Project Management

The Seven Deadly Sins of Project and Team Management

Avoid the most common pitfalls and save your project from failure
Francesco | 20.02.19

Let’s face it…nobody is perfect. Whenever you’re managing a project or a team of people working towards a common goal, you are faced with a constant load of choices and, well, mistakes will be made.

Sometimes, you might even find yourself overwhelmed with the unexpected that might derail timelines and hinder your progress. However, understanding common pitfalls can not only save you time, but also make the entire process much simpler and less stressful.

By avoiding these Seven Deadly Sins of Project Management, the Pearly Gates of Success will open wide for your project.

The First Deadly Sin – Lack of Leadership

Probably one of the key factors that determine the success of a project is Leadership. It is not a matter of technical prowess, good leadership means being able to master soft skills such as communication, motivation, and problem solving. And it doesn’t hurt if you have already some experience in navigating the murky waters of project and team management.

A good leader can focus the efforts of a group of people toward a common goal and motivate them to work effectively, and solve any hiccup along the way so they won’t negatively affect the outcome of your project.

Again, technical skills are fine, but for effectively managing people you need to invest in soft skills.

Bonus resource from Mindiply:How to apply the Goal-setting Theory to increase motivation and productivity

The Second Deadly Sin – Poor Communication

In order for a leader to get everyone pulling their weight, communication is of the utmost importance. The lack of infrastructure, frequency, and clarity of communication in your project will hinder success. Poor communication also can refer to “over communication” or micromanagement. A good project manager will know what information is important to particular team members to ensure that they are focused on their tasks, working in tandem to achieve the goal.

Bonus resources from Mindiply: Use Commander's Intent and stop micromanaging your team and A framework for effectively communicating your strategy.

The Third Deadly Sin – Unachievable Deadlines

Nothing is more demotivating and stressful than an angry boss, or client, screaming about missed deadlines. High pressure due to unrealistic deadlines makes us work worse, lowers motivation (‘we’ll never hit that deadline’) and can lead to an increase in mistakes being made.

The sin here is not giving the right importance to the planning phase. Many projects ‘quickly plan to start the project sooner’, however, as Brian Tracy said, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1000% return on energy!

Bonus resource from Mindiply: Smart Gantt charts: A flexible and content-rich tool for modern project planning

The Fourth Deadly Sin – Blurred Vision

Establishing a clear vision is crucial to project management. It is very important to define the ‘Scope of the Project’ and to stick to it throughout until the end. Any minor deviation from the scope can lead to increased costs and overtime. This will demotivate your workforce and ultimately end up hurting the success of the project.

Bonus resource from Mindiply: Do you know how to craft a goal that motivates and directs your team?

The Fifth Deadly Sin – Smothering your team

Understanding the ‘readiness level’ of your team members can make or break your project. By ‘readiness’ we are referring to their ‘understanding of their task’. According to the Hershey and Blanchard situational leadership model, there are four stages that a team member goes through to fully understand their task: Telling, Selling, Participating and Delegating.

Each of these stages requires different leadership input, from telling them how to do things (Telling stage), to giving them the freedom to completing their task alone, without any interference from the leader (Delegating stage).

This is a more nuanced approach to project management, however for better team work it is vitally important to know the readiness level of each team member.

Bonus resource from Mindiply: How to Apply the Situation-Based Leadership Principles and Make Your Team Members Self-sufficient

The Sixth Deadly Sin – Unrealistic Optimism

The old adage “Hope for the best but plan for the worst” is definitely something that every project manager should have as a mantra. In many cases, ‘not planning for the worst’ can be the undoing of a project. Being proactive in finding solutions to problems that haven’t occurred yet will allow you to execute your project smoothly.

Bonus resource from Mindiply: A Quick Guide to Optimal Forecasting Techniques

The Seventh Deadly Sin – Lack of Client Management

This is probably one area where many project managers fail. The delicate art of balancing client (or stakeholder) expectations and project delivery will be the determining factor in client satisfaction. How happy a client is at the end of the project depends also on how you engage them throughout the duration of the project.

Once again, too much information and you could be bothering your client with unnecessary information, which would translate into a negative experience. Too little information would make them feel ‘left out’ or ‘in the dark’.

Help shape the expectations of your clients by giving them the information they need to know, that is easily understood at significant milestones throughout the project. And remember, always under promise and over deliver.

Bonus resource from Mindiply: What is Project Success and How to Measure it

How to Stay out of Project Management Hell

The Seven Deadly Sins of Project Management isn’t about making you feel bad about what can go wrong. It’s about identifying areas of improvement that will keep you on the straight path to the Pearly Gates of Success.

And if you think you need some more help for managing your project and your team, here’s Mindiply’s infographic cheat sheet for beginners: Keep Calm and Manage Your Project

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