Facilitative leadership provides the best assurance that team leads/ project managers can overcome project pitfalls.  Borrowing from the PMBoK (ie, Project Management Institute Body of Knowledge) and other published sources, following are seven of the most common project pitfalls. A discussion about each follows below.

Using Facilitative LeadershipTo Overcome Project Management Pitfalls

Using Facilitative Leadership
To Overcome Project Management Pitfalls

7 Project Pitfalls

  1. Abandonment of Planning
  2. Feature (Scope) Creep
  3. Omitting Necessary Tasks
  4. Overly Optimistic Schedule
  5. Suboptimal Requirements Definition
  6. Underestimating Testing
  7. Weak Team

Abandonment of Planning 

Do not abandon your plan or the planning effort. No matter how proactive you are, some contributors will under perform, customers will request changes, and technical issues will prevent you from delivering some features on time. It’s not a question of “if” but “when”. As soon as you start to deviate from your plan, intelligently refactor, but stick to it. Never abandon your plan.

Feature (Scope) Creep

As time goes on, customers learn more about their needs and they come up with new features and ways of improving existing ones. Don’t let these changes throw your project plan out of control. Gather the feedback, analyze it, prioritize it, document it, and schedule the changes as mutually agreed upon. You’re not going to build the perfect product in one release. Deliver on your existing commitments, and try to facilitate deeper understanding about many the change requests. Omissions can be quite costly, so don’t immediately discount the value of understanding.

Omitting Necessary Tasks 

A project schedule should not simply comprise the tasks required to develop product and process features. It should also include other derivative activities, such as interacting with customers, writing detailed functional specifications, and receiving technical training. Team-support activities cannot be skipped and therefore should not be ignored when baselining a project schedule.

Overly Optimistic Schedule

Meeting schedules should be aggressive, yet realistic. Demanding an overly optimistic schedule greatly reduces your chance of completing a project on time. Be aggressive with your plan, but remain realistic.

“Even particularly smart people in extremely high-performing situations will consistently underestimate how much time it takes to complete certain tasks.”—Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize

Suboptimal Requirements Definition

While showing illusionary progress, coding before requirements gathering actually delays project completions. Spending time early refining requirements can save weeks later on.

Underestimating Testing 

Project tend to underestimate how much effort is required to test a major release. As a rule of thumb, one-third of the entire project should be spent testing and fixing defects for major releases. Consensual understanding of test results and implications is key to stakeholder ownership.

Weak Team

Various resources claim that there is as much as a ten-to-one efficiency ratio between top performers and mediocre ones. Second-rate members contribute to project failures in many ways. They deliver late, do stuff that doesn’t support the project, and allow defects in their work that lacks the level of quality deemed acceptable by you and other stakeholders. Select your team members carefully. At the end of the day, even the best project manager can’t succeed with a weak team.

Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz is CEO of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Weekly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and techniques aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product innovation. His aspiration is to make it easier for others to succeed.

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