12 Project Management Challenges and How To Solve Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 20, 2022

Published May 25, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A project is successful if it meets all of the agreed requirements, it gets finished on time and its expenses are within budget. As a team strives to complete a project, it's likely to encounter various challenges that may hinder the realization of these success parameters. As a project manager, you're the one responsible for foreseeing potential obstacles, devising contingency plans and executing solutions to overcome any difficulties that arise.

In this article, we examine 12 common challenges you may encounter in the life span of a project and offer tips you can apply to resolve each one.

12 common project management challenges

Project management is a multifaceted process that encompasses multiple phases—initiation, planning, execution, closure and monitoring. Challenges may arise at any point in the process, and finding solutions to such problems is one of the primary roles of the project manager. Here, consider 12 common project management challenges and what you can do to help resolve each of them:

1. Scope creep

Scope creep occurs when a project's scope grows beyond its original definition or goals. It typically happens when stakeholders ask for changes to the project. Any alteration to a project's plan can cause confusion, increase the cost of resources and make it difficult to meet deadlines.

If you can avoid scope creep, you can improve your chances of completing a project on time and within budget. To prevent or manage scope creep, consider the following strategies:

  • Clearly define project requirements and goals.

  • Create a schedule that includes every step of the process.

  • Involve clients or stakeholders in project planning.

  • Use tools such as Gantt charts to plan and track projects.

  • Communicate to stakeholders how scope changes might affect deadlines and budgets.

  • Refuse project changes that might cause delays or unreasonable costs.

Related: What Is Project Scope Management? (And Why It’s Important)

2. Poor communication

Strong communication is one of the keys to completing a project successfully. With well-developed written and verbal communication skills, a project manager can effectively give instructions, gather information and update stakeholders. Otherwise, their team can become confused, leading to delays.

Improve communication between all of the parties involved in a project by:

  • Using collaborative tools and project management software to update team members

  • Giving frequent feedback concerning employee performance

  • Developing a communication plan and status report schedule for stakeholders

  • Doing team-building activities to improve relationships and communication between team members

  • Being transparent about project progress

Keep in mind that it may be necessary to adjust your communication methods to accommodate different communication styles

Related: The Importance of Communication in Project Management

3. Unclear goals

Projects can be successful only if the team has well-defined and measurable goals to work toward. Ideally, every member of the team is aware of each project objective and the stakeholders' exact expectations concerning each. Otherwise, they may spend undue time and resources trying to accomplish something that doesn't provide the desired value.

Devise and communicate clear project goals by:

  • Using the SMART method to set goals

  • Determining the project's specifications, including the timeline, before implementation

  • Meeting with your team to define and discuss the goals

  • Using project planning software to specify goals and each team member's role in achieving them

  • Identifying ways to monitor progress, such as with milestones

Related: 12 Tips for Creating Smart Goals

4. Poor budgeting

Smart financial planning and skillful cost management are essential for ensuring that you use funding appropriately. In contrast, poor budgeting may result in undesirable outcomes. Without a strong handle on money matters, you may find your team facing cost overruns, which is likely to displease the stakeholders and prevent the successful completion of the project.

Take these steps to avoid budgeting issues:

  • Plan your budget ahead of time, using realistic estimates.

  • Review similar projects to compare their budgets to yours.

  • Get advice from experts, such as software developers or quality assurance specialists, who are familiar with cost and time estimates for your type of project.

  • Reassign resources or change suppliers, services or vendors as needed.

Related: Causes of Cost Overrun (With Definition and 5 Ways To Prevent It)

5. Skill gaps

You may find that the skill levels of some of your team members aren't enough to satisfy the required competencies to realize project goals. This situation is known as a skill gap. If someone is incapable of performing the duties of their role, then you can expect a corresponding gap between your project goals and project outcomes.

Ensure your team members have adequate skills for your project by:

  • Creating a list of the skills or knowledge a project requires

  • Assessing current employee skills and providing training as needed

  • Assigning employees to project tasks based on their strengths and experience

  • Outsourcing or hiring additional staff to complete specialized tasks

Related: 20 Essential Skills Every Project Manager Should Have

6. Insufficient risk analysis

Risk analysis is the process of predicting the potential factors that may arise that can jeopardize the success of a project. It's a vital part of the project life cycle, but the process itself is susceptible to certain risks. Rushing the analysis, for example, can lead to oversights that fail to foresee major obstacles. This, in turn, can result in flaws in the project plan, financial issues or unknown variables.

Improve your risk analysis by:

  • Researching the possible issues a project or the team might encounter during every stage of the project

  • Developing control measures to prevent potential risks

  • Creating replacement plans you can use if the project changes

  • Knowing what resources you have to minimize or control risks

Related: A Guide to Risk Analysis in Project Management

7. Lack of accountability

Accountability means taking ownership of actions and their outcomes, particularly when it comes to mistakes. Thus, an accountable person is willing to face the consequences of what they've done and make every effort to resolve the subsequent issues that have arisen. When leaders and team members lack accountability, they can impede progress in a couple of ways. One is by damaging the morale of the team, which may absorb the consequences of a particular person's mistakes. The other is by slowing productivity when project resources channel into the effort to identify the cause of a problem.

Improve your team's accountability on a project by:

  • Assigning every team member clear tasks

  • Establishing a common goal and helping your team work toward it

  • Building accountability into the project's workflow so team members understand their roles and responsibilities

  • Leading by example so that your team members understand it's acceptable to make mistakes as long as they take responsibility for them

  • Building trust between the members of the team so everyone feels comfortable being honest with one another

Related: Responsibility vs. Accountability: What's the Difference?

8. Stakeholder disengagement

Stakeholder engagement is the process by which a project's stakeholders—those who have a vested interest in the project, such as the client—collaborate and communicate with the team.

The involvement of the stakeholders is important because they can provide input that guides the project toward the best possible outcome. Several of the other challenges that projects face, such as unclear goals and insufficient risk analysis, arise when the stakeholders aren't sufficiently engaged.

Follow these steps to ensure stakeholder engagement:

  • Involve stakeholders in the project planning process.

  • Communicate with stakeholders frequently, and give them regular project updates.

  • Directly ask clients for their feedback on every project phase.

9. Unrealistic deadlines

An unrealistic deadline is a project due date that is impossible or unreasonable to meet given the specifications and requirements. When a team faces unrealistic deadlines, they find themselves forced to condense their activities in such a way that compromises the quality of their work. As a result, the finished state of the project is likely to fall short of client expectations.

Make sure you set realistic deadlines by:

  • Prioritizing tasks

  • Building extra time into your deadline to account for potential obstacles

  • Finalizing deadlines with relevant team members

  • Discussing deadline concerns with stakeholders before starting the project

  • Using a project calendar to plan and manage schedules and deadlines

Related: 6 Steps To Estimate Time for Tasks More Accurately

10. Technological shortcomings

Nowadays, project management software is essential for planning, organizing and managing project progress. It's not uncommon for project teams to encounter issues with the software and other tech tools they've chosen to help manage the project life cycle. Being forced to use insufficient technology, they may encounter delays arising from frustration, slowed communication and the additional learning required to devise workarounds.

Avoid or address technological shortcomings by choosing an effective program that meets specific needs, such as:

  • Tracking time

  • Functionality on multiple devices

  • Customization

  • Integration with existing tools and software

  • Team communication channels

  • Scheduling

  • Searchability

  • Notifications

  • Easy to use

Prioritize the features you value most, and find a project management program that not only includes those features but also fits your budget.

Related: The 24 Best Free Project Management Software Tools for 2022

11. Scheduling conflicts

A scheduling conflict is a situation in which two or more priorities compete for your time and attention. If your team or company is working on multiple projects at once, you might experience scheduling conflicts. As a result, one or several projects may face delays and difficulties concerning resource allocation. 

Share project resources effectively and keep your project on schedule by:

  • Coordinating your project schedule and needs with other project managers

  • Checking team members' vacation and time-off schedules to avoid unexpected absences

  • Using an online calendar planner to organize multiple projects and their resources simultaneously

12. Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a condition in which stakeholders, including the members of the team, are unsure about any aspect of the project on which they're working. They may feel unconfident about the team's ability to meet goals, the potential impact of the project when completed or the use of resources associated with the project. When uncertainty arises, it can affect the morale of everyone involved, which can lead to poor project outcomes.

Reduce uncertainty by monitoring progress and tracking metrics, such as:

  • Burn rate, or how quickly you are spending your budgeted resources

  • Estimated hours and costs versus actual hours and costs

  • Employee workload to ensure each team member has a balanced number of tasks


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