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Sunday, 07 August 2016 03:03

Ten Sure Signs Your Project is in Trouble

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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2016.4.8

Ten Sure Signs Your Project is in Trouble

Many projects struggle. Sometimes the causes are subtle and complicated. Other times the causes are pretty straightforward. Here are ten reasons why projects struggle. If your project has one or more of these characteristics you can expect to struggle - maybe even fail.

  1. Insufficient resources. The project manager builds a schedule assuming a certain level of resources will be available. If you don't have the level of resources or budget you need, You are going to struggle. Be sure to tell your project sponsor quickly.

  2. Impossible deadlines. Sometimes a project is assigned with a fixed deadline that is impossible to achieve. Sometimes these projects are referred to as a "death march". The project manager should tell the sponsor at the start of the project and fight to have the deadline extended, the scope reduced or resources increased. You not only need to have sufficient time to deliver your project, but you also need contingency in case things take longer than expected.

  3. Not managing expectations. The project manager fails to communicate the true status of the project to the team and sponsor. So everyone thinks the project is going smoothly until the deadline is missed. You need to tell people early if it’s slipping. Don't hide it. By telling people you're running late, you give them the opportunity to help get it back on track.

  4. Lack of focus. The team doesn’t really know what is expected of them, so they lack focus. They are given a job to do but not told what is required and by when. Everyone in your team should have regular goals to meet, they should have deadlines and you should be monitoring their progress at every step in the journey.

  5. Low morale. The project team lacks motivation, so nothing is delivered on time. If you want someone to deliver within a set timeframe, then you need to motivate them to do it through reward and recognition. And you need to be highly motivated yourself. Only by being healthy, relaxed and truly motivated can you inspire others to be.

  6. Lack of sponsor support. The project manager gets very little support from their sponsor. There is no one available to help solve problems or provide further resource or money when it's needed. If you lack sponsor support, address it early. Be open and frank with them. Tell them what you need and by when.

  7. Scope creep. The scope of the project keeps changing, so you never really have a fixed set of deliverables. Every time it changes, you lose time and resource, so change control is critical. The scope needs to be clearly defined and then a process put in place to ensure that change requests are formally approved.

  8. The project is too long. The project timescale may simply be too long. Over time your customer's requirements will change, so you need to break your project into smaller chunks and deliver each as a project on its own.

  9. Lack of tools and processes. Not having the right tools to get the job done can also be a problem. Using good quality tools such as templates, processes and a project methodology will lead to project success.

  10. Insufficient of customer involvement. Lack of customer involvement has proved fatal on many projects. You need to involve your customer throughout the project to ensure that what you are building will meet their requirements. Remember, only if your customer is truly satisfied will your project is a success.

Does yo
ur project have one or more of these characteristics? If so, you could be "hurtin for certain". Know these reasons why projects struggle so you can address the problems early.  
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit or contact us at
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