Seven key project management challenges, and why you should master them

7. April 2021 - Henrik Bjerregaard Share this page

A competent project manager might make the difference between the success or failure of a project. But what constitutes a competent project manager? Technical project plans and concrete project management tools are critical, but not always enough. In this article, you learn more about some of the most common project management challenges, and why it is so crucial for a project manager to master these.


Today’s typical Project Manager is facing a variety of different settings and challenges in relation to her project. Projects range from large civil engineering challenges like establishing a cement factory close to the Equator, over developing new vaccines to detain pandemics to large or small scale software developments to name a few. Teams may be distributed across the world, or small co-located agile teams. Probably there is no such thing as a typical PM.

How does the PM determine which ways of working best suit the specific challenges at hand, and where can she seek support for this?

Successful project implementation is rarely achieved from purely technical project plans and applying the right tools. Other dynamics such as business acumen and leadership skills also need to be taken into account.

Together with our clients and the results from our international project management survey, Mannaz has identified seven key project management challenges that continue to be an issue for project managers:


  1. Client handling skills– being able to establish effective client relationships, at each level of the project and the organisation.


  1. Business/commercial acumen– being able to deliver sound business value from the project and align these to the strategy of the organisation.


  1. Trusted advisor– changing position and attitudes to enable the transition from technical expert to leaders of projects and trusted advisors.


  1. Project Management toolbox– mastering the basic skills of planning, estimating, stakeholder management, risk management, negotiation skills, etc. remain a prerequisite.


  1. Effective communication– being able to communicate effectively across cultures and at different levels, whist using all available tools and techniques.


  1. Motivation – motivation of one self as well as the project team throughout the duration and the challenges of the project.


  1. Handling conflicts– being able to use and facilitate constructive passionate debate for the benefit of the project.


Essential for the project manager is to adapt to the size and complexity of the project and choosing the right tools for the job.

Previously, even the best project managers would look at the project itself in isolation and then make things happen. We now know that that approach is far too narrow. Today, competent project managers must be able to look at a project from a 360-degree angle and understand its full commercial value. They must excel in structure, management, communication and leadership, because the project management task has grown as projects have become bigger and more complex. Still, we often see that project managers stand alone in the organisation because companies have not managed to lay down a framework for them that is supported by an organisational structure.

“Project management doesn’t happen somewhere downstairs in the engine room – project management is a living strategy.”

If we want successful projects and competent project managers, we must also empower and authorise them as much as possible.

Project managers are the leaders of the future

There is no doubt that many leaders wish to attain a high-performance culture, but it takes investment in things like project management to bring about the sort of culture that many leaders are dreaming of. The companies that really succeed in leveraging their project management create a professional career path for their project managers, because the project managers are essential for the company’s future success. In that way, the career ladder becomes attractive to competent candidates who are able to see goals and a direction within the profession.

Effective project management is so important for success that all top executives ought to focus on it if they want their strategy to be executed. In an ever-changing world – where what worked this morning doesn’t work this evening – competent project managers are ready for just that – to tackle the tornado of changes and challenges. It is a superb match between the needs of the future and the project management role. There is no doubt that project managers are the leaders of the future.

A project manager is not just a project manager. A competent project manager can be the difference between the success and failure of a project – and, in the end, of the company. Not only do competent project managers understand the business aspect; they also manage the project safely through changes and challenges while staying focused on the agreed-upon deadline and price. This is the kind of project manager that really makes a difference on the bottom line for companies. Project managers are the organisation’s best change agents, as it is through projects that companies execute their objectives and strategy.


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Henrik Bjerregaard

Henrik Bjerregaard Nielsen is a Client Director at Mannaz. He has more than 25 years of experience from a number of international industries, such as engineering, construction, oil and gas, shipping as well as IT. Henrik is originally a civil engineer, and for the first five years of his career he worked as project supervisor. After this he turned to leadership, project management and change management. His passion is to create results through efficient project management: planning and executing projects in the organisation, incorporating stakeholders as well as controlling and ensuring the project’s business case.