New to a project team? Avoid these two pitfalls

If you’re new to a project team, there's nothing more soul destroying than a failing project. That is apart from the never ending grind of a project clinging on to the bitter end despite exceeding its objectives, schedule and budget.  If you’re new to working on a project, you may find it shocking (if not unsurprising) that nearly half of today's project teams fail to meet their success criteria.

Projects are now more complicated than ever before, with more variables to contend with and more stakeholders to appease. There is a seemingly endless list of weak spots that can cause project failure, but the majority boil down to one of two critical points. Project teams that allow their project to falter in either of these aspects will see it come crashing down quicker than you can say “requirements gathering workshop”.

1. Scope and requirement chaos

When you're new to a project team, it can be exciting to jump straight into technical solutions before properly understanding, agreeing and documenting the aim of the project will easily spell doom before it even begins. Failing to clarify scope and requirements, or not getting the right people involved is the ultimate project destroyer.

When a project’s success is going to be later assessed against how well it met initial aims, getting things right at the requirements gathering stage is crucial.  The last thing you want is fuzzy business objectives. As the project continues, that fuzziness will quickly snowball.

Requirements need to be explored in great detail, and worked through with stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive list. Project teams need to take time to identify and get to the root of whatever problem it is that a project is aiming to resolve and be strict with the scope to avoid endless mission creep. If you’re new to a project team, the success depends on details.

2. Communication breakdown

Communication is the oxygen that keeps all project teams alive. The first step when you're new to a project team is ensuring there is a good communication plan for the working group to know exactly how communication is going to work. That is not just a case of setting out key milestones and status reporting but also setting out exactly how the project team will communicate on all aspects of the project and asking for feedback.

Consistency in the style and frequency of communications is just as important. Even if a project is happily running according to schedule, allowing weeks to slip by without communicating progress risks weakening relationships you’ve worked so hard to build.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

~George Bernard Shaw~


Even the fact that a meeting has taken place doesn't automatically equal a 'tick' in the communications box. Today, with more remote working and collaboration across sites than ever before, it is important not to just communicate but engage people within a project team, even without their physical presence.  Only then will the two-way street of communication lead to mutual values, trust and confidence in the project and make these planned interactions valuable and meaningful.

If you’re new to a project team it’s better to be prepared than wait for errors to occur. If everybody works to get the basics right – a clear statement of requirements and stakeholder involvement allied with crisp communication – the rest will follow.

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