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August 15, 2014

Five Project Management Blunders (and How to Avoid Them)

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Project management isn’t easy. To ensure your projects – and your team members – stay on track, I’ve compiled several common mistakes that even the most experienced project managers make from time to time, and tips on how to avoid them:

Mistake 1: No Clearly-Defined Scope of Work

Defining the scope of the project, or the work that needs to be done, should be one of the first things a project manager does in the initial planning stages of the project. If the scope isn’t clear, no one will know exactly when the project is done. This can lead to projects running off course and dragging on far past the expected completion date.

The Solution

At the very beginning of the project, create a written scope agreement (sometimes called a Statement of Work or Project Requirements Document) that defines what is in (and out of) the scope of the project, and what defines a ‘successful’ completion. Be as specific as possible, and share it with all members of the project team.

Mistake 2: Project Delays

Sometimes project managers don’t realize there are critical issues until the project has already veered off schedule. Delays happen when there is no clearly defined workflow and team members don’t know which deliverables are due when.

The Solution

Proactive communication between team members is key to addressing challenges that could cause delays before they actually happen. Project management software can keep the workflow organized and help project managers schedule and track deliverables. Weekly check-ins and progress reports are essential to making sure tasks are being completed on time.

Mistake 3: Team Member Roles Not Clearly Defined

Projects can go downhill quickly if team members aren’t sure what they are responsible for, or if tasks are not assigned to those who are best equipped to complete them.

The Solution

Successful project managers know how to assign the right tasks to the right people. Managers should be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of team members and delegate project tasks based on each person’s expertise. Roles should be clearly outlined and communicated to each team member, along with expectations.

Mistake 4: Lack of Communication

Projects don’t get done in a silo; often one task directly impacts another. That’s why collaboration between team members is so crucial. When team members aren’t regularly communicating with each other and the project lead, project failure is almost inevitable.

The Solution

It’s easy to share information and ideas using online collaboration tools, such as Dropbox (for sharing files), Conceptboard (for collaborating on visual concepts) and Google Calendar (for scheduling meetings). Regular meetings, proactive communication and an open-door policy will foster collaboration between team members and help keep everyone on the same page.

Mistake 5: Project Managers are Unprepared to Face Challenges

A project can grind to a halt while the project manager tries to figure out how to handle an unexpected obstacle or challenge. A recent study found that up to 40 percent of projects fail because of poor planning (Nielson); indeed, it pays to plan ahead.

The Solution

Instead of handling challenges reactively, take time at the start of the project to identify any risks that may cause the project to become delayed, go over budget or exceed scope, and come up with a game plan for tackling those risks. Share this plan with team members and get their input.

For more on this topic, we’ve put together a white paper on best practices of project management. Knowing what is likely to go wrong before the project goes off course  ̶  and planning how to deal with it   ̶  can be the difference between success and failure.

Check out this infographic for even more helpful tips and best practices on project management:



Sean Crafts, founder and chief customer officer of Mavenlink, spent 10 years helping grow InQuira (now Oracle) from 15 employees to annual gross revenues exceeding $40 million. He held various positions within the company including sales, marketing, finance, operations and contracts. He also directed the firm’s Alliance and Channel Sales Division. Crafts graduated with a double major from Duke University, and holds a J.D. from Berkeley's Boalt Law School.