Project Management Mistakes To Avoid & Tips To Follow

The words ‘Project Management’ can be scary in that they summon up an image of complicated project plans, long to do lists and a mountain of work, which us business owners don’t seem to ever have time for…

…and yet, Project Management is something as business owners you do every day. Whether it’s organising your trip to a networking event, arranging a well earned holiday or a shiny new website, getting these projects right is critical.

Effective project management is a fundamental starting point and is a skill which we can use, again and again.

Following a recent Virtual Class on Project Management for Small Business Owners we wanted to share some key tops from that session…

Common Project Management Mistakes To Avoid

With any project some things are out of your control…

…so let’s make sure you’re not adding to any potential problems by making one of these common mistakes…

#1 An Unrealistic Time Scale – the ‘Killer’ of many a Project!

There are so many instances where projects have been well thought through and then rushed at the end because of delays at the start and/or mistakes made once the project has kicked off.

……….By which time motivation, momentum and interest has wained.

So………..Be realistic!  Add in ‘wiggle room’ to the project.  Double the time allotted if necessary. Then add a bit more time.

Think of the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ – slow (or at a pace that’s realistic for you) and steady wins the race.

YVM Tip – Once you have your plan, add in your ‘key milestones’.  Add in your ‘down time,’ your holidays and prior commitments.  Then build in extra time. Double it if necessary.

#2 Changing the End Goal – What or who is set to ‘de-rail’?

“If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take.” – Alice in Wonderland

Whilst some adjustments along the project track are natural, constant changes are not.   When you have finite time, resources and budget, it’s critical to have clarity on where you are headed.

Your time is precious and we all know that time is money.

Can you afford to make such a costly mistake?

YVM Tip – Be sure of what it is you are setting out to achieve.  Be clear on where you want to get to and be sure to get it right before you move forward. Communicate clearly to those involved.

#3 And, And, and And………AKA ‘Scope-Creep’

‘When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the objective was to just drain the swamp’

Meaning, if you don’t retain the role of ‘Project Manager’ and direct the project correctly towards ‘your end goal,’ you’ll be in that swamp up to your neck before you know it, with little sight of your end goal.

The ‘Alligators’ are the ‘And, And, ands’ that pop up as the well meant ‘nice to haves’.

…these add up. Then before you know it those ‘ands’ silently, unknowingly start ‘creeping’ your project out of scope.

This is particularly important if it’s a project for a client and you let them keep adding and adding and adding to it.

YVM Tip – Take regular ‘Helicopter views’.  Meaning specifically, rise above the detail and take a fresh look at what’s happening with the project.  Correct the direction if you need to.  Take out activity, task and time which takes you away from your destination.

#4 Lack of Proper Planning – Fail to Plan = Plan to Fail

You probably do a lot more planning than you realise. Chances are much of it is simply stored in your head.

While that might be OK for some projects as your business develops and grows it’s important to do proper planning…

…by that we mean taking the time to have a clearly defined, detailed and documented plan for your project.

You need to have big picture plans for your life and the next 5 years of your business.

You need to have plans for key developments such as new product launches, marketing that new service etc

You need to have plans your social media, blogging, customer service, delivering products etc.

Trying to keep all that nicely stored in your head is a sure fire way to be overwhelmed and sooner or later drop the ball in one or more areas.

The answer is to plan. Some plans might be ongoing others might have a set time limit. The more plans you have in place the better off you’ll feel and be.

YVM Tip – Ensure that your plan is robust and fit for purpose before the project begins.  Ask for and take feedback. Listen and act on the feedback, even if its tough to hear.  ‘Golden nuggets’ await when you listen well.

#5 Avoid Communication Breakdown – Manage Conflicts

Many a project has fallen by the wayside because of conflicts. Conflicts on direction, responsibility, accountability, tasks and many more issues.

All too often in a project the focus is on ‘task’ at the expense of the very important people who are to carry out those ‘tasks’.  So it’s vital to get their input and answer any questions or concerns which they may have.

Be inclusive. Define and communicate roles clearly – who is doing what, how and by when?

YVM Tip – Early involvement of those you are going to work with on the project will ensure that further down the line, they feel safe to offer you feedback if things are going awry.  Use the collaborative strength of your stake-holders.

Projects NEVER Go To Plan (& that’s OK)

Always remember a project is something you manage. It will NOT go to plan, mistakes happen, problems come up but it’s your job to ensure the end goal is still delivered.

Will it always be on time, NO. Will some projects be easier than others, YES.

What we’re trying to say is that…project management is a skill. It takes time and practice to get good at it.

Even when you get ‘good’ at managing projects, things can still go wrong. All you can do is do your best on each project.

Use the tips above to help improve your skills and we’ll finish with one final bit of advice…

Learn from each project…what you did well, what didn’t work so well, how the next one could be better…do this for every project and sooner rather than later your projects will be running like a well oiled machine.

Good luck with your projects.


Post by YourVirtualMentors

Written by Mandy Ward | Edited by Paul Bassi | Based on Virtual Class by Becky Stevenson.

The advice and lessons in this post were taken from the YVM Virtual Class: Project Management For Small Business Owners. You can access this virtual class recording as a member of the YVM Small Business Accelerator.

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