11 Project Management Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Updated Aug 3, 2022.

Project management is a tough job. Every project comes with common project management challenges and project risks that project managers have to handle for project success.

Rookie project managers are not the only ones that face project management challenges. Experienced project managers with the best project management tools encounter the same project challenges during project execution.

Project management challenges can result in project delay or failure if they are not identified and properly managed.

A project manager's job is to identify these project management challenges and develop an effective strategy to tackle them.

Let us get started.

1. Lack of Clear Goals and Success Criteria

A reasonable amount of project management challenges result from project goals and success criteria not being clear enough for every team member to understand and take action.

You can not overemphasize clarity when setting project goals. Without clearly understanding a goal, you can not achieve it. The project team may go in the wrong direction with so much effort and resources invested in achieving the wrong goal.

If the success criteria are unclear to project teams, successful project completion is impossible. For example, if your marketing team is unclear about a task's success criteria, the team will not perform that task properly, leading to project failure.

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), 39% of projects fail because of the lack of a project plan and unclear project goals.

In the project planning phase, project managers should endeavor to give special effort to defining project goals clearly and creating a system to track progress.

You can track project progress by setting up project milestones and quality tests. Furthermore, as a project manager, it is important for you to clearly define your project objectives for you to be able to defend your vision before customers and stakeholders.

How Project Managers Can Deal With This Project Challenge

a. Use SMART and CLEAR Goals

Project managers using certain goal-setting techniques can better deal with common project management challenges. These techniques are CLEAR and SMART goals.

SMART - Goals
Source: Indeed

By using this principle, clarity of the project objectives is guaranteed. These powerful goal-setting techniques can help you overcome project management challenges such as a lack of clear goals and objectives.

Source: HQ Hire

b. Review Goals and Make Adjustments

During the project life cycle, the project manager must be flexible enough to adjust project goals when necessary.

Successful project implementation does not always go in a straight line. When reviewing the project, you may discover the project goals are no longer suitable for the project or missed. Make the necessary adjustments to provide the desired project outcome.

2. Scope Creep

Scope creep is a core project management challenge that tends to happen during project execution. It is a situation where you make changes to the project’s scope during the execution phase.

Although scope creep has many disadvantages (increase in cost and project duration), it also adds certain benefits to the entire project.

Scope creep can help you improve your project management methodology by leaving room for changes to provide exceptional services to customers.

End users and owners benefit from scope creep. While it can increase your projected costs, you must weigh the costs versus the benefits.

Clients that are indecisive about what they want and have vague needs are a big project management challenge.

Scope Creep Statistics
Source: IEEE Xplore

How To Deal With It

a. Insight into Clients’ Needs

Gaining clear insight into clients' needs and basic requirements is vital for project managers. The project manager can achieve this by engaging with clients during the project planning phase and asking relevant questions that will give you the required information.

You will gain insights into their expectations and devise plans to meet or exceed them. Project management training programs for the project leader should involve client and stakeholder management.

b. Stay Focused on the Project Plan

During project execution, it is vital not to make sudden changes based on client requests because this will be a diversion from the project plan.

The best thing to do is to stick to the original plan. There are exceptions to this rule when the end-user needs those changes incorporated. Show the end-user or project owner the cons of making such changes to persuade them to stick with the original plan.

Simple Project Plan Template_
Source: Smartsheet

3. Poor Communication

Having the right communication skills can be a great advantage to a project's success, but if you poorly apply these skills, it will affect the entire project.

As simple as the concept of communication may be, it plays a vital role in having a high project success rate and helps the agile team work as a unit.

Good communication skills are vital for the project manager, team, and stakeholders. Effective project managers are great at stakeholder management.

Poor communication can cause poor collaboration and disunity among team members, uncompleted team tasks, projects going in a different direction, unfinished, and the inability to meet deadlines.

Furthermore, it causes the waste of resources and talent. Your team may repeat tasks more than once, and unnecessary conflict may arise.

Poor communication is a major challenge that most organizations face in the work environment, resulting in various delays in project completion.

How the Project Manager Can Solve it

a. Explain the Project Goals Clearly

Communication is vital to the success of any project. The project manager should ensure good communication among those working on the project.

At the project kickoff, the manager must properly explain the project goals and business objectives to team members and everyone present to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Do not leave out key information about the project so that everyone will fully understand the project objectives and roles. Create a project charter to provide a full picture of the project.

b. Create an Effective Communication Channel

Establish an effective communication channel to aid the project manager in properly communicating with the project team.

Allow everyone to ask questions and contribute if necessary. Through this engagement, everyone involved in the project gets acquainted.

The manager must inform everyone of any changes or adjustments made to the project plan. Using simple project management software is an asset that promotes effective communication.

Create a project communication plan to help you identify essential information you want to share to project stakeholders throughout the project’s life cycle.

Project communication plan to share to project stakeholders throughout the project life cycle
Source: Bitrix24

4. Lack of Accountability

Every team member must know their roles and responsibilities while performing project tasks. Lack of accountability among the team members is dangerous to the project and can result in project delays and failure.

Your team can easily achieve the project goal if every team member has a sense of responsibility and makes an adequate effort to fulfill their given role. When this is absent, completing the project becomes practically impossible.

How To Solve It

a. Assign Responsibilities

An effective project manager will assign responsibilities to individual project members and guide them toward the common goal of completing the project.

Project managers can use a project management tool to help monitor work done, assign responsibilities, and track progress to promote accountability.

b. Have Regular Check-ins on the Project Team

Project managers must have regular check-ins within the team to ensure that the team members are not slacking.

If the team members are left to themselves, they may not feel accountable for the project. Monitoring them will encourage a sense of responsibility among them.

5. Inadequate Skills of Project Team Members

Having a weak link on the team will affect the whole team. The skill level of each team member is vital to the project's success.

If a team member’s skill set does not meet the required skill level, the result will be a major drawback to the project execution.

A project manager may strive to create a productive work environment, but if the team's skill set is inadequate, it will affect the project.

With proper experience and foresight, project managers can solve this huge project management problem.

How To Solve It

a. Evaluate the Required Skills with the Available Workforce

Effective project managers are aware of factors and implement a contingency plan to tackle the problem of inadequate skill sets.

A solution can be to identify the necessary project management skills and evaluate the available workforce to determine their qualifications.

b. Employ Qualified Workforce

The next move is to make necessary adjustments by employing qualified workers who have the required skills and can carry out tasks given to them before the deadline.

An effective project initiation plan will deal with the needs of the project and the resources required to accomplish it.

6. Inadequate Risk Management

Many projects rarely go according to the initial project plan without diversion because many variables can create unlimited possibilities.

Project risks range from inaccurate data in your project management system that causes problems with the project timeline to a flood that may prevent the team from showing up at work.

With this in mind, project managers should devise various solutions to tackle these project risks. A risk register can help you predict the likelihood of certain risks affecting the project's outcome.

Simple Safety Risk Register Template
Source: Smartsheet

How To Solve It

a. Have Contingency Plans

Experienced project managers have contingency plans and implement them when the project is going in the wrong direction.

A contingency plan should contain details of perceived risks and the solutions to these problems when they arise.

Contingency Planning
Source: TemplateLab

b. Set Up a Project Risk Management System

Having a project risk management system helps identify the types of risks and the best contingencies to avoid delays in project execution.

Project managers may need to research to properly identify common risks associated with that particular project and the entered industry.

Identifying potential risks will be effective early in the project planning phase. The project manager can come up with suitable strategies to tackle these problems.

7. Budgeting Issues

Most project managers see lack of adequate funding as a major issue in project management, resulting in various projects being abandoned or delayed before completion.

Project delay can happen when the manager does not have access to company resources. It can happen when the project stakeholders expect the manager to carry out a perfectly planned project with few company resources available.

Many project managers have to make do with the little company resources available, which may result in them being unable to execute the project’s goals and objectives effectively.

How To Solve It

a. Budget Management

With budget management, project managers can effectively define and manage funds for individual tasks and the entire project.

The manager can also limit the use of particular resources, which may be consuming a lot of funds, and divert these resources to other aspects of the project.

Furthermore, adopting effective project scheduling tools and budgeting procedures is vital. To avoid cost overruns, project managers should not make unnecessary assumptions that will affect project funds.

While planning the project scope, the manager must consider the project budget to avoid problems during project execution.

8. Inefficient Resource Allocation

One of the main challenges in project management is inefficient resource allocation. Most companies encounter problems with budgeting and acquiring funding for projects.

Many project managers have no other option but to make do with the available resources, which may not be sufficient to complete the project.

Inefficient resource allocation will result in project managers assigning tasks to project team members or external stakeholders who may not have the right skill sets or adequate knowledge about the project.

Resource scheduling software can help managers manage their resources (human and material) more efficiently.

How To Solve It

a. Take Actions to Fill Skill Gap

The manager should create a detailed list of project deliverables, the required skills to accomplish project tasks, and access all available resources to know if there is a skill gap that needs filling.

When the project manager discovers a skill gap, the next step is to analyze whether the organization should hire an internal resource or an outside agency or firm. The project manager's role is to take proper actions to fill these skills gaps.

9. Limited Engagement of Stakeholders

All the stakeholders should be on the same page and running with the same project vision. Among other common project management challenges, the limited involvement of stakeholders can result in other project management problems like budgeting issues.

Attaining effective project management without stakeholders' full involvement and dedication is impossible. The involvement of stakeholders during the project planning stage is crucial for the successful completion of the project.

Having an uninvolved client may cause issues in the final stages of the project.

How To Solve It

a. Strategic Discussions, Feedback, and Constants Updates

Have discussions with your clients and stakeholders to encourage them to participate in shaping the project and providing useful feedback actively.

Customer feedback is very important. Keeping the clients and stakeholders updated on the project's progress is vital and would result in their active involvement in executing the project.

The managers should consistently update internal and external stakeholders about the project's progress and organize regular review meetings where stakeholders can air their news about the project.

10. Unrealistic Deadlines and Errors in Planning

Another common project management challenge is setting deadlines that are impossible to meet. Impossible and unrealistic deadlines can cause tension among team members, hinder productivity, and affect the quality of the project's result.

Any effective manager knows the project team's capability and negotiates the project timeline by prioritizing deadlines and tasks.

Creating a conducive project environment is an important project management role. However, setting unrealistic deadlines may reset the project environment and prevent the project team from carrying out tasks conveniently.

How To Solve It

a. Review Deadlines

In agile project management, velocity is the measure of work completed in a single sprint and decided collectively by taking inputs from all stakeholders.

Managers must constantly review set deadlines to ensure they are achievable; if not, they should extend the deadlines.

b. Time Management

Proper time management is a key factor in solving project management challenges. Project managers should ensure their team effectively manages each task's allotted time and not focus on the less important task to avoid wasting time.

The 4Ds of Time Management
Source: ProductPlan

11. Inadequate Project Management Software

Choosing the right project management software can be difficult for project managers. Based on previous experience, certain project management tools further complicate projects rather than help.

A major challenge in agile project management is to set up a good agile project management tool for the project team that is not too expensive to run and within the budget.

Good project management software ensures that the team executes ongoing projects as planned and gives you insight into all projects.

Managing projects becomes easier and more effective with the right project management software but getting the software that meets the project’s specific needs is one of the common challenges in project management.

How To Solve It

a. Use Project Management Software that Best Fits The Project

Choosing the right web-based project management software is not an easy task. The project manager must consider certain factors before making this choice. You must consider what the project team requires and what tool best fits this requirement.

The best way to approach this is to list the top priority features the project manager and project team need to help them monitor task assignments, budgets, and schedules. Then, weigh the advantages of a particular tool against the budget, and make a decision.

Overcoming Project Management Challenges the Right Way

Various factors can frustrate the work of a project manager. Identifying the biggest project management challenges and applying the best solution will guarantee project success.

18% of projects fail due to outdated project management software. By identifying such problems, managers can develop the best contingencies to avoid project failure and improve productivity.

More than 50% of projects suffer from some scope creep. The project manager should give proper attention to this challenge. With proper planning, control, and monitoring, the manager can make major changes in the project to reduce the effects of these challenges.

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Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.