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Avoiding Top Project Pitfalls

Project results drive business performance! In my experience in working with countless companies ranging from small to multi-billion dollar ones, I’ve yet to run across one that wasn’t dependent on project results to meet critical company objectives. Actually, quite the opposite is typically the case – too many projects with too few resources are vital to performance. Thus, those executives who find ways to ensure project success will outpace the competition.

For example, one of my significant manufacturing aerospace clients is experiencing delivery challenges. Thus, there are several projects which are geared towards improving the order fulfilment processes to improve delivery performance. If they do not deliver results, customers will leave. What could be more important than that?

The bottom line is that project failure is not an option! Yet 0% of my clients have enough resources, and they are especially short on the right resources with the right skills to deliver these projects. Given this state of affairs, it is important to understand the top project pitfalls – and, of course, how to avoid them.

A few of the most common pitfalls include the following:

  1. Too many projects: If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. I’ve yet to go into a client that didn’t have more priorities than they could meet successfully in the timeframes desired. Thus, something is bound to fall through the cracks.
  2. Too few resources: Often times, there are just too few resources to manage projects while keeping the rest of the day-to-day priorities moving. Since the recession, companies don’t over-hire; thus, staffing projects can be a quandary.
  3. Lack of skills: Even if they happen to have enough resources or can pull resources into key projects, it is rare that the people on the project team have the appropriate skills to ensure the timely delivery of results. People are moving jobs, retiring, getting promoted etc. Typically I find that high-skilled resources jump on the chance to be
  4. Lack of a plan: Because executives are focused on immediate results, they tend to “jump right in” and being doing without a plan to back it up. If there is no plan, how do you know if you are off track?
  5. Lack of focus: Is there a clear critical path? Is everyone on the same page as to the priority? If each project team member focuses on what he/she thinks is important and isn’t aligned with the team, there will be a lack of focus. This is not uncommon!

Given these pitfalls, a few strategies to ensure success include the following:

  1. Prioritize goals: If there are too many projects, it probably means you have too many goals. Go back to your strategy and objectives. What is most important in order to achieve your objectives? Pick only 3 goals. Then, determine which projects tie to those goals. Limit the number of projects.
  2. Reallocate resources: The great news is that if you start with too many projects, you’ll likely have resources available once you slash the number of projects to the essential few. Reallocate those resources. If you still have too few resources, look for ways to automate daily tasks so that you can reallocate additional resources to projects.
  3. Develop & outsource skills: Project management skills are not developed as an aside. Make sure to provide training and education to bring the skills up in your organization. It is likely you’ll still need additional skills. Bring them in! Projects are short-term needs. Find resources with the specialized skill required and bring them in as a temp, contractor or consultant. Supplement as needed.
  4. Make your first priority to plan: Resist the temptation to start doing. Take a step back and build a plan with your project team. If you receive push back from executives, explain the critical importance of flawless execution. A plan doesn’t have to take months to put together. Bring your team together, dedicate a day and do not the leave the room without a plan.
  5. Build a critical path: The best way to know where to focus is to clearly identify the critical path. Which tasks are dependent on other tasks? Which tasks are on the path which will impact project timing? Focus attention on just those tasks. Remind task owners on the critical path. Remove roadblocks.

In today’s new normal business environment, project results are of paramount importance as growth and profitability is cornerstone to success. Identify and remove project pitfalls are a top priority, and you’ll elevate your business performance.

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