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Project Planning Pitfalls To Be Aware Of

A project manager’s ultimate goal is to ensure project success, and to achieve this; they spend valuable time in the planning phase of the project. Most understand that the significance of planning for a project is that it sets up the team for success. With this said, it is still surprising how often projects are planned improperly and ultimately lead to pitfalls during the execution stages.

Even with the best of intentions, the wealth of experience, time, and efforts spent in setting project direction, there are still chances of experiencing planning errors. Below, we discuss some of the pitfalls to be aware of while planning your project. 

Unclear project requirements

Success for every project relies significantly on how well the requirements are understood before the project execution. Often, we assume projects have the same requirements due to their similarity. Though this may be due to lessons learned from previous projects, which gives us a good starting point on what we are likely to expect. 

However, recognizing that despite the similarities in scope, different clients equate to a variety of stakeholders who have different business goals for the project, which in turn means unique requirements. With this in mind, it is possible to be more critical and focused on evaluating and refining a client’s requirements in a way that removes pre-supposed assumptions about what the client wants.

Unrealistic project estimates

One of the most expensive mistakes a project manager can make is to mis-estimate the duration and actual cost. Wrongly estimating the cost – both time-wise and the required resources of a project is likely to occur if (as mentioned in the first point), the requirements are unclear.

To avoid this, an Agile approach of breaking down the SOW to tranches of work, based on the refinement of requirements in increments, means that the sizing of resources and cost is more manageable. Best practice dictates that, during project planning and estimation, allocating enough time as well as engaging and consulting the right stakeholders during this phase of the project is critical.

Poor risk management

Ask any project manager about risks, and they will tell you that foreseeing and managing risks adequately is integral to enabling project delivery success. Poor risk management is something a business cannot afford. Risks mature into issues very rapidly if not addressed early and can cause a detrimental effect on the successful delivery of the project, thereby hindering any benefits intended to be realized.

Spending enough time to perform a detailed risk assessment early in the project delivery stage is essential, but ensuring an ongoing risk management strategy to mitigate the impact is equally significant. It is crucial to recognize that experience is a benefit for foreseeing potential project delivery pitfalls. 

It prevents the risk of you as a project manager from resting on your laurels to think you’ve ‘seen it all before.’ Leverage your experience, but also be open to recognizing that said experience can also be a blind spot in identifying potential pitfalls that are unique to the project currently being delivered.


Sarah Andrews