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Lars Linnekogel
Lars
Linnekogel

DON’T DO THAT! TYPICAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT MISTAKES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

05.04.2017
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In some areas there is a huge gap between theory and practice. Something that seems both possible and a good idea at the planning stage can suddenly become unfeasible when you attempt to implement it. This is not always necessarily the fault of the project manager but may also be dependent on external factors, for example, which cannot be influenced. But there are also sources of errors that can be deliberately avoided. We would like to present three typical mistakes below that we often come across in our everyday professional business, and show you how you can avoid them.

  1. Unclear project mission

The project has been released and the customer wants to start immediately because an important issue is involved. However, the concrete project mission and project space have been insufficiently defined for the project manager. For instance, the following fundamental questions have not yet been answered: What is the time period for the project? What resources does it have? What competences? Who is to be involved? In this situation, the project manager will have to find time and resources later in order to make the adjustments that will be required.

 

What is the source of the error here?

Time pressure. Everyone wants to get going fast; the customer is happy that a project manager will now be taking on the matter and he himself will be free to deal with other things. But clear formulation of the goal and staking out the framework conditions are all part of delegating a project to a project manager.

 

How to do it better:

The customer and project manager must schedule sufficient time at the start to clarify the assignment and must involve the necessary stakeholders. The project goal must be clearly formulated if possible. If it is not, this must be a deliberate decision, made in the knowledge that additional time will have to be spent at a later date in defining everything properly.

 

  1. Unexpected change in resources

The resources initially promised by the customer are not made sufficiently available to the project as it progresses or do not exist.

 

What is the source of the error here?

Insufficient clarification and pressure of time. At the start of the project it is important that the customer and the project manager discuss and establish the resources required (its own staff, external consultants, finances, office space, etc.). This is often agreed by the customer but then snags on complicated, internal approval procedures. It may be, for example, that Facility Management has no offices available or that personnel required cannot be released from their current duties.  

 

How to do it better:

The availability of resources is another essential aspect of clarification of the mission between customer and project manager and often reveals how seriously the project assignment is regarded. Right at the start, both parties must establish precisely the resources with which the project is to be realised and WHERE these are to come from. The onus is on the customer to supply and on the project manager to request. Often, because of the pressure of time, the project is “just got under way” even though, with the resources available, it is pointless from the outset. This should be avoided at all costs.

 

  1. Unfavourable project structure

The project manager begins by thinking of a structure that includes, among other things, the distribution of assignments among the team members or even sets out how the individual project modules should look.

 

What is the source of the error here?

An incorrect approach. The project structure is of decisive importance and should be considered prior to each milestone planning stage. But many project managers start by worrying about how quickly and by when specific items should be worked out, and assign duties on this basis. They tend to overlook the fact that sub-assignments can build on one another or can be structured according to a certain logic. 
For example: thinking about the issue of profit maximising, I can, for instance, set up my project on the basis of organisational units, turnover/costs or specific hypotheses. Which logic makes more sense here and where the drivers are positioned depends on the individual case in question. Many project managers do not think sufficiently about which structure can yield the greatest success.

 

How to do it better: 
The project manager should include an “Establish project structure” step in his plans right at the start. This step defines the logic by which a project problem should be approached. Only after this should project phases, milestones, etc., be planned – and this planning should be in line with the project structure established.



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