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9 ways to increase efficiency in project management: A guide for leaders
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9 ways to increase efficiency in project management: A guide for leaders

Discover how you can increase efficiency in project management—and get closer to achieving company, client, and employee goals.

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Launched in 1993, the Global Positioning System (GPS) was the result of decades of research and collaboration between various organizations and scientists.* Strong project management was necessary to develop it, and GPS itself serves as a nice metaphor for project management. 

Like a GPS, project managers provide a clear roadmap and guide their project team through various routes (aka tasks and milestones) to reach their final destination (project completion).

No matter what your start and end points are, you need to know how to increase efficiency in project management along the way, similar to how a GPS helps you navigate around traffic. This is because smooth running projects make for an easier ride, happier teams and clients, and better results. 

It’s easy to fall into bad habits that limit efficiency, though. This is why leaders need to understand the common mistakes that can hamper project efficiency and guide their teams to do things differently. 

In this article, you'll learn what efficient project management looks like, common mistakes to avoid, and what to do instead. We'll also show you how an online workspace like Switchboard can help you increase productivity and make teamwork the best part of project work.  

Want a better way to manage your projects? 
Switchboard’s persistent rooms keep projects organized in one place and let you work together side-by-side in real time or async. 
Learn more

What does efficiency mean in project management? 

Efficiency in project management is about completing project tasks and delivering on objectives in the most productive and cost-effective manner possible. The project manager’s goal is to make sure everyone gets the job done on time and to a high standard without burning out or going over budget. 

Here are some other key aspects of efficiency in project management: 

  • Time management
  • Task prioritization
  • Keeping to timelines and scope
  • Resource management
  • Quality assurance
  • Adaptability
  • Stakeholder satisfaction
  • Continuous improvement

Now you know what efficiency means in project management, let’s take a look at how to avoid some common mistakes that can hamper it. 

Avoid these 9 common mistakes for more efficient project management  

Project management played a crucial role in ensuring that the GPS system's benefits were felt and improved upon over time. Project managers used a phased development approach, allowing incremental improvements and gradual additions to the system. This let stakeholders experience the early benefits while project managers could make improvements to the system.

As a work-in-progress, the project experienced setbacks. However, solid project management doesn't mean never making mistakes. It means knowing how to plan for, avoid, and deal with potential roadblocks, delays, or bugs to get the project back on track. 

Here are some common mistakes to avoid so you can be more nimble. 

1. Starting from scratch every time

You gain valuable experience and knowledge with each project that can be applied to make the next project better, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel each time. 

When starting from scratch, there's a higher risk of overlooking critical project elements or requirements. Additionally, with more chances of incomplete or inconsistent documentation across projects, you also limit your ability to scale the project. This can negatively impact stakeholder confidence, employee morale, and overall results. 

What to do instead: 

Reuse standardized templates, checklists, and best practices. Tailor these best practices to each project to achieve consistency and improve overall project performance. 

 Here are some tips: 

  1. Establish a library of templates and best practices. Create a centralized library where all standardized templates, checklists, and best practices are stored. If you’re using Switchboard as your digital workspace, its persistent rooms let you save and organize everything by project, so everyone can find what they need. 
  2. Develop template customization guidelines. Provide guidelines on how to tailor the templates and checklists to fit the unique requirements of each project.
  3. Document procedures and processes in standard operating procedure (SOP) format. Include links to specific SOPs in your project management tool so people can access step-by-step instructions during specific stages of the project. For instance, if your marketing team needs to upload content to your website, they’ll find a set of instructions on how to log in, upload and resize images, publish posts, etc. 
  4. Track version control. Keep track of template revisions and maintain version control to ensure the most up-to-date templates are used.
  5. Perform post-mortems. Conduct post-project reviews to capture lessons learned and identify areas for improvement. Use this feedback to continually update and refine the templates and best practices in your library.
Switchboard room with kanban board and web apps open
Switchboard lets you keep everything you need for your project in one always-open persistent room. Source: Switchboard

2. Making goals too broad, unclear, or unrealistic 

Asana’s 2023 Anatomy of Work report found that 87% of employees at companies with clear, connected goals say they’re better prepared to meet client demands. That’s more than double those who lack clarity or goals at work.  

That's why you need to define project goals, boundaries, and expectations, and determine whether it's possible to meet your objectives before embarking on your project. If not, it's easier for scope creep (aka last-minute or unforeseen client changes or demands) to put you behind schedule.  

What to do instead: 

Assess your available resources, budget, and time constraints before setting goals. Once you know these, you can set clear goals, expectations, and boundaries, and know how to communicate project scope. Unrealistic goals often result from not considering these limitations from the outset. 

Here are some ideas to help you set clear goals: 

  • Involve stakeholders, including clients and team members, in goal-setting. Their input can help ensure that goals align with project requirements and expectations.
  • Conduct quick feasibility studies. These will let you evaluate whether project goals are achievable given the available resources and constraints. For instance, if you lack the financial resources to outsource aspects of app development to a specialist team, your ecommerce project could be doomed from the start.  
  • Regularly review and adjust goals. If circumstances change or new information arises, be willing to adjust goals accordingly. For example, if you’re working on speech recognition software and an industry giant brings out a game-changing new algorithm, you’re going to need to review yours to ensure it can still complete. 

3. Working without a clear plan

When you try to do everything at once or don't prioritize tasks, it can cause wasted time focusing on the wrong things, which can lead to employee overwhelm and burnout. This means you need a clear plan to unite your teams and keep morale and motivation high. This is especially important since 85% of people who know what they’re working toward are more productive than those who don’t.

What to do instead: Establish key milestones

After setting clear goals, you need to identify the most crucial activities or tasks that have a significant impact on project success. These activities often represent your milestones as they mark substantial progress toward project completion.

Here's how to establish important milestones: 

  • Break down the project scope. Divide the project into smaller, manageable phases or tasks. This helps identify natural points of completion and progress, which can serve as potential milestones. For example, if you have a goal to increase your customer satisfaction rates by 30%, look at the steps you need to take to get there. These might involve training your customer support and success teams or enabling them to achieve faster response times. 
  • Estimate milestone dates. Based on the project's timeline, estimate the target dates to reach each milestone. This will help keep you on track and working toward your objectives. 
  • Consider dependencies. Make sure the completion of one task doesn’t hinder or delay the start of another. For example, if an editor is waiting on a writer to submit a blog post for review, you’ll need to ensure the writer’s deadlines are achievable. 
  • Use milestone charts. Create milestone charts, such as Gantt charts, to visually represent the project timeline and milestone completion dates.
Screenshot of a Gantt chart template
Gantt charts help you organize project management goals, timelines, resources, and deliverables. Source: Canva

4. Micromanaging

Micromanaging—excessive supervision and control of employees' work and processes by management—sends out signals that you don’t trust your employees, which can impact their performance and motivation. Worst case scenario, you could even lose them altogether. 

This means you need to trust your team and build a reputation of collaborative leadership to motivate people and move projects along efficiently. 

What to do instead: 

As a leader, you need to establish a culture of trust and psychological safety that makes your people feel comfortable to ask questions and speak their minds. When employees know they can be honest and direct with you and each other, they’re more likely to contribute ideas that can improve project efficiency or avoid roadblocks. 

To build trust with your team: 

  • Make sure you brief everyone properly. That way, you know that they know what they need to do. That allows you to then back off and give them space to do it. 
  • Give people what they need to do their best work. This might include a digital workspace like Switchboard with persistent project rooms, or it might include information and training, etc. If you trust that they’re well equipped to do their jobs, you can stop worrying about it. 
  • Set clear goals, deadlines, and expectations. Clarity let’s people know what’s expected of them and holds them accountable. This means you don’t need to be on top of them constantly; you only need to step in if you see expectations aren’t being met. Pay attention to the language and tone you use to delegate work and set expectations. Be clear and concise, and listen to and encourage feedback. 

When you trust your team to complete the work themselves, they're more likely to deliver on time and build on that trust. 

5. Poor resource management

Ineffective resource management can lead to shortages and poor resource allocation, causing delays in project timelines and drops in efficiency. This can create a negative feedback loop of unforeseen costs or the need for additional resources to compensate for initial mismanagement. 

Time is also a resource and can be mismanaged. This happens when tasks and checklist items are left to pile up and cause backlogs, creating delays and stress and causing your project to go off the rails. 

What to do instead: 

Part of setting realistic goals is knowing how to set realistic deadlines. To know how you’re going to meet your goals within a given timeframe, you need to first account for your resources and know how you're going to manage them at every step. It's also crucial to make sure people aren't overloaded so they can get their work done on time. 

Then, outline how resources will be allocated, scheduled, and used throughout the project. Consider factors such as resource and employee availability, employee skill requirements, and employee workload. Remember that the rules apply to you as well: If leadership doesn’t respect deadlines, your people may not either. 

6. Lack of accountability

Only two in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. 

Without clarity regarding their roles and responsibilities, your team may lack accountability and the motivation to do stellar work. This ambiguity can lead to overlapping tasks, project bottlenecks, and confusion about who is responsible for specific project deliverables. 

What to do instead: Encourage a culture of ownership

According to Tarah Keech, Founder of Tarah Keech Coaching, it's important to take a top-down approach to accountability and start by asking leaders how they see their role on the team. "I always ask the leader how much of a sense of belonging they feel first, because you can't create belonging when you feel like you don't belong," she says.

The answer to this question will determine your ability to encourage a culture of ownership and accountability among your people. You need to set a good example when it comes to accountability: Be transparent about mistakes and show steps to improve and grow. 

For example, you might be open about a time you didn't make the right decision managing a project and let scope creep happen due to poor resource allocation. Then, tell your team how you rectified the situation and how it informed your current process. This kind of openness and willingness to own your tasks and mistakes helps establish trust and motivates people to do the same. 

7. Believing online collaboration isn’t efficient

If you think online collaboration isn't efficient, that's probably because you're working with tools that make teamwork complicated. 

Done right, online collaboration lets team members work together regardless of their physical location, so global or distributed teams can collaborate in real time. Collaborating online has the ability to make efficient use of diverse talents and expertise while improving work-life balance. However, if you’re using tools that don’t have the features or functionality you need, your ability to manage projects efficiently will be hampered. 

What to do instead: Use the right tools 

Traditional video conferencing tools that rely on one-sided screen sharing won’t cut it when it comes to enabling online collaboration and innovation. Instead, you need visual collaboration tools with features that let you save all your work in one project room, work together on shared files during calls, and easily pick up where you left off.

You also need project management tools like Asana to keep everyone on track, scheduling tools like Calendly to program regular reviews or updates, and document collaboration like Google Docs tools so you can all work on files.

Pro tip: When you use Switchboard for project meetings, you can keep all your files, web apps, and notes in one place. This way you never have to worry about prepping for your meeting or digging around for information in 20 browser tabs at the last minute. Best of all, you can use the AI assistant feature to summarize meeting notes and save time.  
Screenshot of Switchboard room with different users, browsers, and sticky notes
Switchboard lets you drive your project forward with shared control of everything in your room. Source: Switchboard

8. Working in silos

If your people aren’t communicating well or don’t have clarity on what others are doing, you can end up duplicating work and wasting time and resources, which can put your project behind schedule. 

Also, when you’re using too many tools and communication channels, it's easier for crucial information to slip through the cracks or be siloed in tools. This can cause your people to work in information silos, which makes it hard to provide visibility into project progress, task assignments, and individual contributions. 

It’s a common misconception that more apps equal better teamwork. However, according to Asana (as mentioned above) the more tabs and tools you have to toggle between, the more time and effort you waste. 

What to do instead: Create a collaborative work environment

The more your people work together, the less likely it is that information will get lost, or lost in translation. Therefore, you need to provide opportunities for joint teamwork, sharing ideas, and providing feedback. 

Here's how: 

  • Encourage collaboration. One way to do this is by creating a dedicated communication channel, for example a project channel on Slack. Here, you can share screenshots or shout-outs for strong teamwork. 
  • Run team building activities. Organize employee engagement games, workshops, or retreats to strengthen relationships, build trust, and encourage collaboration. Remember to also build collaboration into daily tasks, though: It shouldn’t just be something that happens in out-of-work contexts. 
  • Encourage continuous learning. Encourage team members to acquire new skills, share knowledge, and learn from one another. Provide opportunities for training, mentorship, and knowledge-sharing sessions.
  • Use a dedicated online workspace. Provide tools that facilitate spontaneous interactions as well as planned coworking sessions to build relationships and encourage more collaboration.
Pro tip: Use Switchboard as your single source of truth for every project and make teamwork the best part of work. 
For example, you can create a designated project room for your company rebranding and upload market research, meeting recordings, design specs, customer feedback, and logo options directly into your room. That way, anyone on your team can access the room, view meeting materials, get important updates, or jot down key agenda points to discuss at the next meeting or work session. 
You can also set up a dedicated, persistent room for remote work culture building activities or online games to help your people connect.
Switchboard room with different tabs and web apps
Switchboard lets you work on projects side-by-side with your team—and get more done during meetings. Source: Switchboard

9. Failing to learn from mistakes

As mentioned earlier, you don't need to reinvent the wheel to efficiently manage your projects. Past mistakes are learning opportunities that let you create better processes, identify innovative solutions, and improve outcomes for your next project. If unaddressed, you risk the quality of your output, client trust, and the possibility of negative team dynamics. 

As Tarah says, “Anytime there is a failure, it’s showing up as painful because there's something for us to learn there… Our negative emotions are part of our toolkit. So if we are experiencing a negative emotion, if we're feeling failure from a collaboration that's fallen flat, or sucked our time and energy without a reward, it's showing up as painful so that we can learn from it.”

What to do instead: Hold a retrospective

Conduct a "lessons learned" or project retrospective session to better understand what worked well during the project and what didn't.

For example, let's say you notice an increase in team members who reported signs of burnout during your last project. You can prevent this by re-evaluating your workload and resource allocation to make sure workloads are balanced, realistic, and aligned with individual capabilities and capacity.

To hold an effective project retrospective, you can: 

  • Gather feedback. Use structured techniques like open-ended questions, group discussions, or anonymous surveys to gather feedback effectively. 
  • Analyze challenges, lessons learned, and successes. Analyze the challenges, setbacks, and lessons learned from the project. Then discuss and celebrate the project's successes and achievements, pinpointing what went well. 
  • Brainstorm solutions and action plans. Prioritize which areas you want to focus on during the next project and come up with ideas for improvement. For example, if your product launch ran over time and budget, look at the reasons why and how you could avoid that next time. 
  • Summarize and document. Summarize the key findings, action plans, and decisions made. Document them in a clear and accessible format, such as a retrospective report or shared document. Then, save them in your Switchboard project room so you can refer back to them next time. 

Improve project efficiency with Switchboard in your corner 

Before the GPS was deployed, project managers worked with technical experts to define the system's requirements. This involved determining the number of satellites needed, their orbits, the type of signals to be transmitted, and the number of ground control stations required to monitor and control the satellites.

Without strong project management skills and processes, we might never have gained the GPS many of us rely on today. The GPS project was highly complex and its success relied on everyone's ability to work together and learn from their mistakes. 

Smooth running projects make for happier teams and clients and better results. But it’s easy to fall into bad habits that limit efficiency, like believing online collaboration isn't efficient, working in silos, poor resource management, and starting from scratch every time. 

To avoid these pitfalls, leaders need to understand how these common mistakes can hamper project efficiency—and guide their teams to do things differently. For instance, by creating a collaborative connected culture; setting realistic goals, deadlines, and expectations; documenting processes; and holding project retrospectives to learn from the experience.  

You also need to use the right tools to make online collaboration efficient. This includes using a digital workspace like Switchboard that lets your people connect, work on browser-based documents, apps, and files side-by-side, and get more done async or in real time. 

Want a better way to manage your projects? 
Switchboard’s persistent rooms keep projects organized in one place and let you work together side-by-side in real time or async. 
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about increasing efficiency in project management

What are the benefits of improving project management efficiency?

There are many benefits to improving project management efficiency. First of all, prioritizing efficiency can help you spot weak workflows that aren't serving your project or project schedule. For example, time tracking and the right project management software can help you streamline task management. This can improve project profitability and help you better meet client needs.

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Want a better way to manage your projects?

Switchboard’s persistent rooms keep projects organized in one place and let you work together side-by-side in real time or async.