Top 5 Ways to Fail at Project Management

Project management is a precise blend of art, science, caffeine, and ibuprofen.  Too little of any of these, and your project will suffer.  Many business guides focus on driving change.  This is a great thing on a macro level – but for those of us in the trenches, we must focus first on accepting what we cannot change.  Bounding a project with a charter or problem statement is a common and helpful tool, but doesn’t tell the complete story.  Today I am going to focus on critical assumptions to make when working projects in corporate America.

 Many people have an idealistic or textbook view of project management.  That paradigm says business leaders are inherently rational, and if you only present the DATA in the right way, you will have all the time and resources you will need.  Data is important to solve problems – specifically making sure you are solving the RIGHT problem.  It does not turn water into wine.  Here are my top 5 assumptions about project management.  If you forget any of these – you are likely to fail. Or reset, pivot, or some other euphemism for “try again.”  Remember them – and you can gain valuable insights into your project.  Note for each failure mode, there is a message in green text.  Accept the reality and move on!error-101409_640

  1. Resources.  You will not have enough qualified people on your team.  If you add more qualified people, their ideas and enthusiasm will drive scope.  If you add unqualified people – same thing.  It is a never ending cycle.  Learn to work with the challenge.

  2. Priorities.  Competing priorities will impact your ability to schedule work. Sometimes they are business priorities. Someone else’s pet project, or a more near term deliverable.  Sometimes they are personal priorities – life events like children, vacations, or removing the remnants of a winter storm from their driveway.  Accept that no one is 100% available.

  3. Requirements.  They will change – either from a lack of original understanding, a technology change, or sometimes just a better idea.  Don’t resist changing requirements.  Holding fast to an outdated requirement will usually cause more lost time in the end than adapting quickly and moving on.

  4. Deadlines.  The timeline will not be long enough.  Similar to qualified people.  If the timeline increases, so will the scope.  This is where sprints or some other time-boxing methodology is useful.  Instead of failing to deliver, compartmentalize delivery so you always have progress.

  5. Politics.  Don’t forget, corporations are people too.  Everyone has an agenda.  This is not a bad thing – treat agendas as a leading indicator for an avatar or persona – it helps you understand how to effectively manage.  A much bigger problem is to pretend that we don’t have agendas.

Bright Beach Consulting has a project management approach that helps promote success.  If you would like more information about the Six Step process that we use which actively accounts for these challenges, you can sign up here.


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