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Project Pitfalls

We’ve all been in that horrible situation where you get assigned to a group project you know is going to crash and burn. You have the over-achiever, the slacker, the moocher, and the person who has to walk the thin line of balancing it all together. No matter what role you’ve played, we all dread the idea of forced collaboration, especially when it involves something we genuinely care about. Although group projects can be paved with pitfalls, there are ways to foresee the future, change course, and come out successful and more or less, unscathed.

Risk and reward

As an inspiring grey knight once said, “You have chosen, poorly.” Projecting the risk vs. reward for choosing a project path can make or break it immediately. Before you start your group effort take time to weigh the elements that are stacked against you. Is this project too ambitious for our resources? Do we have time to complete it, much less change course, if we need to? What do we stand to lose, or gain? What is our end goal? Answer these and you’ll avoid several huge potholes along the way.


Making sure the team in on the same page with all of the right information

Lack of leadership

Like a floundering sailboat tossed and turned among the raging waves, the direction and voice of the project can be hopelessly lost without a captain. Managers need to take the bull by the horns and lead the group through the China shop with care and grace. Letting everyone’s opinion be heard while picking the best aspects should be part of the leadership role. However, all too often the ball is dropped and the pressure of responsibility exposes cracks in the supposed rock of the group. It might be hard to avoid, but usually, it’s easy to foresee this one. If you can prepare yourself to roll with some big punches, you’ll be able to pivot in time to steer clear of some serious setbacks.

History repeats itself

Wait, is that the same thing we did last time? Oh, it’s different because it’s a different color. I get it.

The wheel can only be reinvented so many times until you have to either accept its’ form or give up and focus on a new style of transportation. Find a new element to focus your efforts. From invading Russia in the winter to the Fast and Furious franchise, repeating the same format without learning from past mistakes will tank a project before it starts. Building on the notes and insights of those who have gone through it before only serves to let you stand on the shoulders of giants.

Do your research and find the successes and failures of past attempts at your idea and either make them better by correcting mistakes, or move in another direction. Don’t be blinded by the idea or the goal. You have to see the crashed cars lying on the side of the road.

Make sure you understand the problems before setting out

Using it all

Like Mr. October, the great Reggie Jackson said:

“I feel that the most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it.”

Failure is not an option, it’s an inevitability. It’s how we take these pitfalls and learn from them for next time because there will always be a next time.

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