Avoiding Classic Planning Mistakes in Project Management

29 May

Many organizations start new projects with grand ideas that often seem to work, but only to make a classic mistake and deliver the project behind schedule, over budget or both.  Below are a few classic project management mistakes that occur while planning the project and some tips to help you avoid them:

1)      Overly Optimistic Schedule: Wishful thinking can lead your project to an overly optimistic schedule, which causes the analysis and design phases to be cut short, due to missing key requirements.  This can lead into intense pressure on your project team.  For example, programmers forced to complete their code in a short timeline can lead to poor code and in the end, poor results.

Solution: Do not inflate time estimates, rather clearly schedule slack time at the end of each phase to account for the variability in estimates.

2)      Failing to Monitor the Schedule: As the project manager, if you do not receive regular report progress from your team members, no one knows the current project status and also, to see if the project is still on schedule.

Solution: Require the team members to honestly report the progress (lack of or progress) every week.  There should be no penalty for reporting a lack of progress, but there should be immediate repercussions if the team member provides misleading information/status on their work for the project, as this can have a serious effect on the project’s success and deadline.

3)      Failing to Update the Schedule: When some part of the schedule falls behind, a project team often thinks they can make up the time later by working faster.  Unfortunately, most of the time you cannot.  This is an early warning sign that the entire schedule is too optimistic.

Solution: Immediately revise the schedule and inform the project sponsor of the new end date.  Another option would be to use time boxing to reduce functionality or move it into future versions.

4)      Adding People to a Late Project: When your project misses a crucial task/milestone, the project manager is sometimes tempted to add more people to the project team in an effort to help speed it up and get the project back on course.  By adding more to your project team, it can actually make your project take longer due to the increase coordination challenges to meet and time required to bring the new team member(s) up to speed on the project on what has already been done and what needs to be done.

Solution: Revise the project schedule, use time boxing, get rid of bug-filled code, and add people only to work on an isolated part of the project.

Image Credit

 What are some mistakes you have made in the planning phase of a project?


2 responses to “Avoiding Classic Planning Mistakes in Project Management

  1. Robert Kelly

    May 31, 2011 at 6:01 am

    Lisa, great post! Number 4 is the biggest mistake I see. You miss a key stakeholder upfront and then scramble by adding everyone to the team.

    I just started a new gig and the team has been at it for about 3 months. When I came out of my first meeting on the my first day, the manager asks me “so what did you think?” I had to be honest…”Sorry, but who owned that meeting? And the guy in the corner was practically falling asleep, did he need to be there? Lastly, I thought it was a status meeting, but it really seemed to be a discovery/design meeting.”

    I took over that meeting as of today and half the people have been dropped from the invite (with 1 or 2 on optional) and agenda went out on Friday.

    We’ll see.

  2. Lisa Drake

    June 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Thank you Robert for your comment! Wow, sounds like an interesting start to the project. Hopefully the project goes a lot smoother for you now that you’re managing it! You’ll have to keep us posted! 🙂


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