How to Avoid 3 Common Project Pitfalls

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Stalled projects?  Most of us know the feeling – the stack of files taunting you from the corner of your desk because you haven’t looked at them for weeks.  You fear, correctly, that not only have deadlines passed, but your original work may be so outdated that you’ll need to start over.  On top of this, you’re living with a sense of dread because it is only a matter of time before your _______________ (fill in the blank with boss, client, or board member) will be asking for a status report.

By understanding strategies to avoid the most common project pitfalls; vague or incomplete project plans, poor estimation of the needed resources, and sporadic or insufficient team communications, you’ll be better equipped to keep any project on time, on budget, and within scope.  Consider these solutions:

  • Develop a complete and realistic project plan – time spent planning up-front is NOT wasted time! Resist the urge to jump right in on a project before creating a realistic project plan that considers all of the components and variables.  It is guaranteed that detours will occur so being able to refer back to your solid project plan will help you make adjustments and get back on track without starting over.
  • Accurately estimate the needed (human) resources  – very few small- to medium-sized organizations have the luxury of full-time project managers on staff.  In reality, the same people responsible for day-to-day operations are also responsible for the special projects which invariably get pushed to rare periods of ‘free time.’   Be honest about how much time the project manager will need to devote to the project weekly to finish it on-time.  Then you can decide if he/she has sufficient time available (given other responsibilities), or if the completion date needs to be extended or additional resources will need to be secured.
  • Maximize the use of technology for team communication – avoid wasting time chasing team members for updates on their portions of the project, or worse, experiencing set-backs when some team members are not aware of important changes in the project plan. Take advantage of increasingly common web-based platforms/intranets (such as SharePoint) for collaboration, status reports, file management, and team communications.  Be sure to also set the team ground rules for the expected use of the intranet and the frequency of status reports.

By integrating these three strategies into your assigned projects, not only will you avoid many common project pitfalls, but you’ll also enjoy a reduction in the number of stalled projects taunting you from the corner of your desk.

Donna Catalano is the owner of Eastlake Solutions, certified Project Management Professional, CARF surveyor, and licensed Nursing Home Administrator.  She provides consulting, speaking, training, facilitation, and publications for nonprofit organizations on project management, strategic planning, organizational development, and quality assurance systems.  Eastlake Solutions is based in Chicago and Denver –