Let's face it–even under the best of circumstances, project management is hard. There are so many facets and factors to consider at each project stage, including several that will change (sometimes dramatically) over the course of your project. Scope may be altered, costs will fluctuate, and schedules will have to be modified. Objectives may shift, resources will become constrained, and new information will pop up that could radically change your view of how your project should run. And that's just to name a few; there are many more insidious things that could cause problems that could delay or even derail your project completely.
One of the best ways to avoid project management mistakes is to know that they could occur. The Internet is full of articles about several "common" errors that could happen (lack of scope control, poor estimating, ineffective communication, etc.) but there are several project missteps that you should be aware of, to ensure that your project doesn't become another statistic on your organization's "Failed Ventures" chart.
Below are several of the "less obvious" missteps that could ensnare an unprepared project manager. Each would have to be addressed in a way that fits your unique circumstance and enables your team or organization to meet its goals in the most effective way possible.
1: The Wrong Methodology
Choosing the wrong methodology–or worse yet, forcing the wrong methodology on a team–can have huge deleterious effects on your project. Some teams may work better with an Agile-based approach, while others may not be ready for the autonomy needed to work in such environments. In addition, some projects may not be right for incremental or iterative practices (because project deliverables need to be comprehensively complete before they can be released), so should be run with traditional Waterfall life cycles.
2: Too Short of a Leash
Many project managers feel that they have to direct and control every aspect of their team's work. By trying to do everything themselves and not empowering the team to get the job done, a project manager may hamper and restrain the people who know how to do the job best. The people who are closest to the work will likely understand how best to complete it and should be allowed (within reason) to work unfettered in doing so.
3: Losing the Target
For many project leaders, it can be easy to get caught up in "running the project" and to lose sight of the deliverable or solution that the project was set up to provide. It is always important to remember that your goal is not to have a picture-perfect project or to get your project plan into "The Project Management Hall of Fame"; it's to get the right results that meet your stakeholders' needs.
4: Making the Same Mistakes
A common practice for many project management methodologies is to convene a lessons-learned meeting or retrospective to capture what went right and what went wrong in recently completed project work. In many organizations, this information is archived after it is formally documented, reviewed, and updated. But unfortunately, "archived" becomes a synonym for "put into a folder that is placed on a shelf and forgotten." The completed project's information is collected but never applied or utilized in new projects, so the mistakes of the past are repeated.
5: Expecting Miracles
The technology associated with project management has come a long way and is very helpful in coordinating project parameters but it cannot perform miracles by itself. Too many project managers expect technology and software to run the projects for them, but a tool is only as good as the person who wields it. Projects still need experienced practitioners to say when, where, and how tools should be used.
Mistakes can be costly–to your project, your team, your organization, and your reputation. When–not if–they occur, it is important to deal with them calmly and professionally, and most importantly, to use them as learning experiences to improve your project management approach.