Managing projects can be challenging, as it requires a diverse skillset, including communication, organization, leadership, and strategic thinking. Due to how our work tools and strategies have changed over the past 30–50 years, project management has long stopped being a field required in construction. Project managers find work in IT, healthcare, the financial sector, manufacturing, education.. you name it. And despite best efforts, projects still do fail. According to a study, only 64% of projects meet their original goals. There are plenty of reasons for project managers’ efforts being insufficient, and this article will explore some of the most common ones.
Insufficient Planning and Execution
It will not come as a surprise that one of the most significant reasons why projects break down is poor planning and execution. There are several elements to plan every aspect of a project, including timelines, budgets, resources, and stakeholder engagement, which significantly complicates the task, placing several unknown factors into play and demanding the manager to make assumptions. Furthermore, the project manager must establish clear objectives for the enterprise, ensuring that they’re understood by everyone involved. The lack of adequate planning and failure to execute the plans effectively poses high risk of delays, scope creep, and missed deadlines, all of which can inevitably lead to project failure.
Lack of Communication
Effective communication is a critical element of successful project management. Project managers must regularly interact with stakeholders and team members to keep everyone on the same page. Their communication must be clear and concise to avoid confusion and misunderstandings. Many project managers struggle with communication, putting it second to deadline or budget management only, leading to poor project outcomes and dissatisfied clients. A simple way to keep tabs on team communication is by holding short, concise weekly meetings with an agenda composed around, for example, looking at the tasks blocked on the project board.
Another common reason why projects fail is the unestablished venture scope and objectives. If you don’t know what defines your work as done, how are you supposed to finish it to any specification? Unnamed project boundaries like that will lead to scope creep — when a project’s goals or requirements keep changing over time, increasing costs, delays, and exasperation among stakeholders. It’s a truism to state that project managers must define the objectives upfront, yet it’s still a point that gets omitted too often.
Inadequate Risk Management
Risk management is an essential aspect of project management, stemming unpredictable and typical new work factors. Identifying the risks likely to weaken the project and developing strategies to mitigate them is probably the hardest part of the manager’s job. Typical project risks are the sudden absence of a critical team member, equipment, software, or location issues, or finally — an undecided client changing their requirements throughout the process. A good project manager will have contingency plans in place, to both manage and prevent those hazards, allowing them to keep the project on track.
Lack of Leadership
Project managers are not pencil pushers and nannies checking in on the team to see if they’re doing the work — they are leaders, and as such, must motivate and inspire their teams to move towards the project’s goals. Managers lacking guardianship skills are not highly likely to succeed, and will most probably meet with the team’s low morale, missed deadlines, and unhappy stakeholders. A good project manager must take the role of a high-energy salesperson, working to sell the end goal of the plan to the team working on it! They need to be effective communicators of the project’s vision, delegate tasks competently, and provide support and guidance to their teams.
Imperfect Resource Allocation
Having adequate resources, including people, equipment, and materials, is a non-negotiable element of completing a project successfully. And faulty resource allocation is a regular reason why projects break down. Work cannot be done without the right number of people with specific skills concentrating on the right tasks at each moment. The project manager must be able to carefully and objectively assess their resource needs and ensure they have what they need to complete work on time, within budget, and to specifications.
Despite a project manager’s job description possibly appearing vague, uninvolved, and flimsy, it is a challenging, complex field requiring a diverse set of soft and hard skills. An adept project manager is an invaluable asset to any company. Just as you’d never see an orchestra playing without their conductor, you cannot expect the best team to tackle a project perfectly without an adequate project manager leading them!
The article was originally posted on the Kanban Tool Blog.