Blog Post

Five Big Mistakes that Project Managers Make

What are the most common mistakes that new project managers make? Here are some that we come across when we’re asked to help out on projects that have got into difficulty.

  1. The project starts with a whimper instead of a bang. The first project team meeting is important. You get the team together, walk them through the plan, talk about issues and most of important of all, make sure everyone understands why the project matters. The start of the of the project really matters - good project management is about leadership.

  2. They forget about the risk register. It gets created at the start of the project, is put in the project initiation document and then it gets forgotten. It doesn’t take long to review the big risks on the project - run down the list every two or three weeks and then check with risk owners. Use the risk register to talk about what could go wrong and get team members to open up about bad news.

  3. They don’t manage the project, they become project administrators instead. Some project managers get lost in tracking in minor issues, producing documents and following their employers project management ‘process’. They’re busy doing stuff but they don’t make any real big decisions - either because don’t have the authority or because they don’t see things going wrong or because they lack confidence. Good project management is about being proactive - it’s not a passive administrative role.

  4. They don’t use the project plan to track real progress. The plan needs to be a mixture of tasks and milestones and the milestones need to represent real deliverables - something tangible was actually finished. And the dependencies between milestones mean you should be able to see at a glance what happens to the rest of the plan when a milestone comes in late. There’s a knack to creating a plan with just the right amount of detail - too much detail and the project manager gets hung up on the short term and doesn’t see the bigger picture.

Good project managers tackle the immediate issues but they also keep one eye on the bigger picture - they think longer term. Effective communication with stakeholders, good risk management and an awareness of the wider aims of the project are as important as the day to day issues.

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