The Titanic was said to be unsinkable. We know what happened.
Many projects seem just as solid at the outset, buoyed by the optimism that
naturally comes with new things. But there are a myriad of obstacles
that can quickly turn a project into a disaster.
While there’s no surefire way to eliminate all of the potential challenges
that may arise, being aware of them and making good preparations in
advance can make them much easier to manage.
1. Unclear goals
Having a project without clear goals will just confuse and frustrate people.
It’s like asking them to shoot an arrow blindfolded with no idea where
the target is. After all, if you don’t know what your intended
destination is, how will know when you arrive?
“A good project goal should be short and simple—you should be able to fit it into a tweet (140 characters).”
2. Insufficient plan detail.
All too often, project plans don’t provide sufficient detail to ensure
success. Not only can this be confusing to team members, but it can lead
to inaccurate time and cost estimates.
The solution to this is to break down each segment of the project into more
detailed tasks and sub-tasks. These should be tasks that can be
completed in no more than a day or two in most cases. For larger, more
complex projects they should take no longer than five working days.
3. Scope creep.
Every project suffers some degree of changes in scope. It’s inevitable,
because unforeseen issues will arise that demand some change. The key is
to not let them derail the entire project.
A good manager must carefully consider requests for change in scope. If
the scope of the project is expanded, make sure to expand the budget and
deadlines accordingly. Otherwise, the project and team members will
become too strained to accomplish everything on time.
4. Wrong people for the job.
Make sure the right people are working on the project. They need to have the
experience, skills, and knowledge needed to complete the tasks assigned
to them. A careful, honest evaluation should be done by the project
manager prior to the start of the job. Sometimes some training or
mentoring can fill the gap. Other times it may be necessary to outsource
some of the work involved.
5. Accountability issues.
It’s critical that each person on the team is clear on his or her roles and
is accountable for their completion. A lack of accountability can lead
to a total project breakdown, particularly where there are task
A project chart that clearly shows assignments can help tremendously. Not
only does each team member see and understand his or her areas of
responsibility, but the assignments of all team members are completely
6. Inconsistent processes.
Having consistent templates, tools, and procedures make projects easier to
manage and run more efficiently. While each project may change in size,
scope, and team members, the process is often the same, or very similar.
Diagram the work flow using a flowchart. Create it from the perspective of the
job, not the individual doing the work. That way, new team members or
outsourced contractors can quickly understand their role and how it fits
into the overall project structure.
7. Poor communication.
Project managers need to keep lines of communication open with team members at
all times. This needs to be a two-way street. Set this up as part of the
project process, so that there is regular communication. Knowing about
any possible delays or issues early can help you avoid more serious
problems down the road.
8. Unrealistic deadlines.
Sometimes, a short deadline for a high-profile client with an important project
can get a team focused and energized. But successful project managers
know that setting unrealistic deadlines on an ongoing basis is a recipe
for disaster. It will kill morale and lead to late deliveries, making
for unhappy customers.
9. Risk mismanagement.
Sometimes a project is planned out in detail, everyone is on board, and things
are running smoothly. Then an unforeseen occurrence happens and the
project skids off the rails. Why? Failure to manage for risks. A good
project manager must not only plan but also prepare for contingencies.
Constantly ask “what if?” questions – both of yourself and of your team
10. Stakeholder apathy.
Often, this is a byproduct of projects that don’t mesh with the organization’s
strategic plan. Those that do are far more likely to receive
management’s support for resource and budget requests.
It’s also critical for the project manager to communicate clearly and
consistently with all stakeholders—team members, vendors, contractors,
management, and the client—throughout the life of the project. Encourage
feedback, as well. Keeping all parties engaged in the process will lead
to less stress and a more positive project experience.