10 Common Challenges In Project Management

Challenges in Project Management

Managing a project is a bit like solving a Rubik's cube: you need to keep track of multiple elements while considering several different outcomes as well as duration. You're bound to encounter some obstacles along the way.

Some difficulties are also more common than others in projects, such as scope, budget, communication, and more. We present 10 of the most common challenges in project management below and tell you how to overcome them.

1. Expanding The Project's Scope

One of the biggest challenges and widespread in project management is that the requirements of a project change from what was originally agreed at the start of the project, or even that the scope of the project expands.

This occurs especially in software development, where additional features expand the functional scope of an app. But it is also not uncommon in the construction industry, where a customer makes unapproved changes to the original drawings of a building.

Changes to the project scope affect both the deliverables and the purpose of the project. The project team can certainly handle this, provided an increase in budget or project duration is possible.

How To Handle The Expansion Of The Project Scope.

To prevent the scope of the project from expanding later, take a proactive approach when planning the project. If possible, try to get all project stakeholders around the table to gather and consider all expectations before the project starts.

Otherwise, using an agile project management methodology like Scrum will allow your team to focus on specific goals while continuously reviewing priorities and plans. Due to short parts in the project, so called sprints, you keep the overview, but always remain flexible should adjustments become necessary.

With Merlin Project you can plan projects in a classic but also agile way. By simply changing the view, you can switch, for example, between the work breakdown structure and the Kanban board - this is hybrid project management.

Kanban Board in Merlin Project

2. Clear Goals and Objectives Are Missing

For a successful project completion, it is crucial that you are clear about what you need to do. It is therefore essential to define project goals.

Failure to set appropriate goals and objectives can lead to a whole host of problems, including poor resource and stakeholder management. Lack of goals and inadequate vision can lead to project failure.

Goals should be clearly stated and realistic. You should also be able to show the project team how each action will move them closer to the goal. This means you can measure the impact of the team and individual project members.

How To Set Clear Goals And Objectives

A popular approach to setting business goals is the S.M.A.R.T. method. S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym and stands for specific – measurable – achievable – reasonable – time bound.

S.M.A.R.T. goals

S.M.A.R.T. goals are designed to provide structure and orientation during a project. They clarify what you want to achieve. This method effectively supports your employees in setting goals that are aligned with the company's objectives.

3. Budget Constraints and Changes

As the scope of a project and requirements change, so does the budget. Project managers must plan their budgets accurately and ensure that projects stay within budget. Budget management can therefore be a major challenge.

If the marketing team needs more money than originally planned for online marketing to promote a new product, the campaign will need to stretch the available funds or request more funds.

How To Deal With Budget Constraints and Changes

Apply efficient cost management strategies to prevent exceeding the agreed budget. Consider all scope increase possibilities during the planning phase and plan additional budget for them to avoid cost overruns.

With budget management in Merlin Project, you define and manage the budget for individual tasks and your entire project. Additional costs can be easily requested, approved and thus recorded in a traceable manner. In this way, you always maintain an overview of the total project costs and the remaining total budget.

Budget Management in Merlin Project

4. Lack of Communication


Communication is a suitable instrument for resolving misunderstandings.
(Franz Schmidberger, German publicist)

Communication can make the difference between success and failure of a project. It is important that team members work well together, that tasks are distributed efficiently, and that stakeholders are kept informed about the progress of the project.

Discussions are often held verbally in project meetings, via e-mail or even text messages. Considerations and reasons for decisions get lost in the thicket of all the e-mails or messages. And when these are then commented on by others, the overview is usually completely lost.

How to deal with communication problems

If there is a problem with effective communication, address it head on. Whether it's by bringing people together to problem solve or by creating a project environment where constructive feedback is valued as a means of improvement.

Again, Merlin Project is a valuable tool here. Comment and discuss your project, every single task, all resources and every attachment directly in the project plan. The comment feature can simplify communication, collaboration but also documentation in the project for the project team. Comments and annotations on the project are right where you need them, in the project file.

Comments and annotations in Merlin Project

5. Conflicts In The Team

Another important challenge in project management is the lack of strategic direction and leadership. Lack of leadership is often a cause of conflict in projects. In addition, miscommunication and misunderstandings within the team are a major obstacle.

Team conflicts are caused by a lack of shared vision, miscommunication but also animosities and lead to confusion and frustration.

How To Deal With Team Conflicts

You need to address conflicts in the team and in no way ignore or downplay them. Try to find out the root cause of the problem and get it under control.

Provide your team with clarity and cohesion to manage conflicts effectively. In some cases, it is advisable to pull the team out of the daily project routine and bring them closer together again with team building measures and only then approach conflict resolution.

6. Unbalanced Team Skills

As a project manager, you want to create a good, productive work environment for your team. Such an environment is created when tasks are assigned to team members with the right skills. If the wrong assignments are made, the project will inevitably become inefficient, which can lead to failure.

Experience teaches you which skills are needed for which tasks. You also need to know your team well so you can understand and leverage their skills and motivation.

How To Deal With Inappropriate Team Skills

Constantly check if each team member is effectively assigned according to their skills and workload.

Thanks to the assignment view, Merlin Project provides the workload values for each team member for each day. In the time phase diagram you can see how the work is distributed among the team members. You can easily react to unforeseen developments in your resource planning if necessary.

Assignment View in Merlin Project

7. Lack of Accountability

Every member of your team is accountable for their decisions and actions. This accountability is not about blaming someone when things go wrong. It's about the project team completing tasks the way they want to, without controlling every step.

Accountability in the workplace is associated with higher work engagement and better performance. Lack of accountability or even micromanagement in the workplace, on the other hand, can lead to carelessness a missing commitment to the project goal.

How to strengthen the sense of responsibility

Make sure it's clear from the start who is responsible for what. Setting goals and objectives helps ensure that everyone is clear about their responsibilities.

Sharing a common view of the project's progress, including team tasks, can help increase individual accountability. It also gives team members the opportunity to discuss challenges and ask for support when necessary.

Merlin Project provides a model for monitoring project progress and associated costs with the earned value analysis. The planned and the real values are compared. This means that everyone involved in the project always has an overview of where the project currently stands.

8. Deadlines Impossible To Meet


The more ridiculous the deadline, the more faithful the attempt to meet it.
(Management wisdom)

Unrealistic deadlines are a classic way of making too many promises.

Actually, you know your team's strengths and weaknesses and what they can accomplish within a certain time frame. Still, you may be tempted to set unrealistic deadlines just to win the project.

However, such a project will frustrate you and your team, severely affect the work results and ultimately damage your reputation.

How to deal with unrealistic deadlines

Prevent unrealistic deadlines already in the planning phase! Negotiate achievable deadlines based on your team's strengths and weaknesses without rushing the work.

To set a feasible deadline, divide the project into small tasks and give each task enough time. Always plan some buffer for the unforeseen. Base each estimate on your experience with similar, previously completed projects.

A good project management software like Merlin Project will help you plan the project and set realistic deadlines.

9. Poor Risk Management


Risk management is project management for adults!
(Quote from the book Waltzing With Bears by Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister)

Risk management in projects is about proactively identifying potential, future problems and understanding their consequences, which enables forward-looking decisions about projects.

Risks must be assessed and managed throughout the life of the project. Still, of course, you are not a clairvoyant, and no matter how well you plan, some risks will always occur.

How you deal with risks

Mitigate the impact of these troublesome issues by identifying "what if" scenarios and putting contingency plans in place. Make sure your team can adapt should things get out of control.

Merlin Project helps you manage risk. The software has its own "Risk" attachment element. You can attach a risk to any task, assignment or resource. Evaluate the risk of it occurring and think about a possible solution ahead of time. By doing this upfront, you and your team can react quickly when the risk occurs to mitigate the impact on the overall project.

Risk Management in Merlin Project

10. Finding the right project management solution

There are different approaches to manage projects. This goes from a loose-leaf collection, to an Excel spreadsheet to a professional project management solution.

With Merlin Project, you have everything from a mind map to a Kanban board to a complex Gantt chart including reporting, resource planning and risk management combined in one software. This makes it easy to master the project management challenges described above. You can test the software for Mac and iPad 30 days for free.


Unforeseen problems can cost you time and money in the form of wasted budget, frustrated performers, and unpleasant conversations with management when projects are not completed on time. Address the issues in a timely manner, overcome project management challenges, and lead your project to success.

Posted by Stefanie Blome on September 8th, 2021 under Project Management
Tags: challenges goals budget risks

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