What’s the #2, #3, and #4 biggest challenges project managers face?

You already know that the biggest pain point for PMs is stakeholder management. What comes after?

In my survey of project managers, the #2 biggest pain point was mentioned by one in two respondents. It is resource management, and it sounds like:
• it’s hard to get resources for projects; we’re always competing for resources because there is no good prioritization process.
• no good process to onboard project team members.
• not much control over internal and external resources in a loose matrix organization.
• we don’t have the right people on the projects. Availability is an issue. We try to stretch people across projects instead of resourcing appropriately.
• key resource availability is an issue, especially on the critical path.
• lack of resources. Team members can drop off suddenly, reducing capacity.

The #3 most common problem faced by project managers is communications. PMs complained about:
• lack of consistent communications; team members suddenly go dark and stop communicating.
• slow responses. It could take a long time to get a response, resulting in delays.
• lost playing phone tag.
• no single source of truth to converge decisions in one spot. This is a major lack.
• not communicating the importance and the impact of decisions.
• communications is the core of any dysfunction.
• ineffective communication.

The #4 most common challenge project managers have is during project initiation:
• lack of clarity and agreement on scope
• fighting fires from day one due to inherent problematic design of the project
• taking overly a poorly designed project
• trying to correct problems in the project itself while managing people who are inexperienced
• not enough due diligence in the front end of the project during discovery leads to lots of changes and rework as the project progresses
• business folk need to have done their homework so that PMs have a solid business case
• lack of clarity and alignment around scope at the start because PMs are not involved in sales

While there are a multitude of painful problems project managers face, these are merely symptoms. If you analyze them, they come from a few root causes. So the answer is not to deal with the effects but to treat the causes. A lot of these challenges can actually be prevented or reduced during project initiation. This is like a doctor prescribing preventive medicine for proactive problem prevention.

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