A project manager standing in front of an open door with a brick wall behind it, scratching his head in confusion, representing an obstacle on his project.At times it can seem as though your projects lurch from one problem to another. This can be a disheartening feeling but you shouldn’t let it get you down, as everyone goes through this when they take up a project management role.

Of course, it will help if you have a clear idea of what the main obstacles are, so here are the top 10 to look out for.

The Stakeholders

The stakeholders should actually be a big help in getting the project through to a successful conclusion but this isn’t always the case. If things start off badly between the project team and the stakeholders it can be a serious risk to the outcome of the entire piece of work.

The Project Team

Equally, the project team is there to help the project manager but it doesn’t always work out that way. As with any people-related issue there are many different things which could go wrong here. For example, they could lack the skills needed for the work or they could simply be lacking in the energy and drive you need. It is preferable that you find out about any possible challenges in this respect as soon as possible.

Resistance to Change

As a project manager you will be used to dealing with change but not everyone you come into contact with will be so comfortable with the idea. I remember working on a project where the new seating arrangements of the staff was one of the most minor points. However, it turned out that many of them were terrified of the idea of sitting next to someone different after having spent years in their current seats.

Scope Creep

This is a classic project risk but you shouldn’t ignore it simply because it sounds so familiar. There is a very good reason why it is spoken about so much and you can be sure that it will creep up on you if you give it half a chance.

Lack of Resources

Resources have a nasty habit of disappearing into thin air when you most need them. This is something you will need to keep a very close eye on as the project progresses in order to avoid suddenly finding yourself without the computers or the people you need. Staff who are on temporary assignment to the project from their business area are especially susceptible to being called back at short notice.

Unclear Responsibilities

The project manager should certainly be clear about what their responsibilities are but is everyone else as clear on the matter as you are? You certainly don’t want to find yourself hampered by not having the authority you thought you had.

A Poor Plan

The project plan is probably the single most important piece of documentation in the entire piece of work. Without a well thought out plan there is no doubt that you will run into problems at some point. It needs to clearly defined at the start of the project and then updated as the work progresses.

A Lack of Communication

Good communication is vital if you want to ensure that the work goes smoothly and that everyone knows where you stand. The communication strategy you are going to use is best worked out at the start and then it is just a question of sticking to it.

Changing Objectives

One thing which can derail any project is the issue of moveable objectives. They need to be nailed down early on in order for them to work. If you are asked to work on one thing and then it changes to something completely different then it is highly unlikely that you will be successful. This is why you need to be sure of two things; that the initial project plan and documentation is complete and that the change control process is robust.

The Project Manager

Finally, we need to be sure that we don’t start believing that everyone else is the problem and that only the project manager is above blame or reproach. As the central person in the project the person who leads it has a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. If you carry out your job to the highest possible standard then things should go well but if you let those standards drop then the quality of the whole project is likely to be in danger. You should always remember how important your role is to the piece of work which you are working on.

How about you? Have you experienced these obstacles on your projects too? Are there any that I missed? Please leave your comments below!