4 Surprising Things That Still Vex Project Teams

Even as project offices grow, gather experience, and gain maturity, there are some areas that continue to present challenges. Most people routinely expect to encounter obstacles when managing large stakeholder groups or dealing with demanding executives, but there are still some surprising issues that can bring a project team to its knees. These often hinder progress and sometimes even chip away at the group’s ability to work as a team.

If your project office is full of experienced PMP®s but you still find success evasive or face unexpected complications, consider if your team has fallen prey to one of these four sneaky culprits.

1 – Focusing effort on blame instead of problem solving.

Achieving repeatable success hinges on a Project Team’s ability to troubleshoot difficult issues and implement workable solutions, but human nature sometimes interrupts the process. Rather than put their energies into brainstorming a resolution, teams may become embroiled in playing the blame game, an unproductive and morale-sapping effort. It’s especially tough to overcome this instinct when facing a very challenging problem, since pointing fingers gives quicker satisfaction than drilling down to the root of a thorny problem and developing a fix. Good facilitation skills can help maintain forward momentum when problems crop up.

2 – Being a victim of insecurities.
There are many reasons a project team—or sometimes just the Project Team’s key members—may be insecure. An executive group that’s fussy and impatient, expecting immediate resolutions and fast answers, can exacerbate any feelings of self-doubt. Working on a new type of project or directing activities outside their normal comfort area might also prompt an otherwise experienced PMP® to feel uncertain. Another breeding ground for insecurity is when a team worries that the support of an external partner could highlight where the internal Project Team is weak. Instead of going into self-preservation mode and resisting these potentially uncomfortable situations, project teams should embrace them as opportunities for growth that will boost their skill sets and improve their long-term performance.

3 – Letting linear thinking get in the way of efficiency.
It can sometimes be a challenge for PMP®s to seek creative solutions to problems when their background is rooted in a too-rigid approach to project management. Entrenched practices offer some benefits, such as providing a useful template, but project teams need to be ready to step outside their comfort zone when it’s time to solve complex problems. Activities may need to be reordered to meet inflexible timeframes or to take advantage of resource availabilities during limited windows. Conventional workflows might need to take a backset to lessons learned through tribal knowledge, especially where traditional data sources are lacking. When normal activity structures don’t work, PMP®s must bring stakeholders together toward a common goal so they can tackle out-of-the-ordinary problems as a cohesive team.

4 – Misunderstanding how to maximize budget allocations. Strong budget development skills are critical for any PMP®, but some teams still find it difficult to identify where expenditures represent strategic decisions and where they’re simply a habit. Partnering with a key outside vendor or enlisting the help of a knowledgeable subject matter expert, for example, may be the best way to leverage the project’s dollars by enabling the team to save time or avoid penalties down the road. However, these expenses continue to receive pushback. That’s often because, in some organizations, paying a rush fee or dealing with a list of unexpected follow-on requests is an accepted tradition, where paying for forward-looking activities is not. These practices are difficult to uproot, but convincing the organization to use a more calculated approach to funding will provide more flexibility in maximizing available budgets.