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8 Common Project Management Disasters and How to Prepare for Them Right Now

In project management, disaster can strike at any moment, and it's important to be prepared. Here are 8 common project management disasters and how to overcome them.

6 October 2021

by Allah-Nawaz Qadir

Project management is an extensive field that requires knowledge, practice, and expertise in a multitude of different subjects. Managing projects is often challenging work as everything rides on the shoulders of front-line managers, and the right mix of skills is crucial to the success of a project.

Whether you are just starting out as a project manager or you have been doing it for years, there is still a lot of room for growth as the field of project management is constantly evolving. If you want to keep up, you have to employ the latest techniques, frameworks, and tools available to make your job easier.  

Project Management 101: An Introduction to Project Management

Before we jump into discussing project management disasters, let’s start with what the job itself entails. From the outside looking in, project management might seem a bit daunting, but once you get a handle on things, a little bit of experience can go a long way!

A project is nothing but a series of tasks, and it is the duty of a project manager to ensure that these tasks are executed in the right order, and in a timely fashion. Depending on the tasks at hand, there are likely going to be some deliverables that you have to meet within some set deadlines. To make this process easier, a project can be divided into five phases:

A man putting a large number of multi-colored sticky notes on a board full of notes.

Responsibilities and Duties of a Project Manager

A great project manager is someone with an exceptionally entrepreneurial mindset. They use their skillset to inspire a sense of purpose within a team and ensure that projects are delivered at the right time and within the predefined budget.

To be a strong project manager, you need exceptional critical thinking capabilities in order to solve problems in real-time, and you’re going to be responsible for making big and small decisions that anchor a project from initiation to completion with a minimum amount of delays.

As a project manager influences most of the decisions in a project, they must have the technical knowledge and understanding to lead. Project management is an indispensable part of a successful business, which is why you, as a project manager, need to be on your toes at all times.

Project Management Disasters and How to Avoid Them

With everything riding on your shoulders, you must learn all the basics regarding a project and all the potential disasters that might follow. Managing any project can come with potential challenges, but there are some that are faced more frequently than others.

Today, we’re going to highlight some of the most common project management disasters you may encounter and provide you with information to help you mitigate or avoid them completely. Learning about these challenges now, and how to face them, will give you a head start and allow you to do your job more efficiently.

A woman sketching out a wireframe design and writing out the user goals next to it.

Not Clearly Defining Specific Goals

Starting a project without defining your short and long-term goals is truly a recipe for disaster, and if members of your team don’t have your client’s expectations clearly defined, it is more likely to fail.

How to Overcome this Challenge

If you want to effectively define and achieve your goals, you’ve got to get SMART—that is, when planning a project’s objectives, ensure that each is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. If you begin each project with this criteria in mind, your project is much more likely to run smoothly.

  1. Specific: The goal should target a specific area of improvement or answer a specific need.
  2. Measurable: The goal must be quantifiable, or at least allow for measurable progress.
  3. Attainable: The goal should be realistic, based on available resources and existing constraints.
  4. Relevant: The goal should align with other business objectives to be considered worthwhile.
  5. Time-bound: The goal must have a deadline or defined end.

Lack of Communication

Another mistake that can lead your project astray is not having a clear and open communication within your team. Even a small amount of miscommunication can create confusion, leading to conflicts and delays which will ultimately hinder your progress.

How to Overcome this Challenge

The best way to go about correcting this issue is to use collaborative tools and software programs to ensure that everyone is in constant contact with each other. These tools create transparency within a project and allow the manager to keep an eye on everyone within their team.

Here are some of our favorites—many of which we use to stay in touch and work collaboratively with one another on the Crowdbotics team!

For effortless communication via chat – Slack, Flock, and Chanty

To hop on a call or meeting – Skype for Business, Whereby, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and GoToMeeting

For project management and staying on track of various project timelines – monday, ClickUp, Karbon, Toggl Plan, ProofHub, Asana, Trello, MindMeister

To help you achieve that all-in-one remote work space – Nifty, Nextiva, and GoBrief

To keep track of your team’s hours – TimeCamp and Timely

To collaborate on documents and files – Google Docs, Bit.ai, GitHub, Adobe XD, Figma, and Creatopy

File sharing apps – Dropbox, Box, Hightail, and Google Drive

To help you reinforce a job well done – Nectar

If you’d like to transcribe your meetings into text – Otter

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Not Keeping Everyone on the Same Page

One of the biggest challenges that you are going to face as a project manager is to manage your team. However, if each team member knows exactly what is expected of them, what’s going on, and what all of them are working towards, it will be much easier for you to get the job done.

How to Overcome this Challenge

The solution for this problem is rather simple, and it goes back to our previous challenge, communication. You not only need to establish open lines of communication, you also need to connect with every member of your team to make sure that you’re all on the same page and working towards the same goal.

Personally, I prefer to accomplish this is by holding regular team meetings, ideally either at the end of each week (to see how we finished the week) or at the beginning of each week (so that we start out with similar weekly goals). Emails have a tendency to get lost in the shuffle, so try and get some group discussions with the whole team in on a weekly basis and request simple notifications and updates on the success of each task via email or the communication channel of your choice.

A man using Slack on both his laptop and his phone at a cafe.

Setting Unrealistic Project Deadlines

Project deadlines are the bane of every project manager’s existence. Many clients and project stakeholders lack the understanding of what actually goes into a project and thus have unrealistic deadlines and expectations. This can end up either messing up the whole project or severely affecting the quality of the project.

How to Overcome this Challenge

Project managers have to be very vigilant when it comes to planning, analyzing, and managing the project. It’s important to find ways to share your process with your clients so that they have a better understanding of what is involved. You should also be able to freely share your concerns with any higher-ups to establish a flexible timeline so that you and your team are able to meet the set deadlines and targets.

Inadequate Risk Management

It doesn’t matter how much you may prepare for a project—things won’t always go as planned. The best way to judge the capability of a project manager is to see how they perform under stress, which is why you need to prepare for the worst. If you don’t highlight the potential risks of your project beforehand, it can have a detrimental impact on the success of your project.

How to Overcome this Challenge

Although it’s impossible to predict the future, you need to come up with a contingency plan or alternative route of attack if something doesn’t go quite the way you planned. By using past information and analyzing your previous projects, you can anticipate what problems may arise during your current project and make a plan to deal with them in an efficient way so that your hands aren’t tied behind your back in the event that something goes wrong.

Scope Creep

If there is one thing that you need to learn as a project manager, it’s to accept that the client is always right. A lot of times, clients won’t fully grasp what it is that they want from a project, and then demand more functionality from you midway through the project. These added functionalities can put managers in a difficult position as they have to readjust and accommodate their client’s needs. Failure to do so might result in the project being lost or your client being unhappy with you.

How to Overcome this Challenge

Avoiding scope creep is one of the fundamentals of every project, which is why you need to stay vigilant. There is no way to guarantee that a scope creep won’t arrive, so it’s important to determine your project goals through a systematic process and keep documentation of everything. Reassessing your project in real-time is going to put you in a better position to pivot and make changes without jeopardizing your current success.

Limited Engagement of Stakeholders

Last but not least, all project managers must ensure that they have project stakeholders on the same page. If you don’t get your client involved every step of the way, it is going to create a lot of difficulties for you later on. Not only should you gather any requirements prior to starting the project, but you must keep your client in the loop as well so that they are happy with the progress you have made.

How to Overcome this Challenge

You should devise a scheduled system that will allow you to take proper feedback from all the stakeholders. As soon as you are done with a major task, you should have the client take a look at it provide you with any feedback they may have. Involving them at every step in the process will make the stakeholders feel like they are a part of the project, and in a way accountable, so that they’re less likely to object to anything later on.

Using the Wrong Tools and Software Programs

Finding the right technology within your budget can be a tedious task, but then again, if you want to be a good project manager, you need to choose a software program that meets your needs. Without the right tools, you are going to have a difficult time managing your project.

How to Overcome this Challenge

If you are finding it difficult to locate a tool that gives you full autonomy of your project, it might be time to invest in a custom project management software solution. Although there might be a larger upfront cost initially, having a suitable solution in place can save you loads of time, and ultimately, money in the long-run. It is also going to help you organize tasks in a better way and improve the overall collaboration of your team.

How a Project Management Tool Can Help You Tackle Most Challenges

When it comes to project management, businesses are relying more and more on innovative solutions. While completing the project during the set timeline and budget may not be an easy task, you can overcome most of your challenges with the help of technology.

Crowdbotics can help you unlock the true potential of your team by assisting you in building a fully custom-made project management product on time and within your budget. Get in touch with us today for a quote!