Top Project Management Challenges (2006)

“Lack of Clarity in the Scope of the Project” continues to be the top challenge facing organizations in managing projects, according to a 2006 Survey of Project Managers, conducted by Business Improvement Architects. This issue was mentioned by 64% of respondents.and continues to be the top challenge facing organizations in managing projects.

Since the survey was first conducted in 2002, Lack of Clarity in the Scope of the Project has consistently been identified as the most challenging issue and its’ relative importance has risen. Other top challenges from the 2006 bia™ research were: “Project Changes Not Well Managed” (43% of respondents) and “Shifting Organizational Priorities” (36%), “Lack of Project Management Skills” (36%) and “Loss of Control Due To Lack of Detail in Project Plan” (36%).

So, why is there a lack of clarity in the scope of the project? According to Michael Stanleigh, President of Business Improvement Architects, the reason is poor planning process. “We coach many projects in crisis every year. During the initial auditing phase of the project, we ask to review how the project was scoped out. Invariably, we receive piles of documents, files, etcetera, yet there is often nothing that succinctly identifies the scope of the project.”

According to Mr. Stanleigh, to bring these projects back on track, the project team must go back and define the scope of their project as well as gain a clear understanding of the stakeholders’ needs. “By defining scope through the planning process there becomes greater control and the need for project change is minimized. This further reduces the likelihood of risk.”

“Once developed by the project team, the Scope Statement is reviewed and approved by the Sponsor. Then clarity on the scope of the project is obtained. As the project progresses, one may find that the scope of the project has changed. To address this it is important to apply the Change Management Process. Requests for change are added as an addendum to the Scope Statement. However, the Scope Statement itself is not re-written.”

Project success is measured by the ability to have achieved all the requirements as outlined in the Scope Statement, with all approved Project Change Requests.

Our research with project managers also identified “Advanced PM Skills Training” (57% of respondents) as something that would benefit them most to improve their ability to manage a project. As well they said they would benefit from “Communication Skills” (50%) and “Project Mentoring/Coaching Skills” (43%). These knowledge areas have increased in importance over previous years.

The research also showed the following major issues increasing in importance over prior years that are facing organizations when managing projects:

  • Project risk not assessed or managed
  • Project does not include stakeholder needs
  • Project not linked to organizational goals
  • Conflict among project team members

Other issues addressed that are facing organizations when managing projects:

  • Business not taking ownership
  • Resource management

What does all this mean? Organizations may well be in crisis with respect to how projects are being managed. Many of the specific factors contributing to this crisis are clarified in this Project Manager research study. Overall, there is a need for organizations to link their projects back to their corporate strategies and to train advanced project management skills to increase the likelihood that projects will survive shifting organizational priorities.

Michael Stanleigh

Michael Stanleigh, CMC, CSP, CSM is the CEO of Business Improvement Architects. He works with leaders and their teams around the world to improve organizational performance by helping them to define their strategic direction, increase leadership performance, create cultures that drive innovation and improve project and quality management. Michael’s experience spans public and private sector organizations in over 20 different countries. He also delivers presentations to businesses and conferences throughout the world. In addition to his consulting practice and global speaking he has been featured and published in over 500 different magazines and industry publications.

For more information about this article you may contact Michael Stanleigh at