Managing a Project? How to Keep It from Becoming a Train Wreck

June 3, 2014


Inadequate planning and organization: Examples of this are unclear objectives, not defining success/results desired, underestimating time required, and just not taking the time to plan. Every project needs a document to guide execution—one that outlines objectives, priorities, results expected, and how and when these will be achieved.

  • Lack of support: Even if you are doing the project on your own, you will be relying on many people to complete it. You’ll need buy-in from management and stakeholders, and a committed team, if you’re working with a team. Last, but not least, a successful project must be supported by adequate resources.
  • Insufficient or ineffective management: Project management requires both task and people skills. Common mistakes include inadequate monitors, lack of milestones, not tracking changes, and poor or ineffective communication. Project Managers must manage priorities and due dates as they change. One common mistake is not controlling “scope creep” or changes/additions to the plan. Melissa Esquibel, technology trainer and APC faculty says:“One of the most common reasons that projects get off track is scope creep. That’s when project goals start expanding without necessarily expanding the dedicated time and resources. One way to head this off is to agree ahead of time what process the team will follow when project goals change. For each proposed change, document the additional resources and time required. Then, follow your agreed upon approval process. In this way, you set yourself up for success!”
  • Lack of leadership: PM’s may feel uncomfortable with a leadership role; others fail to articulate a vision of where the project is going and how it will get there. Some don’t “own” the project or take responsibility for it, and others micromanage or try to do everything themselves. Successful PM’s will deal directly with problems as opposed to avoiding them—particularly problems with people. They will anticipate problems and obstacles stay composed under pressure and model integrity and enthusiasm.
  • Inexperienced or untrained project manager: Everyone has to start at the beginning when they learn a new skill, but many new project managers think that they can figure it out themselves or underestimate the preparation they need. Consult with an experienced person--ask him or her to coach you, and get training in the fundamentals. Research project tools and techniques; read all that you can.

According to Lisa Wolf, American Management Association (AMA) faculty and professional Project Manager: “Nearly all the key reasons that projects get off track are related to soft skills in one way or another. In my career, I have known many highly technically skilled people who were promoted to the role of Project Manager, only to crash and burn within a year or two because they lack the necessary people and process skills to successfully manage the people/stakeholder management aspects of the job. One of the best definitions of Project Management that I have ever seen is stated by the AMA in one of their participant notebooks, ‘Project Management is the management of stakeholder expectations regarding the project's scope, schedule, and budget.’ This is absolutely true.”
There are also numerous ASAP Webinars and Training Center courses available through ASAP!

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol/

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