Disadvantages of project management: Project Manager’s Evaluation
Managing projects is fantastic, yet, we do not talk much about the disadvantages project management and manager may face. I have been running projects for multiple years now and have seen the dark side as well. Let’s talk!
The most significant disadvantage of project management is having too many methodologies and being overly obsessed with them. Project management has many tools to execute projects, but not all are necessary. Using the project manager’s discretion and delivering result should be a key priority.
Now, we will go through multiple disadvantages project management may have. Also, you might be interested in becoming a project manager yourself. Thus, we will consider why project management might not be an easy job.
The goals of the article are not to detract you from the profession of project management in general. It is to inform you about complex parts to make you better prepared. So, let’s go!
What Are The Disadvantages of Project Management?
Project management is essential, but it comes with multiple challenges, which need to be considered when running or starting a project. We will look into numerous such project management disadvantages in more detail to help you be a better manager.
|Nr||Project Management Disadvantages||Risk To Initiative|
|1||High Project Cost||Medium|
|2||Overreliance on Methodology||High|
|3||Dealing With Multiple Stakeholders||Low|
|5||Overlapping Of Authority||High|
|7||Too Many Projects||High|
|8||No Competent Staff||High|
|10||Lack Of Creativity||Low|
|11||False Sense Of Safety With Planning||Medium|
|12||Complex Project Frameworks||Low|
|13||No Clear Structure In Organisation||High|
|14||Inherit Problem With Alignment||Medium|
1. High Project Management Cost As A Disadvantage
If you are interested in starting a project, you will need resources, like staff time, funding, equipment. It doesn’t mean you should not be doing the project just because of investment needs, but you need to recognise that all projects will need it.
One reason for investment is that the business may need the project to create a new product, which might just be essential. However, the project can also be unpredictable, and the cost could go much higher than expected without guaranteeing success.
Each project is usually looked after by the project manager, who usually is a mid to senior-level individual; thus, it would take some funds to hire them. Hiring a good project manager might be just the first significant step in multiple investments you will need to make in the initiative. The manager might need specialised software like JIRA, Confluence, Visio or Microsoft Project. The license cost could vary based on the agreement, but it will cost. Plus, you will need to train any participating staff member to use the tools.
Also, you will need staff like a designer, business analysts, data architects. If you are building a solution for the business, you will need to invest in training and allow staff to spend time learning about the new system. If a product is unique to the organisation, you might need to get subject matter experts (SMEs, consultants) outside the organisation. Those do not come cheap as you will need to pay their salary in full plus a margin for the company that provides them to you.
Finally, you will have stakeholders requesting additional features in the middle of the project. They hope that the project budget could cover new functionality in their area. Alternatively, they might need to get the funding themselves. So, the project might become a bucket where everyone throws in what they want. As you might know, the project has constraints, and new asks will impact them. Most likely cost.
Although some requests might be valid, often these are “Scope Creep”, which is effectively additional scope items that are not essential to deliver original asks. You should try avoiding them. Unfortunately, apart from “Scope Creep”, you cannot reduce cost except manage expectations and discuss resources.
If you would like to learn more about project constraints or budgets, check out my previous posts on these subjects:
2. Overreliance on Methodology and tools As Project Management Disadvantage
There are many tools available out there offered by frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, Prince 2, Waterfall, etc. They all have different tools and methods to achieve the same results: delivering projects on time, on budget and having high quality. On the one hand, it is great to have options, but we need to consider a few things.
First of all, the project manager should not attempt to execute all projects using the same methods. Say, if you have to build a new product and deliver to the market, which might have more uncertainty, you might want to go with Scrum. Scrum, which is looking to implement Agile methods, would be more suited to changing conditions.
If you like to learn more about Scrum, check out my post: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPRINT AND SCRUM?
And still, we know that it is so easy to stick with familiar ideas, tasks and tools. It is actually ironic that project managers promote and implement change but are sometimes afraid to change their methods. Either way, selecting the wrong approach for the type of project would result in none optimal execution. It does not necessarily mean that project will fail, but the cost or time might be higher.
When you have selected your framework and tools for the project, you might still hinder project progress if you try to stick to methods without considering the situation; thus, you would increase complexity and reduce flexibility in the process.
Ultimately, the goal is to get the project done. Thus, if you decide to use Waterfall and create highly detailed plans in the project that change a lot, you might spend way too much time updating the schedule instead of managing people who are doing the job. So, allow yourself to stray from the tools if they are not necessary.
It could also be that the project manager is feeling insecure and tends to micro-manage or afraid to lose control. Thus, he/she would be demanding to be part of every single tiny thing in the project. It might work with smaller projects, but more significant initiatives would cause delays. But that is not even the worst part of this. It will really annoy staff, who will feel no ownership of their work, which will cause stress to you and team members. Make your life simple and easy by finding the right balance for a project between control and freedom.
3. Dealing With Multiple Sponsors Or Stakeholders As Project Management Disadvantage
Project management is a lot about communicating with various impacted stakeholders. And for a given project, you, as a project manager, are at the centre of all communications. Trust me, not all stakeholders are the same, and some may require more hand-holding and additional time from yourself.
Still, managing stakeholders does not mean accepting every request they may have. It is about ensuring the right expectations and applying enough consideration. If you try to accommodate every stakeholder just to get their support, you might end up nowhere.
If you like to learn more about stakeholder management and how to prioritise those individuals, check out my post: HOW DO YOU EFFICIENTLY ACHIEVE GREAT STAKEHOLDER MANAGEMENT?
4. Communication Overhead As Project Management Disadvantage
Closely linked with stakeholder management (please, see before) is communication overhead. The project usually channels all communication through project managers as we have discussed before, which typically cause delay to distributing information on time. Sadly, you cannot avoid this central communication channel as the business might not fully define processes for multiple projects, and you do not want items left behind.
Plus, you are creating a team/minor department for the initiative when setting up the project. Therefore, the organisation is introducing an additional layer of structure and resulting communication overhead. If your team gets really large, you need to have good experience communicating with larger groups as one-on-one or stand-ups might not be enough.
5. Overlapping Of Authority In Project Management As Disadvantage
At the beginning of the project, the manager temporarily gains authority over business resources. The point of the authority is to allow the project manager to execute the project and provide deliverables aligned to business objectives.
However, it might be that the objectives set out are contradicting some other goals in the organisation or different departments. A log the way, conflicting goals might cause confusion and delays as well as difficult conversations.
In addition to confusion, the responsibility of achieving business objectives might be unclear. The project manager will be responsible for the project’s goals, which will achieve partially (or in full) business objective. However, the overall business’s objectives responsibility may not be fully defined, or it could be aligned with multiple individuals.
Thus, when things go south, we see some witch-hunting as people want to find that one person owning everything. In the process project manager could also get some heat. Therefore, it is essential to establish scope and responsibilities early in the project.
6. Business Understanding of the Project Manager’s role As A Disadvantage
Often you will have a project set out by the organisation to solve some business problem, install new software, buy new equipment. In the business as usual (BAU) world, if somebody gets responsibility, he/she is fully responsible for all the aspects of the work.
In the project, the project manager is responsible for the successful execution of the project, but it does not mean that the project manager or the team does all the tasks. In reality, you would need subject matter experts and senior stakeholders input in the project to make sure the right tools and software are installed and tested.
Yet, the business believes that they do not need to do anything if there is a project. The project manager will sort it out. If the project team requests business time, these can be met with resistance. Of course, the right level of communication and education could prevent the issue. However, sometimes, you can get stakeholders who are not interested in joining such discussions, and the project could fail.
If you like to learn more about stakeholder management, check out my post: HOW DO YOU EFFICIENTLY ACHIEVE GREAT STAKEHOLDER MANAGEMENT?
7. Too Many Projects Per Project Manager As A Disadvantage
An organisation is often running multiple projects at a time, and usually, you have a project manager running one of those projects. Of course, senior managers would like to save costs and let one project manager run everything. So when are there too many projects per project manager?
To answer the question, we need to ask how many hours do we have in the week. As different projects will demand various amounts of time.
Say, we have 40 in the week for one manager and three projects requiring the following hours, 5, 15, 20. We could say that such a project manager could take over all three, and the business would have that same assumption. However, we need to consider overlapping meetings, resources, late hours, issues, and similar things. Thus, after making these adjustments, we end up with only 30 productive hours a week, and 3 projects will be too many.
It also happens that business might allocate a senior manager to manage the remaining project on top of their usual responsibilities. Yet, the manager might not have project management training, and what works in a process-driven BAU world does not work in project management, and the project might fail.
So management should really consider if they need to execute all projects. If they do, they should hire professionals with the right experience. The alternative may cost even more due to wasted time, missed deadlines and failed project. If one project manager can align 10 people in the right direction, you have just improved productivity 10 fold.
8. No Competent Staff As A Project Management Disadvantage
It doesn’t matter how good is your plan, framework or how good you as a project manager; if you do not have people with the right experience to help, you will not go anywhere.
Yet, some businesses may assume that it is enough just to put the money on the table, name something a project and assign whoever is available. Unfortunately, the project will have more significant risks in every area of the delivery and could fail. The business and project manager need to ensure that the staff have the proper training or the right team is hired for the initiative.
9. Time Overhead As Project Management Disadvantage
Estimating the time of the project is notoriously tricky, even for an experienced project manager. While you might have created an outstanding project plan with significant considerations, but you will never be perfect, and delays are inevitable. Yet, the business might expect you to be.
When the project goes sideways, the project manager might push the team to get timelines on track, but it might cost over time, lower quality or higher costs.
The communication overhead is also an example of time overhead for the project manager. He/she will need to spend time to make sure everyone receives communication and can collaborate. If you worked as a project manager in the past, you would know that it take surprisingly more time to get everyone informed than you want.
Project managers should always include a 10-25% buffer for those unforeseen delays in the project. Thus, you would be saving some nerves for you, your business and a team.
10. Lack Of Creativity In Project Management As A Disadvantage
Creativity is a tricky thing in the execution of the project. Depending on the framework you will select, you might have more or fewer opportunities.
It is lovely to have creativity flourishing when you want to find new ways to work, solve a problem or create a new product. However, it could also backfire when you need to meet the deadlines and get everyone to move in one direction quickly. Therefore, often in projects, you might not see as much creative spirit as you might have expected going into the profession. Deadlines repeatedly press you.
The experienced project manager will know where the balance lies; thus, applying a strict deadlines approach or organising workshops and brainstorming sessions to get new ideas flowing.
11. False Sense Of Safety With All That Planning As Disadvantage
Traditional project management and theory teach you to create detailed plans to have a successful project. You might think that after you have spent hours planning, analysing and considering every single detail and creating a plan 100 pages long, you are set!
Life is complex, and sometimes, even if you have made the best plan in the world, it will not work out exactly as you have wanted. Thus, you might have just wasted hours preparing a plan that might not work instead of considering how to adapt to changing environments.
Plus, if you have a very detailed plan, you might think that you have considered everything; thus, you might relax and reduce your attention. Yet, it would be best if you still kept on being alert after creating an extended plan and keeping an eye on the ball. There are always unknowns that you have not covered, or the environment changes over time, which presents new risks.
So, what can you do about it? You can move one or two levels higher in your plan, reduce the detail view, and leave some flexibility for the future. Thus, you will easier adjust to changing situations, save time updating your detailed items, and save some nerves. I know how painful it is to see things not going strictly by the plan.
Plans are essential, but sometimes you need to be practical with your projects and find the right balance.
12. Apply Complex Project Frameworks For Small Changes As Disadvantage
Every single new endeavour could be a project. Say baking a cake. However, If you apply a complete project management framework, which takes weeks and countless documents to prepare, you will not be able to make a cake on the same day, would you?
The above example highlights an extreme situation, where for small projects implementing a complete framework could be counterproductive as you will spend more time planning and not actually doing anything. Some frameworks, like Kanban, have a much smaller set-up, but even those might be overkill for the small initiatives as you would still need to train staff on principles.
Thus, when you start a new project, you need to objectively consider the extent of the change, how many people are involved, and whether introducing a project management framework will help everyone be in line. Try not to introduce a project framework just because theory tells you so.
13. No Clear Structure In Organisation For Project Management As Disadvantage
It is not enough to just take a new initiative, hire a manager, drop it on the new manager’s desk, call it a project, and expect it to be successful. Sometimes, the organisation just do not have the right set-up for project management.
The business might not understand or appreciate what it takes and what the project manager is responsible for. In such a situation, the manager has to manage the project and educate the business on project management. It is not even an option; you need to educate because you would not get the right commitment, or the company will not do the project constructively.
In one extreme example, the business will likely think that the project manager will just do everything independently. Thus, it will not provide SMEs time support or will not collaborate to find the best solutions.
On the other extreme example, the business might do everything themselves without including the project manager, which means the project will not be in control. If one business area takes the responsibility, they are very likely to concentrate just on that area. If there are stakeholders outside this area, these might not be considered. The project manager would be the one to combine all stakeholders in one place and assess their needs.
Educating the business means running two projects in parallel, one actually completing the initiative and the second explaining the project structure, roles & responsibilities, explaining process steps, etc. So, if you are starting a project in an organisation at the early stages of setting up project management governance, take extra consideration.
14. Inherit Problem With Alignment In Project Management As Disadvantage
Sometimes organisations want to change very quickly and initiate multiple parallel projects simultaneously with different project managers running them and no centralised overarching management of the portfolio. Eventually, these project will start negatively impact the delivery of each other.
When moving fast with projects, the business needs to consider localised initiatives and the overall strategic picture and have programme management frameworks to align all the initiatives to broader business objectives.
Project Management Disadvantages Conclusion
It doesn’t matter how many disadvantages you will find for project management; you will still need it for your initiatives. Project management drive changes constructively with frameworks that create order from disorder in a changing environment. This particular idea is why I love project management in the first place. You feel like you have superpowers.
Still, you will need to hire professional staff who can create project governance, educate business, and keep change in control. You should look at this as an investment. The professional project management team will eventually deliver new opportunities and solutions on time, saving or even earning money in the process.
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