May 16, 2019

Common Mistakes in Project Management (and How to Avoid Them)

You’re human. You make mistakes.

Those mistakes can feel a little more immediate, though, when it’s your responsibility to look out for a team or take over the management of a client’s project.

Don’t let stress get the best of you, though. Your team knows that you’re human. When you acknowledge that you’re capable of making mistakes, recovering from a few slip ups will be all the easier.

If you’ve been assigned to a new project, or want a refresher, keep an eye out for the following behavioral trends. See if you can prevent a project management mistake before it’s made.

The Mistake: Over-Independence

You may think that taking on every element of a project on your own will keep you from making any mistakes in the long run.

That’s a noble idea, of course. However, when you try and control a project in its entirety, not only can you exhaust yourself, but you can alienate your team members and coworkers.

The Solution

Remember that you’ve been placed with a team of other people for a reason.

Cooperative work does more than just allow several people to bring ideas to the table. You can work out a system of checks and balances that ensure no one is taking on too much work and that any minor mistakes that get made are corrected quickly and efficiently.

Don’t let your position as the head of a project let you place an unnecessary amount of pressure on your shoulders. You can rely on other people, and in order to succeed, you should.

The Mistake: Poor Pre-Planning

The one problem with working with a team is that those numerous good ideas that get brought to the table may be too diverse.

When your team and client are in a project’s pre-planning stage, you may all get caught up in the brainstorming process and fail to establish attainable way-points to meet over the course of your assignment.

You may also be working with a client who has unreasonable expectations of your team and who dominates the conversation to the point where you can’t establish a workable schedule due to time constraints or force of personality.

The Solution

This is a multi-pronged problem.

Your best starting place is to establish your authority in the planning process. Don’t drown people out. Do make it clear, though, that by the time your initial meeting is finished, you and your team need to have a concrete idea of how you plan on moving forward. Encourage brainstorming, but remind your team that their ideas need to have achievable goals. You all must work within the monetary and time constraints of your project.

Alternatively, your pre-planning problem may turn out to be your client.

If they’re dominating the conversation, don’t be afraid to take them aside after your meeting is finished. Outline with them your individual roles in the project. Your client is receiving a product or service, and you are facilitating that need as an authority. They, after all, came to you and likely don’t know more about what you’re doing than you do. Remind them of this professionally and politely.

Then, return to your team and, with the client, find reasonable goals to meet over the course of your partnership.

The Problem: Over-estimation of Available Time

In your pre-planning phase, you may also over-estimate the amount of time you have to work on a particular project with a particular client.

Alternatively, if a client fiddles with their deadline, you may find that you have less time to complete your work than initially planned.

If the problem is more your client than you, then you want to bring in an authority figure to rework your schedule. If your time management needs some work, though, there are a number of steps you can take towards ensuring that you meet your deadlines.

The Solution

Time management apps and shareable calendars are great ways to ensure that you and your team stay on top of your work schedule.

Arrange meetings and work days in advance in order to see where you think you’ll be with a project. Then, adapt that schedule as necessary to leave room for emergency meetings, or days to catch up on your workload. You can even share some of this information with your client and get their opinion on how long they suspect a project will take, whether or not a deadline is flexible, and when, if possible, you, your team, and theirs can meet in order to discuss a project’s progress.

Part of leading a team is learning how to overcome mistakes. Remember that you, like anyone else, can make a misstep over the course of a project. Swallow any of your injured pride and work with your team to correct the mistake that’s been made.

Not only will your peers appreciate this leadership quality in you, but your projects will continue on more smoothly in the future.

Cover image via


Cheyenne DeBorde is a wordsmith who balances convincing others it’s a “real job” and accepting it might not be (it’s better). Writer, editor, and founder of November Ink, Cheyenne’s work has placed her fingerprints all over the Internet on more topics than even she can remember. She spends her days over-thinking the universe and inflicting her findings on dinner parties.

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