The Most Common Project Management Pitfalls to Avoid

Common project management pitfalls

Every project manager knows that things won’t always go according to how you want, however, there are certain project management pitfalls that one could stay aware of.

Knowing what some common project management pitfalls are will help you to anticipate and also watch out for them in your next project.

As, identifying when project management pitfalls arise, allows you to develop your plan and address your plan to ensure the whole project does not derail and does not result in a failed project.

Project management deals with complex projects, with varying elements. Including those of time, resources, and people. Managing a successful project requires incorporating and managing these elements effectively.

Due to the complexity of the nature of project management, project management pitfalls can come up in any area or process of development of the project. Therefore, we have laid out the common pitfalls that occur and ways you can go about avoiding them.

What are pitfalls in project management?

Let’s take a look at the pitfall definition as used in project management. The literal meaning of pitfall is a “sudden, hidden danger or difficulty“. So, the project management pitfall meaning would be the dangers and issues managers can face while running their projects.

The pitfalls can have less or big effect on your project performance and success, so it is mandatory for project managers to remain cautious of such project pitfall situations, and be ready to tackle the obstacle as soon as they arrive.

What a project manager can do to avoid these pitfalls in project management? We share some project pitfall examples and best practices on how to tackle them.

What are the common project management pitfalls to be wary of?

Here are the most common pitfalls, and easy solutions to apply to be able to address them, ensuring they don’t have a lasting negative effect on your project. These project management pitfalls example can help make a better understanding of how to avoid them for your projects:

1. Lack of a defined project scope

project scope - project management pitfalls

Without clearly defined goals, leading a successful project management team is going to be practically impossible.

Moreover, without defined goals, or more specifically, defined detail of the scope of the project, projects are bound to lead to failure.

Scope creep is very real. It refers to when a project’s requirements increase over a project’s lifecycle. This could either be through an increased requirement of the number of features or a change in the client’s needs.

It is your job as a project manager to define and manage the scope. And not doing this is a major pitfall in your project and could lead to failure.

This pitfall could result in project delays, the need for increased budgets, or the overall failure of the project.

Possible solutions to this project pitfall:

As a project manager, you need to ensure you clearly define the goals. Without set goals, it will be difficult to produce deliverables.

Adequate communication with your stakeholders and clients will ensure that goals are agreed upon and clearly defined. And these goals need to be decided and signed off on.

This also extends to the scope of the project. Ensure you speak to your client in detail before you start a project and lay down what is and what is not within scope.

It will also benefit you to have discussions about what the procedure will be if there is an increase in scope, and what is allowed. Also, ensure the clients are aware that if this happens deadlines and budgets will need to be revised.

Moreover, it is your job as a project manager to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Do this by making a detailed plan that everyone is aware of. Thus, there can be no discrepancies in goals or scope.

2. Inadequate project plan

Inadequate project plan

Following on from unclearly defined project scope, another common pitfall in project management is a poorly created project plan.

A project plan is an outline of the project. It defines the project’s goals, objectives, and tasks. But should also include how these goals will be met, the resources and budget needed, and also a timeframe.

The project plan should layout each detail of the project, and also define the responsibilities of those involved.

Possible solutions to this:

Before you start any project, make it a point to create a detailed project plan.

The plan should be made in advance and detailed answers concerning questions of how, why, what, who, and when.

Moreover, consult your team members and project sponsors when formulating the plan, allowing it to be a clear and realistic depiction of what needs to be done, and how it will be done.

Once formulated, make sure that the plan is discussed with your team members but also clients and stakeholders, to ensure everyone is on the same page. This will also help avoid scope creep as discussed above.

3. Poor communication

poor communication - project management pitfalls

Project management is not a solo venture. Team collaboration is required for any project to be successful, and effective communication is at the center of this.

Poor communication is a major factor that can greatly affect a project’s success, putting the project’s success at risk.

Lack of effective communication can lead to confusion, and delays, and affect the quality of the work and tasks involved in the project.

Possible solutions to this project pitfall:

It is up to you as a project manager to choose the right medium of communication for your team.

As a project manager, you should offer direction at every step in the development of the project.

Not only does effective communication help successful completion, but it also increases team morale. The fact that team members know they have a say, but also that they have avenues to seek help and guidance will drastically improve their motivation and involvement.

As a project manager, you set the frequency and tone for the communication between your team, as well as communication with clients and stakeholders.

Try and devise a schedule for feedback and check-ins. It will benefit the project to constantly be up to date on where the project is heading and whether any issues are arising.

Moreover, ensure the medium of communication makes sense for your team and your project.

Hold meetings but also have other avenues for team members to communicate with you or with each other, allowing them to be open about progress and seek help when they need it.

Utilizing project management tools will allow your team members to update their progress in real-time, post queries and observations, this will allow you to reduce the number of meetings and the frequency you will have to hold them.

Moreover, put in the time and analyze which medium will work best, regarding the project at hand. You may have to switch up your communication methods depending on the project you are handling at the time.

For example, although emails are easy to write and receive, they may not be the best fit. Using emails to discuss issues arising in real-time will bring a lag in communication and queries may get lost in the jumble of other emails.

4. Inadequate accountability

inadequate accountability - project management pitfalls

As mentioned, project management takes teamwork. And it is you and your team that are responsible for either the success or failure of the project.

Both transparency and communication in the project between you and your team allow for accountability.

Having progress visible, and feedback and reporting of the project’s status a requirement gives team members more incentive to follow through with responsibilities.

Possible solutions to this project pitfall:

As a project manager, you need to ensure that your team clearly understands their roles and responsibilities in the project.

Make sure that you have regular meetings with your project team. Use effective communication to review project status and address any issues that arise.

Constant feedback and reporting will help in future projects, and will also allow a sense of accountability that will ensure the project runs smoothly and on track.

5. Unclear roles and responsibilities

roles and responsibilities - PM pitfalls

Following on from accountability, team members need to clearly understand their roles and responsibilities to be able to follow through with them.

To allow teams to get more organized and be self-managed, as a project manager, you need to make sure that responsibilities are clarified and defined from the very beginning.

This point goes back to having a proper plan. An insufficient project plan will not allow for team members to fully understand where the project is going or what is expected of them. This confusion will often lead to delays, completion failures, or inadequate work.

Possible solutions to this:

When starting a project and making a project plan make sure that all team members and members directly involved in the project are clued in.

Every member of the project that has some part to play should be told of what is expected of them. Their roles and responsibilities should clearly be outlined from the start.

Moreover, if there are certain ways a task is to be completed or a specific procedure that needs to be followed this should also be relayed to team members.

Allow for team members to have access to the project plan or project statement throughout the project so they can refer back to it whenever need be.

A project scope statement outlines the entirety of the project. Deliverables, features, and stakeholders are all mentioned in this document. As are major objectives and goals of the project that need to be met for the project to be deemed a success.

6. Unrealistic targets or deadlines

unrealistic targets

A major pitfall that project management suffers is when unrealistic targets or unrealistic deadlines are set.

A project is bound to be delayed or meet failure if you set it up for such. Starting a project at the end of a quarter is unreasonable, there are multiple other reporting deadlines and deliverables often due, and your project is started then just doesn’t make sense.

Not only are unrealistic deadlines detrimental to your project’s success, but they also kill the morale and confidence of your team members. This in turn will impact productivity.

Possible solutions to this:

Make sure you consider the time you are starting a project but also what you are expecting of your team. Do not set them up for failure by making deadlines such that they will be impossible for them to be able to meet.

Make sure in the planning phase of the project, you compare the timelines detailed in your project plan, with the deadlines you are proposing. If they do not match this is setting you up for issues to occur in your project from the start. Remedy this right away.

Adjust your resources, deadlines, or cut scope to allow you to either meet your current deadline or alter your deadline to fit your project plan. Moreover, set your stakeholders’ expectations correctly from the beginning.

7. Lack of risk management

lack of risk managment - project management pitfalls

Risks are part and parcel of anything you take on. And risks are ever prevalent in project management and are major project management pitfalls to be wary of.

Being unprepared or blindsided by risks is the real threat to your project, however. A lack of a contingency plan can lead your project to failure.

Possible solutions to this:

ensure that you work contingencies into your project from the start to avoid holds up in your project because you have to evaluate potential solutions.

Identify the most likely risks that are to occur and create alternative options to avoid them, if they do arise.

Prepare your team members and clue them in on the risk calculations you have made. This not only allows them to be prepared for if such situations are to occur but also gives them opportunities to bring up possible risks that you did not consider.

8. Unrealistic budgets

unrealistic budget - project management pitfalls

Often you may find you are asked to complete a project insufficiently funded. And this is a major factor that can cause your project to fail among common project management pitfalls.

Possible solutions to this:

You need to ensure you have sufficient resources available at hand to complete the project and make the project a success.

Ensure that you clearly define what your project needs and gain budget approval from the start of the project.

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9. Inadequate engagement from stakeholders

Stakeholders are just as important in the success of a project as you are, as the project manager, or your team.

Possible solutions to this:

Make sure that stakeholders are engaged in the project. Encourage communication and feedback from all stakeholders involved.

10. Lack of trust and delegation

delegating tasks

As we have reiterated multiple times, project management is a team effort. A major pitfall many projects face is project managers do not adequately delegate tasks to their teams, or lack trust in their teams.

For a project to be successful, you need to delegate but delegate effectively. You also need to make sure that you trust your team to be able to fulfill the responsibilities you give them.

Lack of delegation portrays to your team members a lack of trust. This in turn results in lower productivity and engagement from them as employees.

Possible solutions to this:

Know your team well. Have enough resources to get the tasks of your project done effectively and efficiently.

Knowing your team members allows you to delegate tasks to them that they will excel in, this not only will benefit the overall quality of your project but also will allow them to be motivated and boost their confidence.

Moreover, make sure that in delegating you are not dictating. Be a good leader and listen to your team members, consider their opinions too. Doing so will benefit you both and the project.


Any project you undertake will have issues, and these issues are not what determine the success of your project.

The way you get ahead of issues and handle these pitfalls is what will directly impact a project’s success.

Keep these common pitfalls in mind when conducting your next project and we assure you with the help of the tips mentioned you will be able to come up ahead and deliver your project with success.



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