Bad communication. Chances are, it's you. When your project goes bad, we all need to look in the mirror and take a deep breath of the reality that most people are poor communicators. Communication is the one thing we all take for granted in a project management scenario.
Everyone just assumes everyone else just knows what needs to be done. Read about "The Psychological Test That Explains Why You're Bad At Communicating".
Here are three tips for improving your communication skills:
Be Candid & Specific
In cultures where you haven't known your teammates for more than a few years (in online working environments, it may have been only a few months), adhere to a protocol that encourages direct and specific communication, like: "I need XYZ done by tomorrow at 10am USA-ET".
There's a time and place for jokes and poetry but not in task assignment. Obviously, the rules should call for civil discussion no emotionally hostile blaming statements like "you screwed this all up" or this tip will backfire.
Doublecheck, Centralize & Archive
Even with the best intentions our memory will fail us, errors and
mistakes will happen, which is why it is always important to incorporate a process that forces you to doublecheck and edit every task you've assigned or email you've written.
Limit your emails and any other communication that can easily get lost down stream. Use project management tools like Azendoo to centralize (and archive) all communications so everyone on the team can easily refer back to task directions, etc.
Even when something is heavily implied, be sure to ask if there is any question at all. Creating a culture that doesn't punish "stupid questions" is important, since many people resort to assuming because they don't want to offend or look stupid by asking for clarification.
Remember, misunderstandings are almost never personal, it's almost
always just a simple miscommunication that spirals out of control, emotions get involved, and the project crashes. Take the time to incorporate good rules of communication standards and processes in all of your project management scenarios.