Avoiding Project Errors | PMAlliance Project Management Blog

Anyone leading a busy life is bound to make a mistake now and then. Project teams catch most glitches early and fix them before any real damage is done. However, there are times when errors can cause those in the center of excellence serious trouble, particularly if mistakes are able to fester and snowball.

Errors in the project office run the gamut. Benchmarking data may be misinterpreted, activities are sometimes improperly sequenced, budget figures juxtaposed, or conflicts overlooked. By leveraging some time-tested strategies and approaching error prevention and resolution in a methodical and proactive way, projects teams can reduce mistakes and keep them from growing into show-stopping problems.

Formalize and document communication flows
Begin by ensuring everyone in the organization knows how the center of excellence manages its communications—not just how incoming messages are processed but also how data flows within the team. This will help in funneling information to the correct people and allow everyone to quickly move high-priority communications through the Project Team’s channels. Consider assigning a single point of contact for incoming data as a way to expedite message routing and ensure thorough follow up. To prevent crucial information from being missed or overlooked, it may also be helpful to establish subject line keywords for those e-mails that contain time-sensitive data, or that require follow up, delegation, or some other additional action.

Be mindful about the assignment of duties
Evaluate how activities are parceled out across the project team. Too often, PMs must balance their efforts between high-value initiatives and other tasks that would probably be better executed by someone else in the project office. The result could be a drop in visibility across important touch points and other areas where mistakes are sometimes difficult to spot and challenging to address. When PMs are able to focus on value-added, strategic duties, they can more effectively see where errors have been introduced and quickly deal with them. Consider, too, if the team would benefit from assigning functions such as project planning and control to sub-groups with the targeted skills necessary to carry out those efforts accurately. Other tasks, from communications to technology oversight, might also be better executed by team members outside the core management group.

Adhere to best practices around planning
Careful planning will often expose a project’s potential problems long before an error has a chance to manifest into negative consequences. Conflicts, data inaccuracies, and other mistakes can typically be caught, addressed, and resolved with little or no delay in the project at this early stage. If the Project Team’s approach to planning is too informal—either because the organization hasn’t adopted a more rigid and appropriate framework for those activities or because team members don’t have sufficient time or other resources to carry out the planning exercise in a thorough manner—then mistakes are more likely to persist.

Implement a proven project control methodology
The use of strict project controls is one of the best ways to ensure the team is able to spot potential issues. Early error detection is a crucial component in successfully mitigating high-impact problems and this is a key value delivered by a robust project control methodology. Critical conflicts and other errors can slip past a patchwork of skilled but very busy PMP®s. With the proactive insight and full-spectrum view offered by project controls, the team can see how efforts are progressing. Then by comparing those efforts to the project’s original plan, PMP®s will be better equipped to identify mistakes, develop resolutions to errors, adjust activity sequences to compensate for updated workflows, and forecast how any changes will impact the overall timeline.

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