project manager presenting to group

Looking to engage a project manager to help guide your project from kickoff to completion? Keep an eye out for these common project management pitfalls to make sure you’re engaging the right person for you, and setting you both up for success every step of the way.

1. Engaging a PM without the relevant experience you need.

You want someone who’s a good match for your project on a few different levels. You might consider your project’s key attributes—your specific industry, the scale and complexity of the project, and the type of project—then look for someone with experience to match.

For example, if you’re creating a mobile app for an upholstery company that lets customers preview fabric swatches on items in their home, you might search for a project manager with experience with augmented reality and mobile development, customer-facing products, and the design and tech industries as a whole.

Bear in mind that where you’re going to benefit most is in what they bring to the table in terms of results with projects of a similar scope and complexity as yours. Check out this guide to writing a project management job description to make sure you cover all your bases.

2. Being vague about what you need in your brief.

Every effective engagement starts with a solid brief, not only to help the candidate gauge if they’re a good fit but to adequately convey your goals and provide context that will help them and the team succeed. State your objectives and define your requirements, but also mention whether they’ll need to be familiar with any compliance or regulatory matters particular to your business.

Having clear goals and objectives from the start will help prevent delays, cost overruns, and frustration within the team.

3. Only looking at a candidate’s on-paper qualities—not valuable interpersonal skills like team leadership and good communication.

Don’t ignore the importance of interpersonal skills (or “soft skills”) for only operational skills. Because most of a project manager’s time is spent communicating with others, it’s important they’re able to do so effectively. Your PM’s ability to negotiate and motivate can also be central to your team’s success.

Look for someone who complements your goals and leadership personality. If you’re apt to brainstorm ideas post-kickoff, a good project manager can both reel you in and also implement any new direction you might offer without things getting too far off track.

4. Avoiding a project management methodology to guide your process.

You don’t need micromanagement tactics, but in most cases, it’s best not to wing it. Whether it’s Agile or Waterfall, a methodology can give you a framework to keep your goals on track and ensure the team’s on the same page.

5. Not implementing tools and apps to help facilitate your process.

Be sure to have the right combination of tools to help you monitor and control project processes from anywhere. The best app for you will have the features your team needs, like brainstorming tools to let team members vote on ideas, task cards with drag and drop functionality, time zone scheduling, or a central newsfeed to see who’s handling what. For help picking the right tool for you, read The 9 Best Apps for Project Managers.

6. Not breaking down large, complex projects into smaller projects.

Biting off more than a team can chew is one of the quickest ways to run into unanticipated burnout and derail your timeline. Take a page from the Agile playbook and divide projects up into smaller chunks to keep things moving and prevent scope creep.

This calls for a project manager with creativity and excellent delegation skills. In How High-Performance Companies Are Breaking Critical Work Down into Projects, Brenda Do writes, “One of the advantages of a project-based approach is that you don’t need to pull all your talent together at the same time. You can break large projects down into smaller components, then pull in the talent you need, at the point of the project when you need them.”

7. Failing to establish clear lines of communication and authority before kicking off.

For a team to be a well-oiled machine with a project manager at the helm, it’s important for everyone to understand their roles and know whom to go to when issues arise. This gives the project manager a direct line to the people and additional resources they need to keep a project moving.

Say a developer runs into issues accessing data from another team. If the project manager has access to a lead in the engineering department, they’ll be able to remove that roadblock quicker and keep the project moving.

8. Not anticipating risks, delays, and scope creep in advance.

Changes in scope are common in any project—but they don’t have to derail timelines or budgets if you’re prepared for them. Consider what roadblocks might arise and create a procedure to address them, while considering how those requests might impact things so you can adjust accordingly.