10 Biggest Project Management Challenges and How to Avoid Them

If the project is a ship, project management is its sail. Project management is what provides a directive to a particular project so that it could be steered towards success. However, one might face unprecedented project management challenges when executing a project.

Creately, together with the Proofhub team and its Chief Marketing Officer Vartika Kashyap, hosted a Twitter Chat, intending to shed light on the 10 biggest project management challenges and how to avoid them.

Given below is a curated list of the challenges and the replies of participants, on addressing them.

Challenges

  1. Dismantling silos and build an environment that encourages effective and efficient project collaboration and communication
  2. The contribution of proper planning to project success
  3. Handling the project management challenges that arise when the project team lacks the necessary skills to tackle the problem at hand
  4. Importance of a contingency plan in project management
  5. Creating an environment of accountability where the team takes responsibility for their actions and duly fulfils their assigned roles
  6. Improving stakeholder engagement and ensuring that everyone’s on the same page
  7. Setting clear goals and success criteria to ensure project success
  8. Importance of getting the right Project Management Software
  9. Improving project team collaboration and build trust
  10. Allocating resources to a project

How to dismantle silos and build an environment that encourages effective and efficient project collaboration and communication?

A project team can’t function in silos. The successful execution of a project depends on how effectively each team member collaborates with one another in fulfilling tasks. To this end, Proofhub team highlighted the importance of conducting all project-related communications via one common portal accessible by everyone in the team.

“Bring everyone on the same communication portal and let all nuclear teams participate without creative restrictions. Each one, teach one!”

Proofhub

Complimenting Proofhub’s statement, CMO Vartika Kashyap too stated that using communication tools and building cross-functional teams can ensure effective and efficient project collaboration.

“Build cross-functional teams. Use communication tools. Enable a more open and transparent culture.”

Vartika Kashyap

What about remote working? The pandemic has propelled a rapid increase in remote working patterns due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. Creately directed a question to Kashyap about the extra steps that a company should take when getting rid of silos in a remote work environment.

In reply, Kashyap stressed the importance of transparent work culture.

“Make transparency the new culture. Treat communication as a two-way street. Combat productivity/engagement pits with virtual cultural initiatives.”

Vartika Kashyap

A study states that about 39% of projects fail due to shortfalls in project planning. How does planning contribute to project success?

Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower once stated that “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” A plan is vital when carrying out a project. 

Proofhub emphasized the importance of having a proper project plan.

“Project planning is akin to the compass and the rudder on a sailing ship. You might still reach your destination without them, it will just take 100 years longer.”

Proofhub

Participant Nandini Sehedev pointed out the numerous benefits of having a project plan.

“Project planning is vital to prevent or minimize risk occurrences and failure rates. Project planning helps guide sponsors, teams, stakeholders; and the project manager navigates through tricky phases of the project.”

Nandini Sehdev

How to handle project management challenges that arise when the project team lacks the necessary skills to tackle the problem at hand?

You may face unprecedented challenges or issues when working on a project. In such circumstances, you may be able to resolve them without a notable impact on project progress, if you are armed with the necessary skills to tackle them. Imagine a scenario where you don’t know how to resolve an issue? What is the way forward then?

Proofhub underlined that a team collaboration to visualize the problem at hand would result in a different perspective and probable resolutions.

“Gather the team, make them talk, listen to them and help them visualize what’s wrong. Most teams are capable of solving problems but are slow to catch up to them. If you become their guiding light, they’ll find the end of the tunnel.”

Proofhub

Visual workspaces such as Creately can be effective in tracing back your steps and re-evaluating the processes. For instance, you can use a cause and effect diagram to figure out the root causes of the problem and use mind maps to brainstorm solutions.

Cause and Effect Diagram - project management challenges
Cause and Effect Diagram (click on the image to edit it online)

How to bridge skill gaps? Communicate openly and create an environment where team members can participate in engaging learning experiences.

“Open communication is essential if you hope to reduce the skill gaps successfully. You can also create engaging learning experiences and it is not enough to just conduct learning programs but to assess whether your strategies are effective or not.”

Proofhub

How important is a contingency plan in project management?

A smooth sail can turn into a storm at any moment; and if you are not armed with the prowess to withstand it, the entire mission could come to a standstill. A contingency plan can prepare you to successfully tackle unexpected circumstances.

“They often say that your Plan A should never need a Plan B. But in reality, you need Plan C, D, E, and F, just in case. Contingency is about worrying about problems today that carry the potential to drive you nuts tomorrow.”

Proofhub
Business Contingency Plan - project management challenges
Business Contingency Plan (click on the image to edit it online)

How can you create an environment of accountability where the team takes responsibility for their actions and duly fulfils their assigned roles?

The first step in ensuring accountability in project management is clearly identifying project objectives and assigning responsibilities to team members accordingly. However, it is important to note that there is a difference between accountability and responsibility.

For instance, an individual who has been assigned to a specific task can be a responsible team member. Responsibility is shareable. An accountable team member is the ultimate decision-maker of a task.

Kashyap believes that empowering people with the necessary skills and resources to do their jobs will empower them to be responsible.

“Your aim should be to provide your people with the skills and resources needed to do their jobs, and then to create an environment where it’s easy for them to take responsibility for their decisions and actions.”

Vartika Kashyap

On the other hand, Proofhub highlighted that a clear understanding of the expectations of the project and the consequences of each individual’s responsibilities will create an environment of accountability.

“Responsibility is best understood when expectations are clear, and consequences are clearer. Show them the entire game set – the target, the dart, how to hit, and what happens when they miss.”

Proofhub

Creately posed a question as to “what happens when team members fall short in fulfilling their responsibilities?” In reply, Proofhub opined that the first step is to talk to the individual and consequently provide feedback on how the course of action needs to be changed.

“Your first step is to talk to the individuals concerned. Then provide feedback, so that the individuals know what needs to change. What you learn in your discussion provides the context for the next actions that you take.”

Proofhub

An uninvolved client can cause a lot of problems. How to improve stakeholder engagement and ensure that everyone’s on the same page?

Another key determinant of project success is stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder engagement is to seek the support and feedback of project stakeholders to ensure that its objectives are met.

Good stakeholder management includes a proper stakeholder analysis using a stakeholder register to identify their requirements. Stakeholder engagement tends to be higher at the start of a project and decreases throughout the project’s progress. To avoid this, it is important to maintain constant communications with stakeholders via collaboration tools, remote communication tools, and so on.

Stakeholder Register Template - project management challenges
Stakeholder Register Template (click on the image to edit it online)

“Give your clients min-by-min updates, the inside scoops, timely reports, and talk to them on a fixed schedule. Lure them into involvement and you’ll never need to turn the page on them. This is what our clients love about using ProofHub the most!”

Proofhub

Poorly defined goals and objectives could sink a project. How to set clear goals and success criteria to ensure project success?

You should always set SMART goals. The next step is to strategize a clear action plan to achieve these goals, within the project duration. Having such an action plan will deliver a clear understanding of who is responsible for what, with deadlines for each task.

Action plan template - project management challenges
Action plan template (click on the image to edit it online)

“A clear goal is something that the client, the manager, and the employee – all can agree upon. The key is to not let anyone get ahead of themselves in the goal-setting meet.”

Proofhub

Sehdev reiterated that setting goals leads to defining objectives to achieve that goal. This will be your guiding light throughout the project.

“Setting a goal is inclined towards developing a proposal and then defining objectives that would help to achieve the goal. When you know your goals, you can define the objectives that is – the how, why, and what you need to do for project planning.”

Nandini Sehdev

Meanwhile, Kashyap underlined that the right mix of planning, controlling, and monitoring may determine how the project can be completed within its timeline and budget.

“The right mix of planning, controlling, and monitoring can make a difference in how project managers complete the project on time, on budget, and with high-quality results.”

Vartika Kashyap

How important is it to get the right Project Management Software?

The right project management software can enhance productivity and the efficiency of cross-functional teams. It makes communication faster, easier and assists the decision-making process.

To this end, Proofhub stressed that it is one of the most important decisions when it comes to conducting a project.

“By far, one of the most important decisions. Most teams are too late to realize how much they can improve with the right project management tool at their disposal. 85,000+ of our users would agree!”

Proofhub

What are the main factors to look into when buying a project management tool? An analysis of the project’s requirements and objectives set by the team will help you determine the project management software that works best for you.

“Know your challenges, so you can better outline your needs, understand how tools can help & define the criteria to evaluate tools.”

Proofhub

How to improve project team collaboration and build trust?

Communication is key in improving project collaboration and building trust. It is important to create an environment where team members can share knowledge and work together to overcome challenges.

“Share knowledge freely. Learn from one another. Shift workloads flexibly to break up unexpected bottlenecks, to help one another complete jobs and meet deadlines, and to share resources.”

Vartika Kashyap

Proofhub too, highlighted that better communication will result in better collaboration since everyone is allowed to share their ideas. 

“Collaboration is all about talking, and pep up the people from your team to express themselves. Managers need to encourage new ideas and let everyone express themselves freely. Better collaboration will ensue.”

Proofhub

Tools such as Creately can help you collaborate better, in real-time, even if you are working remotely. Such tools ensure smooth cross-functional collaboration.

Are there some icebreaker techniques that may be used to build trust?

“Transparency, offer trust to your team, ask for communication and feedback & respond to communication and feedback”

Proofhub

What factors should be considered when allocating resources to a project?

Effective resource allocation aims to assign scarce resources in the most appropriate and economical way possible. This responsibility often lies with the project manager to ensure that each resource is properly allocated and accounted for.

Further emphasizing the scarcity of resources, Kashyap mentioned that project management is about achieving more in less.

“Resource allocation in project management is all about achieving more in less. Analyze Your Project Scope Identify Resources Have A Backup Plan For Client Changes Divide Project Into Smaller Tasks”

Vartika Kashyap

Proofhub, on the other hand, stressed the importance of having a project management tool to make project management more efficient.

Source availability Project skill requirements project goals Existing tasks at hand Project load While all of these are necessary, a smart project management tool can help you make these points less of a worry.”

Proofhub

You are bound to face unforeseen challenges and barriers when managing your project. What is important is that you are equipped with the right prowess and tools to overcome such challenges and complete the project successfully.

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Author

Hansani Bandara

Hansani is a content specialist at Creately. She loves reading and writing about tech innovations. She enjoys writing poetry, travelling and photography.

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