3 top reasons for project misunderstandings


Brad Egeland

October 1, 2015

Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted a status update that was funny, but made me think. She said that, “Often, misunderstandings arise for one of three reasons: not enough love, not enough sleep, or not enough chocolate.” While chocolate does solve a lot of issues – at least short-term issues – for many people, so does coffee…so I think you could insert the dark beverage in there and make it work just as well.

As for project management, I’m not so sure project misunderstandings come from not enough love….maybe not enough sleep, but love? No. I like my teams and my project customers, but no love gained or lost thankfully. I would like to present what I consider to be three top reasons for project misunderstandings. Please be thinking about your own personal three and be ready to comment and discuss…

1. The project manager is a poor communicator. I’ve always said that project communication is Job One for the project manager. If the project leader is a poor communicator, then the project team, customer and other key stakeholders are very likely to experience some misunderstandings. Minor misunderstandings are easily correctible – like who is assigned to a particular task or what time the next project meeting will be. Major misunderstandings can be catastrophic – like finding out your tech lead is going on vacation during a critical milestone date when you thought they were going on vacation next month. Yes, that happened to me. Communication is talking and listening. I obviously missed something somewhere.

2. Meetings are not happening regularly. When meetings become irregular, communication can become disjointed and you end up with not having everyone on the same page at the same time. Even if very little is happening on the project, still have a 10-minute meeting. It keeps the cohesiveness of the team going and ensures that no small amounts of information fall through the cracks.

3. Requirements have been ill-defined. Requirements are the lifeblood of the project. They are the basis for all the work you do. If requirements aren’t correct, then the solution won’t be correct, the end users won’t be happy, the project sponsor will be dissatisfied and you’ll be at fault – no matter who is really at fault. Get requirements documented correctly, accurately, in detail and signed off and approved by the project customer BEFORE starting project design and development work.

Re-work is extremely costly in many ways and eats up very valuable project schedule time in the process. Avoid this at all cost. Signed off requirements can still be changed – via a change order that provides the project with more revenue and time…meaning you won’t miss the overall project schedule and budget and it won’t be your fault as the project manager. Requirements are critical – make sure your project gets started on the right foot with good, detailed and accurate requirements.

Summary / call for input

This list could probably be never-ending as reasons and results of project misunderstandings are happening all the time and sometimes because of things we can control, and sometimes due to things that aren’t within our control. These just happen to be my top three – in no particular order.

What’s your three? Have you experienced any project misunderstandings or miscommunications that caused significant issues with the forward progress on your project.


This article was written by Brad Egeland from CIO and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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