Projects fail, and they fail spectacularly. Only around a third of all projects are finished effectively, on schedule and under budget, and 75 per cent of IT executives think their initiatives are “doomed from the beginning.”
What if I told you that there are six faults that project managers make that are directly related to the failure of these projects? Would you believe me? And what if I told you that each and every one of these blunders is completely avoidable? And that they are all a result of project planning, as well?
The 6 pitfalls to avoid in project schedules
Project planning and scheduling are integral to the success of a project. Whether you’re using Gantt charts, the critical path method, or planning out your sprints, these project management mistakes will be a death sentence for your project.
Avoid them at all cost.
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Mistake #1: Not defining your project’s purpose
The Project Management Institute notes that ineffective communication leads to project failure one-third of the time. While project managers should have a clear communication plan in place while the project is ongoing, the first step in the entire project itself should be establishing the project’s purpose and goals, and communicating those to the team.
Managing Projects writes,
“Don’t be fooled! Before a team develops a schedule, members must have established an understanding of the project’s purpose, agreed on goals, selected the best course of action for achieving the goals, created a comprehensive work breakdown structure, and assessed project uncertainties.”
Make sure that you communicate with your team why the project is important, how it will help the company, and what the goals are before even starting the scheduling process.
Mistake #2: Not establishing requirements
While your project’s vision may be spot-on, it’s critical to determine the criteria that will be included in the planning phase of the project. Numerous experts, like ProjectSmart’s Duncan Haughey, feel that project managers should get a documented statement of needs from the customer.
He writes, “This document is a guide to the requirements of the project. Once you create your statement of requirements, ensure the customer and other stakeholders sign-up to it and understand that this is what you have agreed to deliver.”
Doing so pushes scope-change risks onto the customer and off your team.
Of course, if your team is Agile, you may struggle with establishing requirements early on. But with that said, having a starter list will provide a broad outline for your project as it progresses, giving structure to scope and project planning.
Mistake #3: Getting your estimates from nowhere
If you aren’t communicating with your team about their ability to meet the deadline, or if you’re being overly optimistic with your estimates, you’re going to have a hard time meeting deadline no matter what.
Take the time to speak with your team to determine their ability to handle the demands of your project, as well as the expectations each team member or team leader has for their own performance. Create reports on previous productivity using project management software, then utilise those data to predict what your team will be capable of in the future using those same tools.
Mistake #4: Giving inexact estimates because of stakeholder pressures
We’ve all been there—you know you can’t get a report done by Thursday, but you promise it anyway because of managerial pressure. And by the end of Thursday, everyone is rushed, stressed, sloppy, and ultimately disappointed. You want to avoid this mistake at all costs.
There is a delicate line between creating high expectations for your team and generating unreasonable goals for them to achieve success. Do everything you can to satisfy the needs of your stakeholders, but take the time to consider the dangers involved with meeting deadlines in such a hurried manner. If it is just not possible, all parties concerned, including and especially your team, will appreciate your candour and willingness to admit defeat. Choose your fights wisely, but always be honest in your assessment of what can and cannot be accomplished.
Mistake #5: Forgoing risk management
According to the Info-Tech Research Group, businesses that have a formal risk management plan are more than half (53 percent) as likely as those who use a reactive approach to risk management to achieve “management success.” To put it another way, developing and sustaining a risk management plan from the beginning of a project is critical to its overall success. Though not difficult, developing a risk management strategy requires considerable effort and effort consumes much of your time.
Make sure that you have protected yourself against typical risks such as unrealistic timetables, scope modifications, and gold plating as you go through the process of reviewing your project schedule. Evaluate the importance of each risk and the magnitude of the impact it would have on your project by rating them from 1 to 10. Then, develop contingency plans to mitigate and respond to a negative occurrence that has occurred.
For more information on how to plan for risks, check out our “Unconventional Guide to Project Risk Management.”
Mistake #6: Being rigid
Maybe you’re a Scrum master who refuses to look at a Gantt chart, or perhaps you’re fed up with hearing reason after excuse about why a project can’t be completed on time. In any case, being inflexible—whether it’s to a certain approach or to receiving input that you don’t agree with—is a negative personality trait that far too many project managers exhibit to their detriment.
When creating your project schedule, be aware of the project management approach you want to use and the needs you have. Allow, however, for some off-the-cuff improvisation if you are able to do so. Few projects go precisely as planned; thus, you and your team should be prepared to adjust to unanticipated issues or unorthodox project techniques if the situation calls for it.
What are other potential mistakes in project schedules
Putting together a project’s plan requires time and work, but taking the time to do it well can enhance the likelihood of your project’s success. What steps in the planning and scheduling process did I overlook? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!