Top Five Project Management Pitfalls

Project Management is one significant underestimated area that often goes unnoticed across many industries. Many companies introduce it as a process for compliance purposes only. It is also primarily introduced to make the “company” look good and attractive to investors – nothing more and nothing less. Few companies, however, adopt standard methodologies as they take on contracts.

Here are the top five pitfalls an organization should consider as they deliver projects:

Pitfall 1 – Assuming a good technical engineer is capable of managing and leading teams:

Beware the “halo effect” – a famous statement made when discussing human resource management. It simply implies that sponsors sometimes assume that any good technical manager is capable of leading a team to deliver contracts. They assume their technical ability is enough for them to deliver. They simply can’t see that project management is not something that managers inherit or acquire by accident. They fail to see that it requires years of experience as well as a special skill set that one does not simply and accidentally acquire as they get involved with projects at technical or managerial levels.

Pitfall 2 – Planning for the sake of planning only:

Project managers plan their deliveries – that’s really the crux of project management. Unless they plan well, their deliveries are definitely destined to potential failure. They plan for costs, quality, human resources, procurements, and risks. Project managers then share these plans with all project stakeholders. Unless the sponsor and key stakeholders value the need for “proper” project management, these plans are just discarded. The manager may get an acknowledgement email such as the famous response one gets on many projects that goes as such: “Noted with thanks”. When the project manager tries to follow and execute the plan, however, they don’t really get any support from the team neither from any of the key stakeholders. Planning really becomes more of an exercise for the responsible manager to become “very” familiar with the project scope.

Pitfall 3 – Involving and assigning a project manager after signing the contract:

Companies surely need an aggressive business strategy and they surely need motivated and sales staff that are “self-driven” to capture business contracts. In the process of securing such contracts, they fail to recognize the need to involve project managers. Project managers specialize in areas of scope, schedule, and overall delivery. Involving them early on helps provide valuable advice as to whether the contract is risky, doable, or whether there are any significant issues that need further discussion. Regretfully some sales managers intentionally exclude project managers from pre-project meetings because they feel that may jeopardize their chances of securing the contract. After all such managers are not really interested in the overall company strategy. They are rather focused on self-interest and fail to see (sometimes intentionally) how the project contributes to the overall company strategy.

Pitfall 4 – Assessing the project scope after signing the contract:

In their urge to secure large contracts, many companies agree to sign fixed-price contracts without a clear description of the scope involved in doing the project. They assume the large revenue obtained from such contracts should surely be enough to cover the scope and they assume the technical team should definitely be capable of handing the situation. After signing a contract, they assign a project manager to check the technical requirements and check the scope with the customer and they expect things should turn out as expected.

Pitfall 5 – Executing projects with whatever skill set is available:

In their bid to decrease costs, many companies assign unqualified staff to deal with projects that go beyond their resource skill set. For example, sponsors sometimes assume an IT professional should definitely be capable of dealing with network requirements, system administration requirements, database issues, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementations, or any other business intelligence solution. They fail to see that each of these areas requires a defined skill set that is not easily acquired by any IT professional. It would rather take years of experience before any professional becomes capable of handling these varied application areas.