3 Common Project Management Pitfalls

By James Clear on 29 July 2011 (Updated 17 August 2011) 0 comments
Photo: endopack

I'm willing to bet that you and your small business have a few projects that you're working on.

OK, more than a few.

Of course, anyone who has worked on their fair share of projects can tell you that things rarely go to plan. In fact, problems arise so frequently that your approach to solving common project management issues can have a large impact on the success of your business.

How you solve project management problems can be the difference between consistent growth and total chaos. To help you avoid the pitfalls of project management, here are three common problems that most projects managers encounter and how to solve them.

You schedule time to work on your project but other things always come up.

We typically schedule our time for a specific task based on how long we think it will take us to complete. The issue with this strategy is that it doesn't account for how much time we can actually spend on the project. The typical work day is littered with phone calls, emails, and other distractions ... which means when we schedule four hours of work it usually becomes two.

Instead, try tracking how much time you spend actually working (you can try a tool like RescueTime for free) and then schedule your tasks based on how long you can actually work on them.

You collaborate with a client on a project and they constantly change their mind.

Your client might want one thing at the beginning of the project and then change his mind multiple times as things progress.

It's annoying if you're unprepared, but you can plan for these changes – and save everyone the hassle of trying to predict the future – by scheduling critical decision points into the process from the beginning. If you plan for these decision points, then you won't have to make as many revisions.

You'll also find that asking questions about your client's rationale is just as important as knowing the technical requirements for a job. Understanding why a client is hiring you and what their underlying motivations are can go a long way towards making the project a success.

On the other hand, some clients simply take advantage of the fact that you want to do good work for them. If this is the case, then you need to be more clear about your terms at the outset of the project.

If revisions are time consuming and impractical, then make it clear that it will cost more to change the project once you get started. Be very clear about how many adjustments are available before the price starts to rise. Setting clear expectations is a great way to reduce confusion down the road.

The client wants results, but doesn't treat your project as a priority.

Ever work with a client who has too much going on? It can be frustrating to be shoved to the bottom of your client's priority list – and difficult to get anything done.

This problem often arises because the contact person for the project has little to no incentive for it to go well. Their performance and compensation isn't directly tied to the project; it's just something that their firm needs to get done.

The best way to solve this problem is to screen your clients carefully. Do your best to find clients that are excited about the services you provide and are engaged in the process. Clients who want results without communication are often the same ones who come back and ask for revisions once everything is done. In other words, they're bad clients.

Good project managers are not only efficient task masters, but they are also excellent leaders and communicators. It's your responsibility to make sure that everyone is excited about the project and that includes the clients.

Communication is the Key to Project Management

Every project is different, which means every project faces a different set of pitfalls.

The good news is that most project management problems can be solved with clear and frequent communication. And that type of communication is your responsibility. 

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