Even when you organize and lead your projects well, there are still some common problems in the project management world that you may continue to run into on your engagements. Learning how to effectively deal with these recurring issues will both improve yourself as an effective project manager and also increase your chances for project success.

Let's examine the 10 problems commonly experienced on projects.

1 - The team doesn’t work well together

When you struggle to create a team but don’t succeed, first examine your own management style. Do you truly offer team members an opportunity to participate? Or do you discourage them from speaking out, offering ideas, or suggesting changes? Teams work only when you encourage participation and then follow up on it.

The problem may also be caused by excessive diversity in the team. If you have the chance to pick your own team, try to limit as much as you can the involvement of a large number of other departments. Projects often demand help from people other than those you supervise directly, but it is not always necessary to strive for participation beyond those resources you absolutely need.

2 - Other managers resist having their employees recruited to your team

You face a formidable task just in getting cooperation from other department managers - no matter how diplomatically you approach them or how well you define and explain the project. To solve this problem, you will need to convince the other managers that their priorities will be respected.

3 - Management skills that work in the department don’t seem to work on the project

Be aware of the important differences between departmental and project management. They often require different levels of supervision and leadership. In fact, skills that work for you as a department manager may interfere with team participation, so you will probably need to develop a completely different approach to supervising the project team.

4 - The goals of the project are not well defined

Your first responsibility is to ensure that the goals of the project are clearly and specifically spelled out - even when the assignment is not clear. You may have to push for definition, since often the person making the assignment does not even know what he or she wants. However, don’t proceed until you find out. Otherwise, your success will be a matter of chance, not of science.

5 - Top management changes the scope of the project after it has started

Unfortunately, priorities change. You cannot always assume that a project assigned today will be valid by its deadline. Chronic changes in project assignments are a sign of poor leadership at the top, and there is little you can do while trying to accomplish an ever-changing goal.

Your solution: Continue to communicate while you are working on your project. Don’t abandon communication after the initial purpose and goals have been defined. Meet weekly with the person who assigned the project and present a brief status report. Restate the goals to make sure they’re still valid. Also recognize the fact that changes can also occur because of new priorities resulting from perceptions about the market, the competition, and profitability.

6 - Communication with top management while the project is underway is not effective

How do you handle the problem of poor communication with top management? Even when you make the effort to keep the lines of communication open, management may simply fail to keep you up-to-date on priorities.

Your solution: You cannot force top management to improve their communication skills, but you can do your best to present status reports, ask for continuing definition, and convey information to the top—even if your only avenue is the interoffice memo. If you can’t even get an executive to take time for a brief meeting, chances are your communication link will suffer. You may find that management does not respond to your requests or suggestions, fails to confirm project goals, and offers little support; but when the project is completed, you are told that “this is not what we wanted."

In most cases, management wants to support you, and will try to maintain morale. So even though the problems seem formidable, if you make an effort to communicate, they can usually be resolved - even if you have to train top management in the development of communication skills!

7 - The schedule is difficult to control

Coordinating the many ongoing efforts of your team members and successfully completing many different phases within the same limited time period may be a struggle. If so, examine the method you are using to develop and control your schedule. You may have to invest more time in developing a detailed network diagram and showing team members how to use it as a control document. Most instances of scheduling control problems are created by a lack of preparation in creating the schedule itself.

Your solution: Revise your methods.

8 - Deadlines are not being met, and projects are completed late

You may have an excellent process for schedule control, and team members are working well together. But in spite of that, you simply don’t meet phase deadlines, and projects aren’t completed on time.

Your solution: Allow more time, or increase the size of your team. Your schedule is not realistic, and phases cannot be executed at the pace built into it. You may have been forced to accelerate your schedule because management imposed an early deadline. When you first organize your schedule, the realistic completion time will be dictated by the scope of the job. If the final deadline is unrealistic, convey this fact to management, explain why there is a problem, and ask for a later deadline or a larger project team.

9 - Project budgets don’t work, resulting in expense overruns

In your Preoccupation with schedules, it’s easy to overlook the importance of the budget. Because the company’s risk is defined by the financial investment it has made in the project versus the potential reward derived (either from reduced costs and expenses or increased profits in the future), the budget should be controlled very conscientiously.

When you experience budget overruns, there are two possible reasons. First, the budget may be unrealistic. In that case, you need to ask for a more suitable one. Second, you may need to exercise more direct control. Review expense levels more frequently, compare budget and actual expenses, and look for emerging variance trends. Then identify what you need to do to correct the problem and take action.

10 - There is no time for overview or control

You may find yourself committed so heavily to tasks and supervisory duties (as well as your ongoing departmental responsibilities) that you don’t have time to monitor schedules and budgets.

Your solution: No matter how busy you are, don’t overlook the critical importance of overseeing your team. Project management involves several roles - trainer, supervisor, leader, and communicator. But your most important task is to control the project network. You are the organizer, the driving force that ensures that the project succeeds in every respect. Overseeing should be your highest priority. Don’t become so involved in other pressures that you overlook this important fact.