PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES – Project Planning Lessons Learned (Part 7)

Planning the project properly, documenting the plan professionally and then implementing the plan successfully are likely the sources of most project success and failure outcomes.  Learning from the experiences of others is an effective method for skill set development.  Many organizations that use project management on an ongoing basis close out projects with a compilation of “lessons learned.”  These firms have found value in studying the issues that have emerged in the past.

As part of the planning process, a review of relevant lessons learned can be instructive as well as a “sanity check” or completeness evaluation regarding the adequacy and comprehensive nature of your Project Management Plan.

This post continues the focus on issues in planning and problems that have their source or root cause in planning.

This post is the seventh in a series of discussions regarding current challenges being encountered in today’s project management.  More specifically, we have titled the series PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES, since we intend to focus heavily on the managerial aspects of program / project management.  This post addresses the Project Plan Lessons Learned.

Sources that are used in this post are found in LinkedIn.

As discussed in Part 6 of this series, the use of team and stakeholder workshops can be an effective mechanism for achieving a well-developed Project Management Plan.  Start with the fundamentals and process.  Incorporate project initiation documentation.  Use lessons learned on similar projects.  Emphasize team participation.

The use of team and stakeholder workshops can be an effective mechanism for aligning, selling and implementing the Project Management Plan.  Obtain an audience with all stakeholders.  Start with the Project Sponsor.  Sell the Project Management Plan in detail.  Use the workshop to probe for disagreement or lack of support.  Obtain buy-in for the plan.

One source of identification of challenges is industry discussions.  LinkedIn hosts Groups with widespread and diverse interests.  One such Group is Project Management Link – (membership required for access).

As previously posted, within this Group, there has been a very active discussion regarding this topic.  The discussion was initiated by Trevor K. Nelson, PMP, IPMA-C on January 15, 2010, and has 1,700+ comments.  Here is the discussion question:

“What is the Single Biggest Problem Facing Project Management?”

As stated earlier, we will use some of the 1,700+ comments as points of departure for comments and discussion in this series.  In our next post, we will include some of the typical comments that pertain to the Planning Process.

The first issue that will be unpacked is that of authority, roles, responsibilities, duties, and other related assignments.  As a starting point, here are some relevant LinkedIn comments.  The first is offered by Luca Porzio, PMP, CAPM:

“From my experience the biggest problem of Project Management is….simply stated, not understanding and applying the basic principles of Project Management.
It may seem obvious, but especially in complex projects the lack of definition of clear and well-defined objectives, the unclear assignment of responsibilities (especially for critical activities and deliverables) and the lack of clear, effective communication will quickly bring the project out of control and pose a number of very complex problems.

Basic principles may seem very simple at first sight, but their implementation goes a long way towards projects success.”

Along the same line of commentary, the following is offered by Karen Spencer:

“Agreed… Business Analysts suffer the same prejudices as Project Managers, and perhaps more, being expected to have not only business SME as well as technical skills such, but also be qualified as QA engineers.

I think one of the real issues is defining the roles & responsibilities (aka boundaries & authority), and by that I don’t mean just creating a list with everything on it like one a child might send to Santa. Almost need a basic glossary that defines PROJECT MANAGEMENT, PRODUCT MANAGEMENT and SOFTWARE MANAGEMENT so that they fit together closely, with only the overlap required to function smoothly.

People want their staff to be Magicians. We can make magic, definitely, but it takes a lot of moving parts and a skilled behind the scenes Team, not just the PMP, CSM or BA.”

Similarly, we have the following from George Williams:

“In my opinion as a PM with over 12 years of PM experience, I see it as the PM getting all or most of the Responsibility for project success, but little or no Authority to control resources on these projects. “

The “take away” or lesson learned seems to be that these issues need to be thoroughly identified, evaluated, resolved and documented during the planning process.  Using plan development process as well as the Project Management Plan [or Project Execution Plan, Project Plan] to align all stakeholders and to sell the plan is an effective means for dealing with this lesson learned.  Experience has shown (please see above comments) that proceeding into project execution without clear and meaningful resolution of these matters is very risky.  Take the time to complete the planning and Project Management Plan.

In subsequent posts, we will address additional issues or problems often encountered in Project Planning.  The notion here is that lessons learned from problems that have their roots in planning and Project Management Plan use are potentially helpful in improving the work of the project team.

Good luck in avoiding these and other project planning pitfalls.  Let us all attempt to approach the practice or managerial challenge of project management with all knowledge, tools and lessons learned that are available.  Setting a solid foundation in the issues as well as the process is essential and has long term (project duration) benefits.  Happy reading and good luck in your project management challenges and endeavors…


It is important to note that McLaughlin and McLaughlin [M&M] is not a law firm and is not intending to provide legal advice.  M&M is a consulting firm providing (among other services) non-legal expertise in dispute resolution and litigation support.  The Resource Center is for the convenience of blog visitors and M&M does not offer this for commercial purposes.  For further information on M&M services, please see