8 Project Management Underperformance Problems
Every project manager faces worries about underperformance throughout their career. In fact, most projects present challenges that seasoned project managers must learn to overcome. In this article, we will look at some real-world examples of project management underperformance, how these experiences negatively impact the success of a project, and how Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential holders can overcome these challenges.
On this page:
Have you ever been a team member on a mismanaged project? PMs must be able to properly lead and create teams that leverage each person’s skills to deliver positive project outcomes.
Consider this scenario: A project manager, while skilled, is considering another career path. Instead of total engagement in their current project, they are looking for opportunities to transition into other areas, like sales or human resources. Underperformance occurs when they fail to pay attention to project deadlines or communicate effectively with the client. They assign team roles with little forethought, and their team members feel like they are working with little direction.
Without an effective team, built around an engaged PMP credential holder, it’s unlikely any project will be a success. It’s imperative that the right people are in place, ensuring your projects are running efficiently and in alignment with client expectations.
Roles and Responsibility
Without clearly defined roles and responsibilities for both team members and project managers, projects are sure to fail. Team members should be given roles and assigned responsibilities based on their strengths. Handing out tasks with no reasoning behind the assignments can easily lead to project failure, as shown in the following example.
A project manager running a software development project now has a vacancy on their team. They fill the role with an available software developer. However, this developer doesn’t have experience with the tools that are being used. While they can catch on fairly quickly, the project is still slowed due to training and mistakes the developer makes and subsequently must fix.
Had the project manager in this scenario considered the skills required to fill this role, they may have selected another developer. The mark of a good project manager is that they are able to identify team member strengths and leverage those strengths for positive and exciting outcomes. In situations like this, underperformance becomes more of a rarity.
Wrong Skill Set
In addition to assigning team members to their appropriate roles for their skill sets, PMs also need the appropriate skill sets for their own roles. Without the skills to run a project successfully, it’s impossible to ensure positive outcomes. While some project managers may have a lot of experience, they may not have the specific skills needed for each project.
For example, a project manager could be assigned to a software development project, in which the client and development team expects to use the Agile Methodology. Unfortunately, this PM has no Agile training, but they are familiar with the traditional waterfall planning approach. Before the project begins, they plan development using these traditional methods, much to the frustration of their client and developers. The entire project timeline will have to be reworked.
Not every project manager is right for every project. The best solution to this underperformance problem is to acknowledge when you’re not the best fit for a role. If you’re put in a role that doesn’t suit your skills, you will struggle with underperformance and delivering projects in alignment with client expectations. You can seek help and mentorship from other PMs with these skills.
Lack of Experience
One challenge that PMs may run into, especially after recently earning their PMP certification, is not having enough experience to face a project’s problems. Every project comes with challenges, like unrealistic client expectations or unexpected drains on the project budget. While seasoned project manager knows how to navigate these problems, someone with less experience likely does not, as shown in this scenario.
A new project manager is put on a project with a large budget. They agree to the rapid timeline the client proposes, but after a series of project hiccups, they find that their budget is gone and they are weeks behind project completion. Because they didn’t know how to effectively set client expectations, they now have to tackle a new challenge – a tough conversation with an unhappy client.
The only way to remedy the problem of having too little experience is to continue working to develop your project management skills. You can also seek out experienced mentors who can offer advice based on their own experience.
Lack of Project Management Skills
While having the wrong skill set may seem similar to lacking project management skills, the two scenarios pose different challenges and have different solutions for PMs. Unless you have adequate skills to back up your PMP certification, you will struggle to gain credibility with your team members, your clients, and your employer.
A project manager with their PMP certification was hired by a new company and is currently the only one on staff. However, they don’t have basic project scheduling skills, so the first project they work on is a failure. They don’t meet deadlines and the client is unhappy with how the project has fallen behind schedule. The employer doesn’t see the value in hiring another PMP credential holder, since this one can’t properly manage projects.
The best way to ensure you have the necessary project management skills needed to run projects effectively is to find an effective training partner and continue earning PDUs. With the right training, you will not only maintain your PMP certification, but you will also master the essential project management skills—many of which are outside of the scope of what the PMP exam explicitly covers like leadership and soft skills.
Invoicing can be a challenge for even the most seasoned project managers. Creating, sending, and following up on invoices can significantly drain your time. Without a structured and uniform billing process, it can be difficult to have transparency into a project’s budget.
Like many PMs before them, a new PMP credential holder is diligent about invoicing their client at the beginning of the project, tracking time the minute a task is completed and sending invoices on the last business day of each month. However, as the project goes on, they become distracted, tracking time sporadically and sending invoices that are more of a guess at the correct billing amount than an accurate reflection of their efforts.
Lazy or disorganized billing processes result in lost revenue and projects that aren’t profitable. Every PM needs the organization skills to effectively manage their billing.
Incorrect Assessment to Executive Level
Because executives aren’t involved in the day-to-day workings of projects, they rely on project managers to provide updates and relevant information to stay current on project progress. Keeping your executive decision-makers informed about current projects is imperative for them to have an accurate view of how the company is doing and how client relationships are being managed.
An executive is trying to determine where they should budget for new hires. They connect with a leading PM to ask how their projects are progressing. The project manager gives vague answers and isn’t upfront with the executive about the projects that are struggling. Instead of hiring new members of the project management team, the executive dedicates resources to other departments.
Lack of Management Support
PMP credential holders make about 20% more than their non-certified peers, and sometimes the cost of a PMP credential holders salary can be difficult to justify to management. Without management buy-in, PMP credential holders can find it difficult to do their jobs effectively.
Without direct managers understanding the value of a PM’s skills, a company’s executives hire a PMP credential holder to fill a vacant role in the company. Managers didn’t support the PM’s effort to change project management processes, and these changes regularly failed. The project manager eventually grows tired of the lack of support and begins applying for jobs at different companies.
Each of these challenges can be frustrating for a project management professional, but with the right training and adequate preparation, you can overcome these struggles. Leading successful projects starts with devoting time to developing your own skills. If you struggle with underperformance, you should consider finding project management training courses that can help you improve your project management approach. Most people are faced with underperformance in one way or another at some point. If you’re struggling to keep up, it’s time for a change!
Do you want to earn your PMP certification or learn how to improve your project management skills? Download this comprehensive guide now.
Studying for the PMP Exam?
Upcoming PMP Certification Training – Live & Online Classes