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5 common project management mistakes

by Jennifer Doyle
27 Jul 2016
5 min read
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5 common project management mistakes

Most projects, whether big or small, will require some level of project management. A lot of things we do day-to-day are just like mini projects that we manage and complete by making plans, preparing and organising. Let’s take baking cupcakes for a party as an example – we prepare our ingredients and follow a recipe to make sure the cupcakes are ready in time and taste good!  Mistakes along the way, such as skipping an ingredient, can lead to a disappointing result, or failing to achieve the goal.

Here are five common project management mistakes that can impact the success of your projects:

Mistake #1: Don’t estimate the work

At the beginning of a project everyone is excited and wants to jump straight in, that’s natural. But how can you know when you will deliver your project if you have no idea how long it will take?

Although you don’t need to estimate down to the minute detail, it is definitely recommended to have an overview of how long each part of the project will take. This will allow you to make a plan.

If you haven’t thought about how long it takes to make cupcakes, they may not be ready in time for the party.

Mistake #2: Don’t make a plan

Without a project plan you will not know when the project will be completed. After you have estimated how long each task will take, use these tasks to put together a project plan and timeline for the work. You also need to know when tasks need to start and what tasks are dependent on each other – you can use these to work out which tasks are critical to achieve early on in the plan, or need to wait for another task to finish.

Back to the cupcakes - if I am baking a cupcake, the cake needs to finish baking before I can add the icing - the icing task is dependent on the baking task.

Mistake #3: Don’t keep your plan up to date

Making a plan is a good start, but it becomes redundant if you don’t check progress regularly and keep the plan up to date. If a task takes longer than expected, your project plan needs to be updated to reflect this as the delay may have knock-on effects. If you see and catch that problem early on it is a lot easier to manage than when you get further down the line when it might have caused more issues.

So if you forgot to heat the oven, but went ahead and put the cupcakes in as planned, they wouldn’t bake at all. When you found out the oven was cold you need to adjust timings for when to put the cakes in and therefore the time to take them out as well.

Mistake #4: Don’t talk to your team

It is easy to assume that everyone is on the same page. But, quite often a simple catch-up will raise issues or conflicts that might not have been identified otherwise.  Regular ‘stand-up meetings’ are really effective for giving everyone on the team a quick view of the progress – everyone gives an update on:

  • What they have worked on since the last meeting
  • What they are working on now
  • Any issues or roadblocks they are currently experiencing

This allows for everyone to understand the projects current status, and to identify any issues as soon as they arise. It will also help with communication within the team.

If someone else is helping you in the kitchen, make sure they know what flavour cupcakes you are making before you ask them to make the icing.

Mistake #5: Don’t test properly or Don’t test at all

When you have reached the end of your project and all tasks are complete, it is important to test the outcome to ensure that you have achieved your project goals.

Create and run test cases based on the original project requirements, and ensure that everything functions correctly. Any issues that arise should be reviewed and if necessary fixed, before retesting to ensure everything works well.

In other words, taste the cupcakes… Would you want a guest to be the first to discover that they are undercooked or don’t have enough sugar? Try one, then if you need to cook them for longer or even start from scratch, do so. And then yes, have another cupcake to test again.

As you can see, making these simple mistakes can easily lead to a disaster in the kitchen. However, knowing what to avoid can help ensure your project is successful. Planning, communication and organisation are key to managing a project well, and will add structure and process to a project and guide it to success.

Good luck with the cupcakes!

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