5 Trends That Spell Project Trouble

One important skill PMPs possess is the ability to spot trends and determine what impact they may have on a project. That same competency can benefit the team in other ways, too. Aside from typical concerns—difficult labor market conditions, lack of raw materials availability, etc.—project teams should also be attuned to internal trends that could translate into project trouble down the road.

Telescope looking over the ocean

1 – Fading funding. Every organization encounters cycles where it’s likely to have more or less cash available. Even high-visibility, high-impact projects are likely to follow those trends to some degree. However, if the team finds it is increasingly starved for resources even as other activities within the company benefit from ample (or at least adequate) funding, this could be a tell-tale sign that the organization is no longer committed to the project. Another concern is that it may be a red flag indicating the executive team’s support for the Project Team itself is waning.

2 – Increased complaining. Fielding complaints and concerns from stakeholders is part of everyday life in a Project Team. Warning bells should start going off if a high percentage of those complaints are coming from members of the project team. This could point to significant problems with the Project Team’s communication channels, its reward and recognition program, the value and availability of training and advancement opportunities, and even how vigorously the project office’s leadership team supports its PMPs.

3 – Decreased complaining. In an ironic twist, a significant drop in the number of concerns being presented by those outside the project office could be a harbinger of much bigger problems on the horizon. Inquiries will always find their way to the Project Team’s door, so look for a low, steady level of questions and issues to trickle in at any given time. When that stops, it may be because stakeholders feel their concerns aren’t being heard and have given up. They might also be seriously opposed to a project and have chosen to disengage themselves from it entirely, a scenario that is sure to present the team with serious difficulties.

4 – Lack of sponsors. The majority of projects receive their initial funding authorization because someone believed the objectives would benefit the organization. When that support vanishes, the project team should sit up and take notice. Even when a primary sponsor leaves the organization or transitions to a role that’s no longer involved with the project, there should still be another high-level champion willing to step in and offer support. If the team suddenly finds one of its projects has been hung out to dry, it’s time to reconsider if that project should really move forward. Simply taking a “full speed ahead” approach, especially in the absence of a dedicated sponsor, could set the team up for questions about resource allocation and why funding and labor is being funneled into an obviously troubled project.

5 – Attrition. Often coupled with the above-mentioned complaining, a Project Team could wind up in difficult circumstances if its internal workforce suddenly heads for the door en masse. A healthy job market will always result in the occasional bit of turnover, but a project team can be quickly decimated by attrition if the underlying triggers aren’t caught and resolved early. Workers may not feel their contributions are being properly rewarded. They might be dismayed by a lack of opportunities to learn new skills or take on interesting challenges. It’s also possible they feel used by a leadership team that doesn’t appreciate the value they bring to the organization. Addressing these issues must be done quickly to prevent an exodus of the Project Team’s knowledge and skill base.

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