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Project management

10 common project management challenges (and how to overcome them)

Danielle Tawfik 11 min read
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Managing a project is a bit like completing a Rubik’s cube — you have to keep several elements of the project at the top of your mind, while also considering multiple different outcomes and how long the route to completion will take.

Along the way, you’re bound to hit some bumps in the road. With projects, some struggles are more common than others, including issues regarding scope, budget, communication, and more.

In this article, we’ll walk you through 10 of the most common project management challenges and discuss what you’ll need to overcome them.

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1. Setting clear goals and objectives

Getting clear on what you need to do is pretty critical for successful project completion.

Failure to set appropriate goals and objectives can lead to a whole host of issues, including poor resource and stakeholder management.

In fact, a recent survey revealed that 29% of project professionals cited an inadequate vision or goal for their project as a primary cause of failure.

Goals should be clearly stated and realistic. You should also be able to show how every action taken moves you closer to achieving the goal. This means you can measure the impact of the team and individual project members.

How to set clear goals and objectives

2 popular approaches to setting organizational goals are SMART and CLEAR.

The acronym “SMART” means specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

“CLEAR” means collaborative, limited, emotional, appreciable, and refinable.

Either of these methods — or a blend of the 2 — can help project managers set goals to steer teams and individuals toward project completion.

Start by breaking the project down into simple tasks. Those tasks should then be assigned to the most appropriate people — and those people should have clear goals and objectives outlined.

monday.com’s Work OS provides the project leader with the tools they need to build custom goal trackers. This template allows team members to set goals and timelines quarterly so that it’s easy to follow up and check on progress.

E-book: When 65% of projects fail, here are 6 tips to improve workflows and succeed.
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2. Scope creep

Scope creep is a classic project management challenge that refers to how the requirements of a project change from what was originally agreed at project initiation.

It’s common — one of the top challenges cited by project professionals — and doesn’t need to cause too much drama if managed effectively.

Take this hypothetical example from the construction industry:

A client makes unauthorized changes to the initial drawings of a building. The changes have a bearing on both deliverables and the purpose of the project.

Managing this scope change is possible within the project team if an increase in funds or project duration can be agreed.

How to deal with scope creep

In any industry, managers can prevent scope creep by being proactive when mapping out the project.

Using an Agile project management methodology like Scrum will allow your team to focus on specific goals while continuously reviewing priorities and plans.

monday.com’s Scrum sprint planning template can help you.

Effective change control processes are also important.

10 project management challenges

3. Budget restrictions and changes

When scope starts to creep while managing projects, so does the budget. Budget management can pose a big challenge for project managers.

For example, let’s say a project manager on the marketing team discovers that to promote a new product, she’ll need to increase her online advertising spend from what she initially planned. If the campaign is necessary, the manager may request more funds or stretch what she has to work with.

Project managers must plan their budgets accurately and ensure that projects remain within budget. They should adopt efficient cost management strategies to prevent straying from the agreed-upon budget.

How to deal with budget restrictions and changes

When there’s a requirement creep, the budget changes. For this reason, managers need to consider all possibilities of scope creep during the planning stage and budget for them to prevent cost overruns.

monday.com’s budget tracker is made to help project managers stay on track and within their budget, allowing for real-time views that show how much has been spent in comparison with how much is left to complete.

4. Lack of communication

Communication can make or break a project.

Good communication means team members work well together, tasks are allocated efficiently, and stakeholders are kept in the loop about project progress.

Bad communication means, well, none of the above.

How to deal with communication issues

Effective project management software can help drive good communication practices. Though it’s only ever going to get the Oscar for best supporting role.

If there’s an issue with effective communication in your team, you’re going to have to roll your sleeves up and tackle it head-on.

That might be bringing people together to thrash out a particular problem, or helping to create a project environment where constructive feedback is valued as a tool for improvement.

Anyway, back to the software.

If you’re looking to improve communication in your organization, monday.com can help.

Our status update column type allows you to color-code updates in customizable columns. So you’ll always know where you are at a glance.

communication status on a monday.com board.

Plus, team members can leave notes on the status column for others to view at their leisure.

project management challenges monday.com communication status notes. Someone asking for feedback.

And confusion over ownership becomes a thing of the past when every task is assigned to an owner that’s easily viewable.

communication ownership with new requests.

Finally, within each task, team members and project managers can communicate by tagging one another, attaching files, and creating to-do lists.

Continuing hte communication example to show where you can check boxes on monday.com.

For a deeper dive into how you can use monday.com to facilitate communication with your teams, check out this YouTube video:

5. Team conflict

When asked about project management challenges, lack of strategic direction and leadership was another biggie.

This is a problem, as 14% of project managers reported that lack of direction was a cause of conflict in their projects. Additionally, 12% reported miscommunication and misunderstandings within the team as a major hurdle.

Ignoring team conflict isn’t an option for project managers. You’ll need to figure out the root cause of the issue, then take a deep breath and get it sorted.

How to deal with team conflict

Team conflict is caused by a lack of shared vision and miscommunication, leading to confusion and frustration.

Project managers need to bring clarity and cohesion to their teams to manage conflict effectively.

Project management software can be a helpful tool to tackle this challenge.

With monday.com, it’s easy to view, share, and annotate project documentation. This means the whole team can contribute to a vision document and create a shared sense of purpose.

E-book: When 65% of projects fail, here are 6 tips to improve workflows and succeed.
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Plus, communication can happen in-platform, which means everything is said in context. This helps cut down on misunderstandings.

6. Mismatched team skills

As a project manager, you want to create the best work environment for your team. A productive work environment comes from matching tasks to team members with the right skills to deliver.

If there’s a mismatch between requirements and skill level, the project is bound to suffer inefficiencies that could lead to failure.

Appropriately matching skills to project tasks requires the experience to know what skills are required for what tasks. It also requires project managers to get to know their team well so they can understand their skills and motivation.

How to deal with mismatched team skills

A project manager should constantly be assessing their workforce to establish whether every member of the team is being utilized effectively, based on their skills and workload.

A management platform like monday.com provides you with the opportunity to track workload and evaluate your team members’ performances.

Project managers can easily see how much is on each team member’s plate, and a color-coded interface makes it immediately visible.

Customer success planning board view in monday.com to represent team workload.

For a deeper dive into how to use workload view to manage team workload, check out our YouTube video:

7. Absence of accountability

Accountability means every member of your team is responsible for their decisions and actions. This isn’t about handing out blame if things go wrong. It’s empowering your team to get things done the way they want to, without micro-managing their every move.

Accountability in the workplace is associated with an increase in work commitment and higher performance.

However, most project teams lack accountability. When your team members aren’t accountable, commitment to the project goal — and the likelihood of project success — is reduced.

Dealing with lack of accountability

An effective project manager enables accountability clearly from the start. Setting up goals and objectives helps build accountability as everyone is clear on their responsibilities.

Shared visibility of progress against team tasks can help build accountability. It also provides an option for team members to discuss challenges they’re facing and ask for support.

monday.com allows project managers to ensure that accountability on their teams isn’t optional. Our team tasks template works as a starting point for managers to assign owners to tasks and clearly shows status and progress during the project lifecycle.

project management challenges accountability monday.com team task tracker

8. Impractical deadlines

Have you ever heard the warning: “don’t overpromise and underdeliver?”

We’ve all sat on the sidelines and watched project managers who haven’t heeded these pearls of wisdom. Perhaps we’ve even been those project managers. It’s not pretty.

Ignoring this advice means deadlines are missed, quality is reduced, team members are stressed, and stakeholders are disappointed.

Unrealistic deadlines are a classic way to overpromise.

An effective project manager knows their teams’ strengths and weaknesses — along with what their team can deliver within a specified duration. They can then negotiate for achievable deadlines without rushing the work.

Giving impractical deadlines might win you the project, but it’ll also frustrate you and your team, severely affect your work outcomes, and ultimately taint your reputation.

How to deal with impractical deadlines

Unrealistic deadlines need to be tackled at the planning phase.

To determine a workable deadline, break down the project into small tasks and assign each task sufficient time.

Base each estimate on your experience of similar, previously-completed work. Good project management software can help you set realistic deadlines.

monday.com has a helpful deadline mode that will let you set and adhere to project timelines.

Here, you can see how the deadlines are displayed directly beside the project status:

monday.com deadline mode project management challenges

Deadlines can also be displayed as spans of time, so you’re not locked down to a single day.

project management challenges deadlines timeline monday.com

For more information on using timelines to combat missing deadlines, check out this video:

9. Poor risk management

Project managers have to evaluate and manage risks throughout the life cycle of their projects.

Project managers aren’t psychic and — no matter how much you plan — some risks are going to occur.

However, experienced project managers mitigate the impact of these pesky problems by identifying “what-if” scenarios and devising contingency plans.

How to deal with poor risk management

As a project manager, you need to make sure that your team can adapt if things get out of control. A project management platform that helps you identify, manage, and mitigate risks can help.

monday.com has a useful project risk register to help you identify, evaluate, and plan for possible incidents.

10. Finding effective project management software

Many project managers rely on project management software.

The biggest advantage of these platforms is that they can be accessed remotely, and project managers can track progress in real-time. They also centralize data and enable access by all stakeholders via multiple devices.

monday.com isn’t project management software. It’s so much more than that.

monday.com is a customizable Work OS that empowers teams to build their dream project management software. It’s easy to use and keeps all data in one central place.

With monday.com, you can tackle every challenge you might face during a project’s life cycle as swiftly and seamlessly as possible.

project management challenges monday.com easy to use

There are multiple ways to view a project’s status, and every team member can view each project in the way that makes the most sense for them.

project management challenges monday.com dasboards

You can automate many tasks and notifications so that project lags never occur. This includes email sends, status updates, and much more.

project management challenges monday.com automation

monday.com integrates with the tools your team is already using. We have integrations with apps like Gmail, Slack, Salesforce, ZenDesk, and much more.

project management challenges monday.com integration

Finally, choose from 200+ templates that are built so project managers never have to start from scratch, no matter what type of project you’re handling.

project management challenges monday.com templates

Overcome common challenges with a Work OS

The cost of project management challenges can be very high.

Unforeseen issues can cost you in wasted budget, frustrated top performers, and awkward conversations with senior management when projects aren’t completed on time.

If you’re looking for a solution to help you do much more than just overcome these project management challenges, check out monday.com. It’s got all the colors of a Rubik’s cube, with none of the frustration.

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Originally from New York, Danielle is a writer and storyteller currently serving as a content marketing manager at monday.com. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her playing with her 100-pound rescue dog or catching a spontaneous flight to explore a new country.
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