idea of holding a daily scrum to help boost communication.
2. So…We Want a Product that Does X, but Now We Want Y and Z: Avoiding Scope Creep
The second biggest problem facing PMs today is managing project scope. Too frequently scope is a reason that a project fails. This can be for one of two reasons:
- You don't have a well-defined scope. The scope of the project is stated ambiguously, or is too narrow. Be sure that your scope statement covers everything that will be part of the project, nothing more nothing less, succinctly and clearly.
- Scope creep has occurred, in a severe manner. You need to reign this in! While it's inevitable that your scope may change over the course of a project, you should guard against scope creep by ensuring that at the beginning of the project you've defined the scope as thoroughly as possible.
3. When in Rome…Practice Agile – No Six Sigma – No PMI…
You have a team of individuals working on a project. It's almost guaranteed these days that each person on a project will have different experiences when it comes to project management techniques. One of the biggest problems facing project management is the lack of a standardization in practices across companies, and even sometimes across departments. This can cause problems when everyone working on a project has a different idea of how to manage that project. There's a simple solution for this: In-session training. Pick a methodology, invest in the training materials and certification for that methodology for your team. Even if you've been a project manager for years, you can benefit from refreshing yourself on the latest methodologies, tools, and techniques.
4. The Lackluster Team
So, you've brought them together, but they're incredibly slow in getting things done; there's drama between two members; two members aren't on speaking terms; and the other three are too busy pasting the team back together to spend time on work. Unfortunately, teams that are made up of those who are less motivated or professional than you would like are increasingly common. Make sure all team members have had adequate training and have been properly briefed on their expectations – sometimes what seems like stalling can be confusion or a symptom of communication problems. If there are still problems, you may want to have the team members participate in team building activities. If there are still problems – pull a new team together.
5. Constraints Get in the Way of Progress
Finally, any project you undertake will have three constraints: Time, Cost, and Scope. It's been said that you'll need to pick two – if you want time and scope, then your cost will go up. If you want cheap and fast, it's going to cost the scope. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and your stakeholders about what the constraints are. You can't have it all. Project managers who try, are met with frustration. To deal with this problem, you will need to be realistic, up front, and an expert at planning!