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How to Prevent Project Management Red Flags

Being proactive saves time, money, and other vital resources for your company, and this is especially true when it comes to project management. One of the essential functions of project management is resolving problems, which begins with identifying red flags that could lead to loss of efficiency or lack of performance.

This allows your company to be vigilant in preventing mistakes and anticipating any gaps in need, which can ultimately avert drastic or fatal errors. The following are three major red flags in project management to be aware of and how you can tackle resolving them. Understanding how such red flags manifest and how they can impact your projects can help minimize their consequences, address the respective stakeholders, and most importantly, prevent them from happening again.

3 Project Management Red Flags

1. Disconnected Team

When it comes to project management, no news is not good news. Team members should be in constant and detailed communication throughout every step of the process, so a red flag to watch out for is a disconnected team.

Of course, project managers should be wary of any single points of major miscommunication, like a misunderstanding over a deadline, but oftentimes, miscommunication develops slowly over time when expectations and guidelines are not clear from the beginning. On the other end of the spectrum, an overload of information can also be harmful to a workflow, as it can lead to fatigue and disorganization.

There are several factors that can help identify when communication is going awry:

  • When team members are not checking in on the designated schedule
  • When deadlines are missed without any notice
  • When deliverables are not up to par in quality or to expectations
  • When team members are not asking questions

If such red flags begin to appear, project managers should take immediate action to reconnect the team. First, establish a streamlined channel of communication that includes all relevant parties, while also excluding excessive or irrelevant parties. For example, rather than a long string of email chains between individuals, create a group forum dedicated to sharing information for the project.

If you already have something established, then this is a sign that it is not effective enough. Therefore, you should revise the procedure and guidelines on how employees should utilize the channel to address whatever circumstances are causing the team to be disconnected.

When communicating throughout a project, team members are often inclined to check in with others only when an urgent need arises. While that is certainly important to do, it is also crucial to structure regular progress updates around the timeline and scope of the project. This helps ensure that the project is proceeding on schedule and keeps the entire team on the same page.

2. Scope Creep

Scope creep is a common roadblock that many project managers will face, and it can be detrimental to the success of a project if not addressed properly. Scope creep refers to when there are continuous changes made to a project’s scope because it was not clearly defined, documented, or controlled from the beginning.

This could include adding additional features that were not approved beforehand, producing an end product that is different than what was originally planned, going over the budget or past the deadline, or any other unauthorized changes.

Scope creep can be harmful to the project management process because it derails the objectives and workflow of the project. When the targets of the original scope are not reached, it leads to dissatisfaction from stakeholders like investors or consumers, so it results in wasted resources and progress.

To learn how to prevent scope creep, it is necessary to understand why it happens in the first place. The biggest cause of scope creep is when the objectives and goals of a project are not clearly defined, outlined, and communicated from the start of the process. This culminates in a lack of foresight or planning that instigates scope creep.

This red flag can also arise when certain parties attempt to find cheap workarounds or alternatives that were not previously approved or agreed upon. Additionally, scope creep can occur when project managers are overly ambitious when planning the project, like making the timeline too short or too long.

With this understanding of what scope creep is and how it comes about, there are several steps you can take to minimize or eliminate scope creep in your upcoming projects. The first measure is to invest adequate time and effort in the planning and prepping stage of development.

The following are some of the major considerations to take into account when you are in the planning stage:

  • All procedures should be clearly documented and shared in a central and accessible format.
  • Whenever it is applicable, utilize models, diagrams, charts, and other visualizations to make the workflow easy to comprehend and follow.
  • Deadlines and expectations should be realistic and approachable. Use data from previous projects or research to determine what is considered realistic or approachable.

In addition to an adequate planning stage, project managers should conduct a thorough and accurate cost analysis to ensure maximum efficiency. If this is outside of your expertise, you should consult the appropriate business analysts to ensure that what you are trying to obtain is possible within the scale of your budget and deadline.

Also, another important element of preventing scope creep is flexibility. It may feel counterintuitive to be flexible when trying to minimize scope creep, but being extremely rigid with a project can aggravate scope creep rather than prevent it. In this case, flexibility refers to being responsive to team members’ feedback to address any pain points as they come up in a transparent and timely way.

3. Misplaced Value

One of your downfalls as a project manager could be that you value the outcome more than you value the people, so be cautious in misplacing value when leading a project. Understandably, project managers are concerned with cost and time efficiency, but this can lead to overworking your employees or overlooking their needs and value.

Becoming hyper-focused on a project’s success has both its advantages and disadvantages, but one of the major disadvantages is that you can become out of touch with your employees. This can lead to subpar output by your team members and is not a sustainable model for long-term success.

Misplaced value can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Setting unrealistic deadlines
  • Overloading employees’ plate with too many tasks
  • Not being specific enough with expectations

To rectify this, prioritize asking for continuous feedback from your employees throughout each step of the process. Promptly follow up on any pertinent feedback by validating their concerns or opinions and working together to provide a valid resolution. Additionally, you should conduct a thorough assessment at the end of each project you lead on the team’s involvement and how you can improve the overall workflow.

Also, project managers should plan ahead when allocating resources to avoid burnout or overload. If needed, you should be prepared to compromise or negotiate on deadlines or deliverables. When done with ample foresight, it is possible to prioritize your employees’ opinions when making decisions without compromising the order or standards of the project itself.

Overall, red flags can arise with or without notice, so it is the responsibility of the project manager to predict potential obstacles and help resolve whatever the team encounters. As with any component of project management, being proactive can make or break the success of a project, so you should be observant and responsive in your role as a leader.

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