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What are some common mistakes in Project Management?

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Cynthia Smith
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I know a person who is a project manager. I don't know much about it myself, I was wondering what are some common mistakes,  and mishaps in project management?


Susanna Kate
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Though there is no exact number of mistakes that a PM can make as each project is different in nature but I would like to list 4 of the common mistakes:

  1. Not meeting with the whole team and setting goals upfront
  2. Not breaking down (big) projects into smaller pieces
  3. Not prioritizing projects and/or tasks
  4. Not regularly communicating with team members
Stephen Devaux
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I'd say that Divya's list is a pretty good one -- but all of them, and particularly "2. Unclear objectives and success metrics", stem from one cause that is almost universal in project management: the failure to define projects as investments!

The essence of every project is to fund resources to do work which will result in a product/result that is expected to, usually after a period of time, generate maximum greater value than its cost. THAT is an investment!

Every OTHER investment is planned, executed & measured to generate maximum profit, with the prime metric for decision-making being ROI/NPV/EMV. Yet that's rarely the case with projects -- the PM & team seldom know or refer to any of these, and the vast majority of PM s/w neither allows input of the scope's expected ROI nor computing & tracking it as scope, schedule and/or cost change. Project team members, who might be able to find opportunities to increase ROI are never given the data they need to seek/identify such opportunities.

Schedule is of course particularly important. Delays in investment maturity almost always reduce the ROI of any investment -- but especially that of project investments! And accelerations almost always increase the value (and often reduce the cost!). Yet once again the methodology & the software ignores the value/cost of time and does not ven compute critical path drag and drag cost. Instead, project investors and contracts rely on setting something called a "deadline" -- an artifice that destroys both work and schedule performance through Parkinson's Law and/or quality truncation -- and then pretending that the term has any meaning in reality.

The prime metric of ALL projects should be the DIPP and the DIPP Performance Index (DPI) -- and until it is, project management performance will continue to drift in the wind.

Fraternally in project management,

Steve the Bajan

Rafael Davila
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Not employing an inexperienced project manager is in error.  ==>>  There must be some misspelling or perhaps "not" shall be taken out.

Agree 100%+ with the statement that the single biggest and most common mistake is definition of the scope of work.

Divya Sethi
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Mistakes affect performance, cause delays, and, in some cases, lead to major failures as well.

Let us take a look at common project management mistakes that need to be avoided at all costs. Here are some of them:

  • 1. Not employing an inexperienced project manager
  • 2. Unclear objectives and success metrics
  • 3. Not following a clear process
  • 4. Poor resource planning
  • 5. Ineffective communication with stakeholders and team
  • 6. Not using a project management software
  • 7. Unable to manage scope creep
  • 8. Micromanaging a team
  • 9. Not evaluating your completed project
  • Read more at:
David Kelly
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Oh Mike, that's a bit cynical...

The single biggest and most common mistake, IMNVHO, is definition of the scope of work.  This is at the heart of all Project management disasters. We are right in the middle of one just now. Cynthia, the stuff I wrote last year about Brexit would seem to have most of your answers......



Project Brexit


I have spent much of the last forty years in the world of major project management. Largely in the oil and gas industry out of Aberdeen, but in other parts of the world as well and in other industries where projects get very big, such as nuclear power, defence and the largest of civil engineering jobs. My specific discipline – the software techniques used to understand and control these projects – is common across all of these industries, as are many, indeed most, of the theoretical frameworks we use to describe and manage these largest of jobs. I am flattered to be described as a “subject matter expert” by my clients in the oil and gas industry, however even SMEs have been quiet of late in the oil industry, and so I turned my attention to the largest project ever undertaken in Britain, Brexit.

The important distinguishing feature of a project is that it stops. This is not manufacturing or running a shop. We make something, deliver it, and the job is over. Brexit is a project. But if we examine it that way without any consideration as to whether it is “right” or “wrong” to do, it is doomed to failure.

In order for a project to be successful, there are some important ingredients. Brexit lacks all of them, except a “Project Must Finish By” date, the only information that we have. In March of 2019 the project finishes.

Let me painfully go through just some of the missing ingredients:

A scope of work. Famously, there isn’t one. It is as if a shipbuilding company had accepted a contract to deliver a ship in March 2019, but nobody knows what sort of ship. All we know is the launch date. This in itself makes the project to build the Holyrood parliament seem well founded in comparison.

Budget. There isn’t one. This project will go ahead no matter what it costs.

Contract Management. We have started this job without knowing what the terms and conditions are. Any of them. I cannot think of an analogy that expresses my horror at this strongly enough, other than to repeat it. We have started this job without knowing what the terms and conditions are. We are going to negotiate the T&Cs as we go along. How many times has that worked?

Benefit analysis. If you believe £350m a week for the NHS, you will believe anything I suppose, but in fairness there was a benefit analysis available this June from the proponents of the project. I do not think I am being too partisan if I suggest it has not stood up to scrutiny. In essence – there isn’t one.

Deliverables. All projects of this size have a list of deliverables, rather than a single event. The channel tunnel for example had operational parameters of availability, running costs, number of passengers, there will have been more I am sure. There are no quantified deliverables for Brexit. “less immigration” “more manufacturing jobs” are aspirations, not numbers. This inflates dramatically the impact of my next heading:

Expectations. When we spend this much money on a project, there are expectations which have to be met. If, for example, our shipyard successfully builds two new ferries, but the service to users on the routes they are deployed on does not improve, then it is likely that the expectations of the users of the project will not be met and the project may not be deemed a success. What do people expect from this project? Everyone has been allowed to invent their own expectations. Madness must ensue. For some it is control of immigration, for some it is leaving the single market, for some “taking back control” whatever that means. One could argue that with no scope of work, no budget, no benefit study and no deliverables, expectation management is impossible. I do argue that. And that means we have no way to measure:

Success. There is no way to measure this. The project must then fail.

I could carry on for a few thousand words more about what is wrong/missing with this project. Can I see the risk register? I thought not.

I am often called in to project control environments to help improve them. I certainly have plenty experience of projects that could have gone better. The simple truth I have observed is that success or failure is determined at or before the start, not the end of a project. Project success is a function of how ready we are to start the project. In more that forty years I have never seen a project less ready to start.

At the risk of tautology, this is technically the worst project I have ever experienced, and I’ve been parachuted into some lulus. It is hardly started and we are at the Supreme Court already.

All of the above just spells failure. Indeed I suspect Brexit cannot be done at all.


All I can think of to make it better, is comfort eating.

Mike Testro
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Hi Cynthia

The most common mistake a project manager makes is chosing to be one.

Best regards

Mike Testro