Understanding Project Planning Pitfalls – What You Should Be Ready for

Dec 13, 2019 | Project Management

Project managers focus on proper planning to ensure the success of their projects. Although no project can be completed without having a clear strategy in mind, it requires a lot more than simply planning to get the client’s requirements right.

Sometimes, over-relying on a project plan can do you more harm than good. You may overlook opportunities that can improve your performance. Worse, you may miss the chance to adapt to changing scenarios and fail to meet the project requirements.

In any case, if you rely on project planning at the cost of foregoing innovation, you will create a variety of problems for yourself. For this reason, an experienced project manager should understand how to avoid common planning pitfalls and accomplish specific project requirements.

In this article, we will cover some of the major planning pitfalls that can jeopardize the success of your project.

Wrong Estimates

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a project manager is making wrong estimates about a project. Many project managers rely on the estimates made at the beginning of the project and don’t realize that their initial estimates might be unreliable as the project progresses.

Crunching the numbers
Photographer: William Iven | Source: Unsplash

Such mistakes in the early phase of the project can lead to the wastage of time and resources, which eventually hurts project completion in the end. Worst-case scenario, these delays can become the direct cause of project failure.

This is why it’s important for project managers to keep an eye on factors that may overrule their initial assumptions. Finding these issues immediately and rethinking your estimates can help you optimize your planning for better results.

Being Unclear about the Project Scope

Another mistake many project managers make is that they don’t clearly define the project scope in the initial phase. Ideally, project managers should waste no time in defining the project scope and consult stakeholders to confirm what they have in mind.

To make sure that everyone is on the same page, you must write down the project scope statement and include the objectives and requirements of the project. Until the stakeholders approve the scope of the project, you cannot start working on it.

Not Understanding the Project Requirements

Needless to say, each project has different requirements and carries a unique set of challenges for the manager. Therefore, you need to carefully study these requirements in advance to plan the critical aspects of the project effectively.

However, some project managers rush through the requirement gathering process and misinterpret what the client wants. As a result, they are not able to address the client’s needs during planning and ultimately fail to deliver.

Office meeting
Photographer: Charles | Source: Unsplash

This is why it’s essential to always go through the requirements of every project, even if the requirements sound familiar. Casual meetings are fine, just keep in mind that it's important to get feedback from your colleagues and superiors before you begin assigning tasks to your team.

Unrealistic Deadlines

Sometimes, project managers underestimate the complexities of projects and set unrealistic deadlines.  This practice is far too common and is one of the major reasons why some projects fail to bear fruit.

If your team does not have ample time to deal with the problems at hand, they will leave room for unexpected issues and delays. Furthermore, many team members fear to admit that they need more time because of peer pressure. As a result, these gaps widen as the project progresses and ultimately causes the project to deviate from the original requirements.

As a project manager, it’s your responsibility to give your team ample time to resolve all the project-related issues comprehensively. Unless you give them the time they need, you cannot expect them to fulfill the requirements of the client.

Furthermore, if you develop the practice of setting fake deadlines and then resetting them with real ones, your team will start to doubt your credibility. Therefore, it’s best to stay honest with your team and set realistic deadlines.

Failure to Identify Limitations

For a project manager, identifying things that can’t be done is as important as the things that are critical for the project’s success. Unless you convey your expectations with your team and take their input, it would be difficult to know their limitations. Consequently, you will agree on things that cannot be achieved and fail to deliver critical project goals.

Therefore, it’s important to evaluate your expectations of your team before you begin a project. You may think highly of your team, but it is not always possible for them to meet your expectations. Failing to identify these limitations will cause you to plan things that are not possible, which will hurt the project in the end.

Not Giving Attention to People Management

Project managers already have too much on their plates. They not only have to finalize the project scope and set deadlines but also manage the costs and deliverables. As a result, they might overlook things that can create an environment for other errors to occur.

When managing a project, you must give priority to the people who are working on the project with you. With proper team management, it will be easier to communicate the requirements within a project.

Unsplash Image 21368083a8232fccecd4bb1cf0e5dc4e 800
Photographer: Mimi Thian | Source: Unsplash

If you limit your engagement with the project team, you will not be able to assign project roles accurately. As a result, you will either miss deadlines or fail to deliver what the client expects.


It’s true that project planning is vital to your project’s success. However, you must make sure that you plan the project while keeping all critical factors that can disrupt your planning in mind.

You must ask questions, such as what you can include in your plan, why do you need to include it, who is responsible for that task, and when will the task be completed. If something goes against your plan, you must be willing to make changes while staying within the project scope.

With that said, it isn’t easy to get everything right, and even the best of us can err sometimes. However, you must learn from your previous experiences and use them to improve your project planning and management skills.

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