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Avoiding Disasters – Signs of Problem Projects to Watch For

Most PMs have been there before. They’re moving right along when suddenly they hit the wall, and then watch helplessly as the project spirals out of control, careening into failure. Failed projects are actually all too common. For project managers, knowing the signs of imminent trouble can help you avoid disaster and salvage your project. Here’s what you should know.
Project Leadership Disconnect
Projects generally have several leaders. There’s you, the project manager. There’s your champion. There are high-level managers, stakeholders and numerous others. Good project leadership is essential, and when there’s a strong guiding hand on the wheel, you can be reasonably sure that support for the project is high and that communication between higher-ups is ongoing. It’s when project leadership becomes disconnected or fails outright that you have to watch out. This can indicate numerous things, including a lack of confidence in the project, a lack of belief that the project can offer value, failed communication between stakeholders, or between your champion and upper management.
Goals Are Not Shared
What’s the goal of your project? Do all of your team members realize that? Is it documented? Is the path to reaching that goal fully understood by everyone involved? Do your stakeholders understand the goal of the project? You might think that the goal or goals of your project are completely obvious, but that’s the wrong tack to take. You must ensure that everyone involved understands the project’s goal or goals, as well as how you will all reach that end point together. If goals are not shared (and documented), misunderstandings develop, spread and foster failure.

Team Coordination
How coordinated is your project team? Regardless of how well they get along on a personal level, how much do they listen to each other’s recommendations? How often do they make course corrections based on observations of another team member? Your team must be coordinated, and they must be able to communicate with each other effectively. What’s more, they need to be prepared to actually listen to the recommendations made by other team members. Everyone on the team is there for a reason and can offer value.
Only Good News

Communication is important throughout your project, not just for your team. If you have executives or stakeholders that are uninterested in hearing anything unless it’s good news, it should be taken as a red flag. Everyone involved with the project, from top to bottom, must be dedicated and able to communicate on a regular basis, regardless of whether the information being communicated is positive or negative. If you don’t see this, it’s a sign that your project is losing support somewhere in the chain.
By watching for these and other signs that your project is heading into dangerous territory, you’ll be able to forestall many issues that would otherwise derail your success. While not all problems can be anticipated this way, most can, and you’ll find that your progress is much smoother.

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