Common Mistakes in Project Management/Selection

Our previous class featured much discussion about project selection.  We studied the film prioritization case, choose 4 class projects and shared individual experiences.  So I was curious to learn what a few common mistakes are in selection a project.  Joni Seeber, a project management professional, authored a short article on project selection for the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management (  The article lists some key mistakes made. 

One common red flag listed is “lack of strategic fit with mission” and the article also discusses leveraging core competencies.  These points resonated with me after working with my group on our course project.  We came up with a great idea but became bogged down in trying to brainstorm additional ways to generate revenue.  Many of these ideas strayed from the stated mission.  Ultimately, one teammate suggested we focus on the core goal and not dilute our resources or become distracted with other ideas/projects.

Another stated mistake was “lack of stakeholder support.”  This is a big one.  In my career, I have worked on a couple process improvement projects aimed at improving ease-of-use and efficiency for users.  However, change can be very painful.  In one instance, the project was less successful because the users were not willing to spend additional time up front and reap the operational rewards later.  The next time we rolled out changes to this group of users, we spent a great deal of time of making the case to the users that the improvements were in their best interest.  Frankly, the case made to users was more thorough than the pitch to management who green lighted the project.

An interesting insight from this article is “studies show early termination of a troubled project can result in a 900% return on investment.”  This statement is fairly intuitive, but 900% is very surprising.  This highlights the important of checkpoints and status updates.  It can be difficult to kill a once-promising project, particularly with political implications.  Essentially, the most profitable decision you can make is not waste additional resources on a failing project.

4 thoughts on “Common Mistakes in Project Management/Selection

  1. Interesting article and great post. For the “lack of strategic fit with mission”, during the case article, a lot of the groups didn’t get the fact that one project film’s possible political implications contradicted the entry into a new market that the company was targeting. Imagine if that project were to be greenlighted, started, then scrapped mid-way.

    Which brings me to the insight you end the post on- 900%. I agree… that’s really high. But as you put it, not wasting additional resources- in the case of the film – it would be either scrapping the film closer to completion, scrapping the new market entry and all the previous work done on it before, or go through with all of it, and face lost revenues and possibly market entry failure.

  2. Most business process improvement projects that do not include user input into the design and change process fail. This mainly occurs on internal projects where improvements are assummed for the user base as opposed to taking the time to learn how the end users use the system or what changes would help improve efficiencies.

    With regards to the 900% ROI, I don’t see how a cancelled project can show such high level of returns. I’m sure they used specific criteria for this measurement which is broader than the project itself. I’d still want to see the evidence for such a large ROI though before accepting their findings.

  3. Thank you for posting and sharing this article. I found it very relevant to projects our organization currently evaluates for implementation and propose adding a 9th selection criterion called ‘Know Your Customer’s Needs’. Many of the projects we review involve launching a new product to fill a perceived market need or improving an existing product to stay ahead of the competition. In most cases, the projects are successful, but we have had a couple where the voice of the customer and market analysis was apparently not as extensive as it should have been and the demand for the new product never materialized. One might argue that this would fall under the first criteria, ‘Fold a Bad Hand’, but there was no indication that we would have a problem selling the new product until it was presented to the targeted customers and respective trade shows.

    Before taking on a project, a project manager may want to review what market research or customer need that the project is meeting and possibly implement an additional list of criteria specific to one’s business utilizing indicators gathered from lessons learned of unsucessful product launches in the past.

  4. Personally, the “lack of stakeholder support” issue resonates the most with me because of a project I am currently working on. The project will completely change how the Sales team forecasts, how financial forecasts are developed, and how production plans are developed. Rather than prepare the end-users beforehand, key stakeholders have been getting involved at the end of the project. I’m curious if others have experienced this same strategy since this is what I generally experience even though it leads to a period of time trying to convince the end-users that the project team has put significant thought into the solution and that the project will lead to positive, long-term results. Most projects I’ve worked on have had key players from each department, but the majority of end-users are not necessarily kept up to date on all of the project developments. For one reason, sometimes the end-users don’t fully understand the impact until the end of the project because they haven’t had to dedicate a lot of mindshare to it, and, for another reason, design decisions can shift significantly over the course of a project, which would cause confusion if you expected every end-user to keep up with each change. It seems it would be a better option to keep all of the key stakeholders fully engaged throughout the project, but I haven’t really experienced that in my career, yet. Has anyone else?

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