7 Ways Project Managers Can Anticipate, Avoid and Mitigate Problems

Experts identify the most common (and frustrating) issues project managers must constantly tackle and what steps they can take to avoid or minimize these problems.

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“It is important to sit down with both your management team and engineer team every time a new feature is added to scope,” adds Joe Rodichok, IT manager, eZanga, a meta-search engine and online advertising company. “In this discussion a verdict should be reached on if the new feature is vital to the release or if this is a wish list feature that can wait for the next update (chances are it can wait),” he says. “Another potential solution is … to simply come back and say the scope of this project is locked,” he says. “This will be undoubtedly harder to execute …. [But] you need to stand strong and have your points of emphasis and honestly explain why you cannot add to the scope of the project.”

Problem No. 5: Not being aware there is a problem or potential problem.

How a good PM stays on top of potential problems: “A successful PM should have standing weekly [or more frequent] status meetings with team members, to check if everything was achieved as per the timeline; what issues, if any, anybody is facing and remove them; and, if required, re-plan certain tasks,” says Divan Dave, CEO of OmniMD, a leading healthcare IT company.

Another way project managers can easily spot potential problems, and “avoid unnecessary status meetings, [is] by using collaborative task tracking software,” says Ray Grainger, CEO, Mavenlink, which provides online project management software. “Team members whose tasks are updated and on schedule get extra time to get work done, and you can focus your time talking to individuals who are behind schedule, or who aren't reporting their progress.”

Problem No. 6: Managing and collaborating with team members in different locations and time zones.

How a good PM successfully manages a decentralized team: Having a mobile collaboration tool “is a game-changer for IT managers,” says Josh Bauer, assistant director, Network Operations, Acorda Therapeutics. “If someone is mobile, for example, they are limited to the technologies available on their mobile devices. For a long time that meant only basic email access and small file attachments could be shared; no real-time collaboration could occur,” he explains. 

“In [our] case, we saw the problem [inability to efficiently collaborate online], identified the right tool (EMC Syncplicity) and now our employees are able to collaborate better on projects and work as they prefer to, rather than work within any restrictive technical limitations.”

Problem No. 7: Lack of communication, or hostility, among team members.

How a good PM heads off potential hostilities: A good project manager checks in regularly with team members, either by phone or in person, to see how things are going – and if there are any professional or personal issues that could affect the project, which need to be addressed.

“Project management is not just about task management and schedules,” says Jose Canelos, project manager, Program Management, at Centric Digital. “You need to be able to relate to each member of the team [and regularly check in with them]. By doing this, you will gain the team’s trust, and their effort in the project will increase.”

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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