The Five Big Pitfalls When Project Planning

The Five Big Pitfalls When Project Planning

Good project planning is like the construction of a recipe for a favorite cake. If every component is done correctly you end up with a great end result. Make shortcuts or mistakes along the way and you risk the whole project falling to pieces. To plan a project well, you need to understand a little about the possible traps you may fall into. Here are five of the most common pitfalls.

1.    Planning is rushed

The most common mistake project managers can make when planning a project is to try and shorten the planning time so that you have more work time at your disposal late on in the project. This is the project management equivalent of a false economy.

Trying to get planning activities completed in an unrealistic amount of time leads to shortcuts. These shortcuts may be something as simple as booking a planning meeting without giving attendees enough notice, leading to key personnel missing the chance to give their potentially valuable contribution to the planning stage of a project.

How to avoid this pitfall

Never underestimate the time you need to plan a project. Think about the people you need involved and what their availability is like. Take into account the fact that you will probably have to do several iterations of a project plan before it is finalized.


2.    Your planning only consists of a project Gantt chart

One of the biggest mistakes project managers can make when planning is to equate a Gantt chart with the full process of planning a project. In fact, a Gantt chart is just one part of what planning actually means to a project. It does not take into account other aspects of planning, for example: getting the right team together; understanding the issues you face on the project; analyzing the risks to the project.

How to avoid this pitfall

Avoid completing the Gantt chart until the rest of your planning activities are complete. By doing this, you will find it much easier to produce a Gantt chart that has the right list of tasks, durations and dependencies in it. More importantly, you will also have fulfilled the rest of the requirements of planning a project.


3.    You don’t get your plan approved by the project stakeholders

Surprisingly, failing to get a plan approved is more common than you might expect. Typically, this happens when the timeline is short or when the plan seems so straightforward it doesn’t need to be reviewed. However, this is also a cause of problems later on down the line. Approvals are needed because without the buy-in of your stakeholders, you may have trouble later on in the project if you need commitments, resources or the go-ahead from any of these people.

How to avoid his pitfall

Make sure you identify your key stakeholders early on in the project. This will typically be your management team and the end customer (you will always have a ‘customer’ even if that person is internal). If they don’t have time to read a plan, write down the key points instead. Present the key points to them for sign-off. This is always preferable to simply skipping this step


4.    Your project doesn’t have the full information to hand when you start

One of the biggest causes of failure on projects is due to missing requirements; requirements that only become apparent later on in the project, causing disruption and additional cost. When planning, if you are working with incomplete requirements or simply a set of requirements that just haven’t been thought through, you run a high risk of the project falling into problems later on. This is because any planning you do early on in the project will probably need to be redone at a later point leading to delays, additional costs or cancellation.

How to avoid this pitfall

Have minimum standards that must be adhered to when setting the requirements for a project. This will be one tactic to prevent working on sub-standard requirements. Also, ensure you have the right people available to cast a critical eye over the requirements and encourage people to ask intelligent questions and challenge assumptions that may have been made. Although this approach will take more time, you’ll end up with a more robust set of requirements that have a higher chance of giving you a successful project at the end.


5.    You haven’t considered wider organizational priorities

A project is rarely an individual entity that is immune to outside influence. Typically, a project will be one of tens, hundreds or even thousands of other projects currently being undertaken by an organization. They might be sharing resources and they may even have conflicting priorities for the business. Without an awareness of this, you run the risk of your project failing later on down the line as your planning will have missed a number of wider organizational factors.

How to avoid this pitfall

Check to see if you project should be part of a wider program of work that is happening within the organization. If there are other projects currently in progress, find out if you can get hold of some information about how they are running, what their objectives are and what their priority is to the business. If this sort of visibility isn’t already in place in the organization, take the initiative and set up a working group to review on-going programs of work and new projects on the horizon.



Many project articles talk about the need for planning to achieve success on the project. However simply running a planning phase isn’t enough. You need to make sure that your planning is thorough, high quality, and that it has factored in many wider and complex requirements. That can mean the difference to your project of success and failure.


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  • My View summary is  :

    Poor communication is the main reason many projects fail, as it greatly affects a project's success. Lack of communication leads to delays and confusion while affecting the work quality and tasks involved in the project

    common challenges are :-

    Bad planning: it includes poor prioritization, not having a proper business plan, and not breaking down your project in phases.

    Lack of leadership: if the project manager doesn't have management or business expertise, it will lead to poor decision-making.

    Communication issues: the ability to solve conflict can significantly affect your project. That's why project managers need to be master communicators to keep everyone on board and in agreement.

    Vague requirements: right from the start, you need to define your requirements clearly. Changing them can cause a project to miss a deadline.

    Lifecycle problems: usually caused by changing requirements or poor planning. Keep in mind that initial testing methods need to be strict to avoid repeating errors.

    Poorly implemented communication processes: it's essential to keep everyone informed on project status. Lack of communication leads to delays and errors.

    Stakeholder approval: efficient project managers will ensure a collaborative working environment where stakeholders can discuss and analyze project phases.

    No schedule: you need to have an established program for objectives, operational activities, and tasks.

    Missed deadlines: different types of delays can cause missed deadlines

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