Even for experienced project managers, seeing an entire project to its conclusion remains an endeavor. Leading the project team through multiple project management challenges is never easy. The project planning phase can set you on the right path, but business objectives may change mid-work.

Other common issues stem from failing to create a productive work environment. Stakeholder management is also a front where you must be on top of your game. On that note, some orders will keep on morphing, forcing you to craft several contingency plans.

Therefore, the project manager has to ensure proper workflow management. Numerous pitfalls stay in the way of that goal, and some may even upset the project schedule. These are the biggest project management challenges hindering project progress:

Unrefined Project Goals

Chasing after too many targets at once produces many of the common project management challenges. The issue often originates from the project plan itself. Other times, the stakeholders will present an odd sequence of tasks that you can’t follow. Thus, negotiating the project scope is a must to avoid cornering your team before long.

The same goes for when managing projects with overlapping schedules. To ensure no task suffers due to another missed deadline, set a feasible pace for the work. At all times, follow the project’s goals and derive the optimal way to achieve that deliverable.

This point also refers to proper project management. For example, some of the team members might not have a clear picture of the roadmap. Thus, encourage everyone to post queries and resolve all starting issues soon. Good project management software can streamline such tasks, at least early on.

Setting the Stage for a Successful Project

Successful project completion is possible only if the entire team is on board. That means putting everyone in a position where they can excel at. Then, consider adding relevant milestones that will further motivate the team once crossed.

In that same vein, it’s important to craft a clear set of goals. Framing your ideas in that way will make it easy for all members to follow along. This is also essential for allowing the higher-ups a convenient way to overview the progress.

One popular way to achieve this is to implement the GOAL method. This approach favors relevant, time-bound, measurable, and specific values. Another doctrine is the CLEAR acronym. It utilizes refinable, limited, and appreciable qualities.

Either way, you should categorize the tasks during the project planning phase. Also, try to break them up into several sub-tasks and assign different teams if necessary. Next, document those decisions and be transparent about your thought process. At the same time, aim to find the best fit for a given team member to ensure optimal performance.

Avoid Sudden Schedule Changes

Many clients can’t fathom how much an added change can upset the workflow. Making “subtle” changes to the plan quickly produces “scope creep,” which is rarely good news. This is a common issue with construction projects.

Hence, tackling each challenge on its own often leads to disaster. Instead, you should carefully insert new tasks while ensuring all deadlines are on track. if you accept unauthorized changes, that’ll needlessly pressure the team and slow down progress. In other words, allowing many small changes to rack up leads to project failure.

That’s why any changes must follow appropriate budget alterations. That often means hiring more personnel or getting more usable equipment. Even at that point, you’ll need to micromanage things carefully for a smooth operation. The best-case scenario is that the other compartments don’t even realize the later changes.

Secure Enough Funds

Resource management challenges are the most frequent challenges in project management. The limits will shift even if the team has a realistic idea of the project tasks’ total cost. For example, you’ll have to hire contractors to meet a deadline or look for new vendors. Such band-aid solutions will bulk up the costs and possibly create new issues.

Therefore, it’s much wiser to know your team’s strengths beforehand. That will allow you to optimally divide the tasks and even save time at certain points. To do so, shortlist the remaining goals and tag each deliverable with a skill set. Then, assign a team member a role they’ll be most comfortable doing.

In case of a skill gap, you should carefully pick external resources to fill in the blanks. That means doing an in-depth analysis and comparing the available options. Otherwise, rushing the decision might result in a downward slope.

Oversee the Budget Implementation

Various factors can cause you to spend more than you’d want to for a single task. Yet, the project’s dynamic might not leave room for reviewing those aspects on time. Before long, you’ll divert from the initial budget and will need a quick cash injection. So, if you can’t review your expenses as they happen, assign someone to do so diligently.

Cost overruns are a negative outcome that can affect stakeholders’ satisfaction. Missing one project deadline after another due to poor budgeting is a bad sign. It will also mess up the project calendar and force you to retrace your steps. Hence, continuously reviewing priorities can mitigate many of those issues.

Furthermore, a lack of funds can result in an unfavorable project environment. That makes it all the more difficult to overcome project management challenges. The team members will worry about paychecks and unrealistic deadlines. As a result, the project manager might even have to make trade-offs to ensure reaching a finish line.

To avoid such challenges in project management, consider these approaches:

  • Use a project management tool for proper budgeting
  • Compare third-party projects during the project planning stage
  • Consult with quality assurance specialists on how to deal with bottlenecks
  • Avoid handling multiple projects at once
  • Expand your list of vendors and collaborators to avail cheaper prices

Find the Best Organizational Model for Your Case

Many of the usual challenges in project management happen due to poor communication. Many brands implemented the work-from-home model but have issues preserving the team spirit. Of course, some companies had to switch to that style of doing things to stay in business.

In any case, utilizing effective communication channels is a must for any enterprise. That way, you can manage all internal conflicts and direct the team’s efforts. Also, maintaining transparency is an important goal nowadays. To that end, project managers ask for frequent status reports.

Keeping the stakeholders in the conversation is another key aspect. Thus, scheduling monthly or bi-weekly company-wide meetings is a healthy pace. This will also help you in feeling their “pulse: as to what is the optimal way forward.

Play Into Your Strengths

As markets change, you’ll need to bring in new recruits to have the right capacity. However, they need to come from various backgrounds, so your team has a wider skill set. Granted, this will not always be possible, meaning there will be some aspects you can’t excel in.

This is where the planning phase comes into focus. The leader should identify which tasks fall into a skill gap and try to remedy the situation. For example, looking for new expert recruits or hiring contractors.

You can also raise your team members’ skills in between projects. Consider organizing paid training sessions and sending them to advanced seminars. Also, check their performance on a new task often to deduce when it’s time to make changes.

Ensure a High Work Engagement Rate

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Set clear accountability processes to avoid team members blaming each other during crises. If necessary, remind everyone that the work is a team effort. Thus, all accomplishments belong to the team, not to an individual. On the other hand, try not to be too intrusive with the daily quality control checks.

To smooth things out, the project manager should go in-depth when assigning roles. Once the planning stage completes, all members should know how to do their jobs. If possible, confirm that each of them can deal with the tasks and that the work will proceed as planned.

On that note, focus on the dependent tasks first of all. Highlight how the predecessor task leads to the follow-up. Confer about the possible worst-case scenarios, too. To drive such a point home, consider using data simulation tools as well.

Be Extra Careful on the Initial Deadlines

Despite the sponsors’ high expectations, your team comprises humans, after all. Thus, expecting non-feasible achievements from them is pointless. Therefore, start the project properly by avoiding unrealistic deadlines.

Your team’s morale is one of the main things you should always keep an eye on. Directing them towards a goal they can’t possibly attain leads nowhere. No amount of business calculations and charts can change that fact.

For an optimal workflow, insert enough buffer times between the project’s legs. Assume that the team will later at some point, and you’ll need to re-brief them. Also, calculate the damage of the most common external factors resulting in roadblocks.

Categorize the Unavoidable Risks

To manage projects means to remain resourceful and collected at all times. A myriad of errors and external factors can put the team off track, but the project life cycle must be preserved. So, it’s about knowing the risks and developing effective workarounds.

The right project management software can aid you in estimating when a task will go wrong. If you have several Plan Bs at the ready, the project stakeholders will keep on supporting the work. Thus, here are some effective ways to tackle project risks:

  • Shortlist the common pain points you know from past experiences
  • Tag the risks by their potential to sink a project
  • Estimate the probability of a given scenario
  • Figure out the optimal way to deal with a risky situation

Therefore, risk management often boils down to knowing how to quickly adapt to a situation.

Optimize the Workflow

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Even when juggling overlapping projects and tasks, you should divide the workload. If possible, try to automate the completion of certain tasks. Also, since you won’t be able to control each outcome, at least try to monitor much of the workflow.

Tracking the status reports is one way to do so. It can aid you in synchronizing the departments and delivering on time. Similarly, ensure that all members perform in a manner you expect from them. If necessary, improve certain subpar areas by substituting a team member.

Constantly Work on Team Building

Competing deadlines can put everyone on edge, which is never good news. If you notice that a team member loses focus, ask them to take a break and recuperate. Their personalities play a hand here, and knowing how to perform under pressure is a learned skill.

Negative energy and verbal disputes equal wasted time. Hence, you need to shield the workflow from such negative influences. A slew of the most recurring challenges in project management follows such tribulations.

Demand Feedback from the Higher-Ups

The stakeholders and CEOs should pitch in as often as they can. The same goes for external collaborators and vendors. Otherwise, you might lose their support when you need it the most. Similarly, getting detailed feedback will ensure you won’t have to redo a task later on.

An easy way to accomplish this is to use project management software. You can invite all key players to that platform and instruct them on how to participate. This will keep everyone on the same page by default. Plus, any remarks and suggestions will flow quickly across the team.

Try to Complete One Task at a Time

While running multiple projects at once can net you more funds fast, it’s not an ideal solution. Conflicting schedules create bottlenecks that are hard to get out from. Resource availability is another concern that plays a pivotal role here.

If you must follow that pace, ensure the team knows how to organize the workflow. That means no one should take a vacation during critical hours, for example. Even better, consider making project calendars for each member and sharing them with all departments. As a result, they won’t get in their own way and won’t be late to pitch in when needed.

Implement the Right Strategy

Successfully completing a project warrants a strong leadership position. Above all, that refers to the ability to make the right decision at the right time. If the manager fails to act fast, that can easily put the whole team off-balance. It will also impact the team’s overall confidence levels.

Therefore, aim to craft an effective action plan for any turn of events. Plus, there are many examples of good business decisions you could copy from. Collecting such data and applying it to a situation is the right approach. Here’s how to start:

  • Inspect the project goal and alternative objectives
  • Consider all routes and carefully evaluate their pros and cons

Support the Team’s Efforts

A bad streak of luck can result in members losing faith in the project. Soon, that level of uncertainty will transfer to the higher-ups as well. For example, they’ll start asking about the team’s ability and the final outcome’s quality.

Thus, measuring the project’s health is a recurring task for the manager. Even when crossing milestones on time, the team may still falter in another key area. So, spotting the weakest link in the chain is tricky but necessary. Here are the metrics you should keep in mind:

  • Oversee how fast the budget depletes and ask for funds on time
  • Compare the initial project outline with the current progress bar. This will highlight any ongoing or upcoming hardships

Conclusion on Challenges in Project Management

Project management is an exercise of patience and perseverance. It requires having an extended skill set and the ability to track several tasks at once. If a setback occurs, ensure to properly analyze it and record that data. Then, find a way to implement those findings to avoid repeating a mistake.

However, some factors you can’t predict can further complicate matters. As such, they can prompt you to burn more resources just to stay on course. To mitigate such dangers, try to keep a contingency plan you can rely on. Knowing which steps to take when in a tight spot is a sign of being an experienced project manager.

If you liked this article talking about challenges in project management, you should check out this one about project management benchmarking.

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I'm the manager behind the Upcut Studio team. I've been involved in content marketing for quite a few years helping startups grow.