Project Traps

There's a host of holes on the road to any successful project. Here's a guide to the pitfalls, along with tips for avoiding them.

  • Mistaking half-baked ideas for viable projects. Organizations must filter ideas to sift the doable from the ridiculous.
  • Dictating unrealistic deadlines. Don't drive every project by the schedule.
  • Not ensuring solid business sponsorship. Projects must have champions above the project manager level to manage the scope, ensure resources are available, clear roadblocks and see that results are delivered. Sponsors must commit eight to 10 hours a month to each project.
  • Failing to break projects into chunks. Breaking a two- to three-year project into four- to six-month increments with actual products brings immediate payback and learning that can be applied to the next chunk.
  • Failing to use a process architecture. Don't skip any step, from pre-launch to launch to execution to implementation. Don't scrimp on any element, from describing the project to assessing complexity and risk to involving stakeholders to planning.
  • Not having a project portfolio. Know how many projects are under way and where they are in the process. Use that information to prioritize and decide which new projects to undertake.
  • Underestimating complexity. The larger and more complex the project, the more detailed the management plan must be.
  • Lack of access. Project managers need to freely gather information from across the organization.
  • Failing to integrate cost, schedule, scope and quality. Changes in any key element must be reflected in the others.
  • No built-in measurements of success. Set and monitor goals for time, cost, and customer satisfaction.
  • Creeping requirements. Keep tight control over changes to the project's baseline objectives and make sure customers share your expectations.
  • Planning without executing. Fancy plans are just so much noise if you don't use them to meet cost, schedule and quality goals.
  • No formal education for project managers. Get experienced and successful mentors for your new project managers.

Sources: Gopal Kapur and the Center for Project Management, John Gioia and Robbins-Gioia Inc.

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