Roadblocks To Project Innovation

Project teams are always on the hunt for ways to be more efficient and more effective. Often that means fine tuning existing practices but sometimes it means developing truly innovative methods for dealing with long-standing concerns, such as supply bottlenecks, funding shortages, communication lapses, and similar issues.


While most PMP®s are skilled at coming up with workable solutions to the problems they encounter, it’s important to recognize that there are some commonalities to the challenges that typically crop up when the Project Team tries to change how an organization carries out its operations. If your group has found its attempts at innovation hampered, see if any of the following roadblocks are to blame.

Fear of failure

Unfortunately, innovations don’t always succeed. Every organization that’s working at the edge of the innovation landscape can expect to fail once in a while. That’s a scary prospect for PMP®s who are, by their nature, often high performing as well as highly self-critical. It may also cause consternation among the organization’s executive team, who are sometimes surprisingly risk averse. But the truth is that project teams must be willing to encounter setbacks if they want to achieve real success, so don’t let a fear of failure stop your Project Team from pursuing innovative ideas.

Lack of time

Having too little time is an almost universal concern across every business unit, and devoting time to anything outside the core project management function can be a difficult sell. Though innovations often help teams utilize time more effectively in the long run, that payoff doesn’t always materialize right away. Facing a formidable time commitment up front may prompt Project Teams to shy away from tackling their most ambitious ideas.

Little (or no) support

Some organizations haven’t yet recognized the broad value of the project office. When that’s the case, it can be difficult to gain traction on the innovation front because innovation isn’t what the leadership group is expecting from the project team. This makes it challenging to find support for those initiatives that seem outside the Project Team’s area of responsibility and could cause the team to pass up improvement opportunities.

Considering the importance of innovation when it comes to increasing efficiency and driving better project results, how can Project Teams overcome these roadblocks? A few strategies may prove useful when it comes to confronting these deep-rooted challenges and moving beyond them.

Set expectations early and clearly

Regardless of where barriers exist, establishing concise expectations can give project teams a big leap forward in ensuring ongoing support for their innovation efforts, whether they’re targeted at making processes more streamlined across multiple departments or changing how stakeholder engagement is managed within the Project Team. Begin by working with the organization’s leadership team to set expectations as soon as a new innovation initiative has been identified. Without the executive group’s buy-in there may not be enough justification to move forward, so make this discussion an early priority. Once everyone is on the same page regarding anticipated benefits and expected requirements—time, funding, the cooperation of non-Project Team personnel, etc.—then the team can begin the planning phase in earnest.

Ensure the team is committed

It can sometimes come as a shock to learn that those inside the project office don’t always back innovation efforts. Many reasons exist behind this phenomenon, but no matter the root cause for the initial lack of support, it’s vital that the Project Team’s leadership team confirm everyone is on board with the plan prior to launch. Otherwise, individuals may not be committed enough to spend the time necessary or gather the support necessary to ensure the innovation initiative is ultimately successful.

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