Is Your Project Failing?

Is Your Project Failing?

My name is Patrick and I’ve had a failed project. It’s a tough thing to admit, but we’ve all been there. It’s one thing to be part of a failed effort, it’s another thing to take a critical look at yourself, your team, your process, and your company and figure out how to recognize the warning signs for next time. Don’t let failure define you, let it inform you.

Here are some warning signs you need to course correct:

Missed Deadlines: If your team is missing deadlines, it is a clear sign that something is not going as planned. Look at your milestones and make sure they are realistic. The reality is a year after the project is launched, very few people will remember you had to re-baseline your project. However, shaking a reputation of consistently late deliverables is difficult.

Budget Overruns: If you find yourself consistently exceeding your project budget, it is an indication that you may be facing issues with cost control, project scope management, or faulty forecasting. Take stock and re-examine your expenses.

Poor Quality: Everyone wants to work to the top of their degree. Project deliverables that do not meet expected quality standards often indicate issues with the project team or, more likely, a lack of resources. This vicious cycle leads to frustration, and turnover, and can lead to a death spiral if not managed correctly.

Scope Creep: Projects that are floundering tend to get redefined over time. There’s nothing wrong with this as business changes and a well-managed project accounts for shifting business needs. However, when projects are consistently managed by exception rather than definition, it often leads to delays and additional expenses. It’s a hard conversation to have, but you have to be open to the idea that the initial project has evolved to such a state that it needs to be abandoned and a new project launched.

Lack of Communication: It’s human nature to disengage from efforts we feel are not fruitful. If there is a lack of communication among project stakeholders or team members, this is often an early sign of frustration and can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and mistakes.

Stakeholder Dissatisfaction: If the stakeholders are not satisfied with the project outcomes or feel that their expectations are not being met, it indicates that the project is not going well. While this seems to be obvious, it is how you respond to this that can make or break your project. Be cognizant of early indicators of dissatisfaction and be careful to avoid a defensive posture. Instead, approach stakeholders with a learner mindset and find ways to connect them to the process.

If you notice one or more of these signs, it is essential to take immediate action to address the issues and get the project back on track. You may need to revise your project plan, reallocate resources, or seek external help to fix the problems. The strategy of hoping things will get better rarely works and, by the time you find that out, your project may well be beyond saving.

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