10 Project Management Challenges and How to Overcome Them Effectively

Apr 7
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Whether beginners or seasoned, project managers will know that project management is one of the most crucial, and most difficult, business functions. Considering that projects are always constrained by factors like time, budget, and stakeholders, it’s a tough job to become a project manager.

Despite that, there are ways to make project management more bearable. And it starts with recognizing the challenges first so that you can better conduct measures to overcome them. We’ve rounded up the top 10 challenges that project management teams face and some tips on how to deal with them.

What are the Challenges of Project Management?

A recent study was conducted on 10,640 project management teams to determine how many of them would complete their projects 100% successfully. The results are whopping, with only 2.5% of the teams emerging victoriously. The other teams either:

  • Failed to meet their original project goals
  • Exceeded the allocated budget
  • Missed deadlines

These equated to over $50 billion to $150 billion in losses, which proves the importance of successful project management. Failures in this endeavor are caused by the following culprits:

Communication Problems

Communication is a vital part of professional and personal life. Around the office or in relationships, you’ve probably heard countless times that an issue was caused by “misunderstanding” or “miscommunication.” It’s the same case when it comes to project management.

Poor or ineffective communication is the number one hindrance to a successful project. If the stakeholders are unable to properly delegate tasks, give instructions, discuss project goals and milestones, etc., there will be a big cloud of confusion among members. This results in a lack of clarity about certain aspects of the project, which ultimately causes a delay or in some instances, overspending.

Although 32% of project managers know that communication is crucial to achieving project goals, actually fostering a seamless communication system is a whole different ball game. But to remedy this issue, project managers can conduct measures like adopting a project management software that keeps teams updated, prioritizing transparency in the team, and promoting a safe space for discussions, feedback, etc.

Lack of Clear Goals and Alignment With Business Objectives

A very integral part of project planning is setting goals and milestones that align with and advance business objectives. Otherwise, what is the project for? Setting goals helps ensure that every step taken contributes to the project and its purpose. It helps keep everyone on the same page about what they can expect, what their individual milestones should be, and how they can further contribute to the project’s success.

Without clearly defined goals, any project can steer itself to a path of confusion and misalignment. In fact, 39% of projects fail because of the lack of clear goals. So it’s absolutely crucial to define the why, how, what, and when of a project.

Early in the planning phase, start setting a clear goal and outlining a few objectives for each phase of the project that will support the accomplishment of the ultimate goal. Ideally, these should be discussed with every member of the team in a face-to-face setting.

Misalignment Between/in the Teams and Dependency Issues

The goals of a project are the goals of the team. When these are aligned, it becomes easier for each stakeholder to identify how their work contributes to the project’s success. However, it’s easier said than done. Misalignment is one of the most common project management issues that cost the team big. Couple this with dependency issues, challenges are bound to appear.

Remember that a project management team is composed of different types of people, each with their own skill sets, specialties, and personalities. In a project, there is a lot of sharing and compromise involved, which requires every member to work together to advance the project’s objectives.

Dependency issues and misalignment interlace all the time in the duration of a project — especially when some members or departments have different goals and ideas for how things should be done. It’s important that project managers take charge to create a positive working environment that is built on trust, transparency, and teamwork to help foster interpersonal relationships among stakeholders.

Accountability Issues

Every member of a project management team has an integral role to play. Without their participation or accountability, significant hindrances can arise. The lack of accountability refers to the initiative of team members or their responsibility when it comes to sending updates, informing team members about issues faced, delays, etc. These seemingly small accountability missteps can cause a ripple effect that will affect every phase of the workflow.

Fostering accountability among team members is something that should be nourished early in the project. Before embarking on any task, it’s a good idea to conduct training sessions that will help the stakeholders build healthy project management skills.

Also, project managers should ensure that there is an effective means of communication where team members can send updates about their progress in real-time. This absolves the challenge that the lack of accountability might be because of the absence of an easy and seamless mode of communication.

Unrealistic Deadlines

A big business project is not a sprint. It’s a well-thought-out process that brews for quite some time. No rushed or procrastinated project can ever make the cut in this increasingly competitive world. One of the biggest mistakes that project managers make is setting unrealistic deadlines, especially if it’s without the input of the actual members who will be taking on the task.

It’s important that project managers seek the input of team members and stakeholders about particular tasks and determine the ideal timeline for their completion. This is a simple matter of being informed about the capacity of the stakeholders and setting goals and deadlines that are smart and realistic.

It would also be helpful for project managers to ensure that there are means for team members to keep track of their progress, be alerted of their deliverables, manage their schedules, and remember important dates throughout the project’s duration. This can be solved with the use of a handy schedule management tool.

Lack of Sufficient Skills

Although it’s a project manager’s job to oversee the entire project, they can’t take on the role of a micromanager and keep a close eye on every member. These endeavors require a sense of trust that every stakeholder knows what they’re doing and are equipped with the skills needed to get the job done.

If team members don’t have the skills or training needed to perform their tasks, it wreaks havoc on the entire project. Here lies the importance of ensuring that project managers only put skilled and trained people on board instead of choosing stakeholders based on their abilities.

Every task should be aligned with a professional’s role or skill sets. You can’t put a social media marketer in charge of IT operations, right? The solution is to either get someone with the required skills or to provide training to potential team members.

Before the project culminates, project managers must create a detailed list of all the deliverables, the skills needed to accomplish them and evaluate potential stakeholders to find the right one for the job.

Inadequate Resources and Budgeting Issues

Project management teams, more often than not, work under a tight budget. Project managers are faced with the challenge of how to accomplish everything needed to make the endeavor successful while staying within the financial range allocated for the project. A strict budget means that the manager will have to make certain tradeoffs, limit the use of resources, and most of all, ensure that everything goes according to plan to prevent delays and consequently, bigger costs.

Budget and resource constraints are overwhelming, with over 49.5% of project managers recognizing these as the biggest among the project management challenges they face. To help the team stick to the budget and avoid cost overruns, project managers should make it a point to conduct efficient cost management and adhere to a clear and realistic plan that will guide the team and pave the way to seamless project development.

Scope Creep

Scope creep — the nightmare of every project manager. It’s difficult to work with clients who don’t know what they want and who do not have a clear goal in mind when it comes to the project. This is a significant hindrance in project development that makes it difficult for the team to accomplish tasks and stick to deadlines and budget constraints.

When the project is underway, it’s frustrating and difficult to adjust certain aspects to meet a client’s new demands or instructions — which weren’t part of the planning phase. To minimize scope creeps, it’s important that project managers are very proactive when it comes to engaging with the client during the planning phase and learn how to politely say no to sudden changes or additional requests.

There is no solution that will completely avoid scope creep, but smart project managers will know to make room for these tendencies by setting realistic goals, deadlines, and risk management solutions in order to reduce the impact of scope creep.

Inadequate Risk Management

The planning phase of project development is extremely important. However, even with an efficient plan, there are bound to be some unforeseen situations throughout the project. It’s not every day that things go according to plan, which is why it’s important to have risk management strategies.

A project manager should take charge to identify, assess, and oversee risks that the project may fall victim to. Similarly, they should come up with strategies to minimize, control, or prevent it from wreaking havoc on the entire project.

But risk management is easier said than done as it’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly what will go wrong at any point in the project. What project managers can do is evaluate the project from a bird’s eye perspective, anticipate which aspects are likely to fail, and create measures to prevent or overcome the risks. To help you out, here are some common risks involved in project development:

  • Financial market fluctuations
  • Project plan flaws
  • Other unknown factors that can hinder or prevent success

Finding the Right Project Management Software

Despite the overwhelming project management challenges and the complexity of the job itself, only a few companies adopt project management software to help them with their endeavor. Statistics show that only 22% of companies utilize project management software in their business ventures, going about the entire project development manually.

Finding project management software that can complement the business’s goals, meet requirements, and stick to the budget, can be difficult to accomplish. But a project manager can successfully do so by evaluating the entire project and determining the perfect tool that will provide the team’s needs.

What are the Future Challenges Before Project Managers?

As business landscapes continue to develop, so do project management challenges and best practices. Knowing what project managers can expect in the next 5 to 10 years can help them stay ahead of project management trends and create changes to long-standing traditional practices — a requirement to emerge in the field successfully. Some of the future challenges before project managers include:

  • Considering team members and stakeholders as customers. There is a growing need to attract, retain, and ensure the job satisfaction of project management teams, especially since the industry is becoming more and more competitive.
  • Change acceptance and adaptation. Change is inevitable, so they say. In the next couple of years, project managers will need to learn how to recognize and incorporate the tendencies of change in the project development process while staying true to the time, budget, and quality requirements.

How Do You Overcome Project Management Challenges?

Project management challenges, in most instances, are unavoidable. However, project managers can minimize risks and save the project from their impact through proper and effective planning. Some of the most important things that project managers have to remember include:

  • Goal setting and alignment are integral to a project’s success.
  • A transparent, open, and dependable environment should be fostered to encourage interpersonal relationships and prevent dependency issues.
  • Proper communication and clarity need to be observed throughout the entire project development process.
  • Skills training needs to be conducted to ensure the adaptability and effectiveness of project management teams.
  • Leadership is a powerful skill that project managers should possess and can spell the success or disaster of a project.

Recognizing the project management challenges that most managers come across is just the first step towards culminating a successful endeavor. With this knowledge in mind, you will be in a much better position to pave the way to your project’s success.