Why project managers always encounter different problems?

Today, we will talk about the subject of why project managers always encounter different problems or issues during the project, and how to respond to different types of problems.

In real life project management, it is very common that the project manager would encounter any issues or problems, such as problems with planning, lack of human resources, falling behind schedule, and problems with resource environment, etc. As a result, the project manager usually would become the busiest person in the entire team. If you ask a project manager what he/she was doing at the moment, he/she’s the answer would be either “I am solving a problem!” or “I am on my way to solve a problem!”

This article presents the most common problems which project manager would encounter and the relevant response strategies. Hope this would help the readers managing project on some level.


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1 Lack of overall planning


Problem description


At the beginning of the project, the project manager only focused on the schedule plan at that moment but did not develop the overall plan or other kinds of plan which would help to achieve the overall objectives. This means only focusing on the moment but lack of long-term planning.


Response strategy


1. At the beginning of the project, the project manager should plan the overall implementation approach of the entire project, as well as the objectives, scope, and expected value of each phase.

2. Within each phase, the plan should be complete, which means it should include different aspects like schedule, quality, cost, communications, resources, and risk. Every unique project should have its emphasis, but these aspects all need to be planned, whether in detail or in summary.

3. Some of the plans should be in progressive elaboration. In this process, the project manager should simultaneously evaluate the impact on the project scope, and adjust the corresponding affected plans as well.


2 Rely only on the system rather than self-organizing


Problem description


The project manager only relies on the maturity of the organization’s project management processes and management system but doesn’t care about whether the project team is mature or not. When the team member did not achieve a certain objective, the project manager did not effective team management and team development.


Response strategy


1. Project manager should learn about the organizational architecture of the project and validate each team member’s responsibility at the beginning of the project, and reach a consensus with all team members.

2. During the execution phase of the project, if some team members did not fulfill his responsibility, the project manager should communicate with the member and deal with the problem. The worst thing to do is to just avoid the problem and not manage the member’s interest/expectation.


3 Not knowing how to empower the team


Problem description


The project manager deals with all the problems all by himself but does not know how to empower the team members or facilitate/assist the team to solve the problem and does not know how to let the team play their roles. As a result, the team members become “outsiders” of the project.


Response strategy


1. When team members encounter a problem, they have to communicate and resolve the problem by the following team basic rules. For those who haven’t follow the basic rules, the project manager must refuse they're asking for help and explain to them nicely, in order for them to accept the situation psychologically.

2. If the team members don’t have the ability to solve the problem all by themselves, the project manager must give them some guidance and facilitate them to solve the problem. In this way, not only can the team members improve their own conscientiousness, but also can improve their problem-solving competence by engaging them in the process of problem-solving.


4 Dealing the risk all by oneself


Problem description


After evaluating the impact of some risks, the project manager became too optimistic and did not follow the standard risk management process to identify or develop an effective response strategy for the risks. As a result, the risks happened and became serious problems, which later became uncontrollable.


Response Strategy


1. Develop a risk register, build a risk assessment mechanism, monitor the effectiveness of the risk response strategies. Let all risks and problems be managed by following these steps and procedures, including identifying and responding to the risks.

2. Project managers must not have the mind of “I will take the chance.” when it comes to dealing with risks. No matter the risks are small or big, the project manager must treat them very seriously, identify all risks, and respond by following certain procedures. Do not flatter yourself that the risk is too small and skip all the procedures and simplify the process.

5 Solve only the surface of a problem


Problem description


When the project manager encountered a problem, he only treated the symptoms but did not identify the root cause of the problem. As a result, the solution to the problem would not be as effective as we thought, and the problem would probably happen again in the near future, maybe in a different form.


Response strategy


1. Root cause analysis: when a problem or risk occurred, the project manager should summon the team members to analyze the problem and try to find the root cause.

2. Develop an effective response strategy: based on the root cause, all team members should work collaboratively to develop an effective response strategy or solution.

3. Monitor the effectiveness of the response strategy: after the implementation of the response strategy, the project team needs to evaluate whether the strategy has demonstrated its desired effect. If not, what is the deviation between the actual effect and the desired effect? How to further eliminate this deviation? In order to achieve that, the project team might need to develop a new response strategy.

4. Invite experts: by inviting a certain domain expert, such as an Architect or Technical Director, to participate in the process of problem analysis and strategy development, the project team would be able to increase the accuracy and effectiveness of the risk response strategy.


In summary, this article introduces several most common problems which would be encountered during the process of project management and demonstrates the corresponding suggested response strategies.


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