How to Solve Project Management Client Problems

Even the best project managers occasionally encounter clients who make completing a project difficult.  From being indecisive to delaying the project schedule, clients can impede what would otherwise be an effective and timely outcome.  By utilizing PMP training and being proactive, you will be successful in achieving project goals.

Communication Breakdown

Communication can be the key to success for any project, but what do you do when you can’t get in contact with a decision-maker?  Keep in mind that it’s easier for a busy client to say yes or no than to provide a detailed explanation as to what they want or need. Do some groundwork in advance to explore possible options.  When a decision needs to be made, clearly indicate which course you think is best, and then confirm that this is direction your client wants to go.  It also helps to present a well-defined project schedule to the client prior to beginning work.  This can help manage expectations and provides a tangible framework for the client to either consent to or object.  Having these primary steps in place will allow a potentially “slow” client to make a yes or no decision and allow you to move forward.

Indecisive client

Clients are busy, and not always ready to provide you with direction if you need it.  In fact, some clients may not be able to envision what they want until a certain portion of the project is complete.  Develop a foundation for your work by having the client explain the exact requirements of the project before you generate a plan. Use these guidelines to develop as specific a plan as possible.  The client may waver on making decisions, but referring back to the original plans and goals will help provide focus and encourage the client to decide.  To minimize the need to change directions mid-course, be straightforward at the beginning of the project. Explain your time frame and how much, if any, leeway there is.   If change is needed once the project is underway, illustrate the cost and work that will go into making changes.  When presented with this information, clients are more likely to commit to their decisions.

Project behind schedule

Even the best-laid plans can go awry.  If your project falls behind schedule, it’s up to you to get it back on track.  Begin by identifying the cause of the delay, and address that issue.  If you’re contributing to the delay, contact the client and discuss a more realistic schedule and identify any changes the modified plan will require.  If it is the client causing the delay, be explicit about how the client’s holdup will change the schedule, and if applicable, be clear about how this will affect other projects.

Disinterested Client

As invested as you and your client may be in the project, your point of contact may be disinterested in what you’re working on.  To mitigate this issue, try to establish a connection with someone in your client’s company that cares about the project, and make them your primary or secondary contact.  Again, communication is paramount, and it is best to assess your point of contact’s commitment when interviewing potential clients before deciding whether or not to take them on.

Client isn’t satisfied

No matter how true your end result stays to the original project goal, there will still be clients who aren’t satisfied with your work.  Manage expectations by maintaining open communication throughout the project, and work to become clear on what the client expects and what their motivation is.  Understanding what the client expects, as well as their impetus for the project, will empower you to provide what they want.

You’ve determined the client’s motivations, expectations, and goals. After you’ve accomplished your project objective, your work doesn’t end there.  Take advantage of the relationship you’ve built with your client and elicit feedback regarding your work.   A feedback form or questionnaire will allow you to learn from the experience and excel at future projects.

This article was provided by University Alliance and submitted on behalf of Villanova University.  Villanova offers PMP training prep courses that allows professionals to earn their PMP certification. For more information please visit

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