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In an utopian world, every project will be a success and meet the project objectives of cost, time and quality. But in the real world, most of us have been in a project which was not a success. Some projects that we worked on have failed or probably are on the verge of failure. Can we find out early on that a project is not going right? Are there clues or signs that can give us an indication that a project can fail? The project manager or the team can look for the following signs which can indicate that the project is not on track and may be headed for disaster –

Stakeholders Interest in the project – A project has many key stakeholders and they have to contribute actively if the project has to succeed. If key stakeholders show reduced interest levels in the project or do not allocate requisite resources to the project, it is not a good sign for the project. Lack of attendance in review meetings, not saying too much in meetings or not paying attention to reports, not responding to phone calls or not giving information on time are signs that a project might be in trouble. So, see to it that you manage your stakeholders with elan to make sure that their interest level in your project does not drop.

Lack of Management Support – Projects that get management support are the ones that get the maximum attention from different departments and get the required resources. Sometimes projects suffer due to differing management priorities or company politics. The commitment and resources for the project will be lacking if management support is weak and the project will be on a low priority and this can cause the project to fail.

Poor Project Management – Project mismanagement can also lead to a project to fail. A project manager who cannot lead the team effectively can be one key factor for project failure. Project managers need a range of skills like good communication skills, team motivation, coordination, planning, replanning, problem solving, execution and risk management. If the project manager is lacking in any of these qualities, the project might fail.

Team Weaknesses – The project team is the key for project success. If the team is not right for the project or if the team does not have the right skills or team members do not have enough knowledge, the project might not meet with success. Is your team overworked or scheduled for too many tasks in other projects, then your project might be destined to fail.

Poor communication – If the team is not communicating properly or if the client relationship is not direct and transparent, there can be issues in the project. Poor communication can lead to lack of information. Poor communication can also lead to miscommunication and project status might not be shared properly leading to troubles in the project.

Slippage in key measures of success – Project success is measured in terms of parameters measuring cost, schedule, scope and quality and revenue. A project manager has to review the project measures regularly. Any of the measures like cost variance, schedule variance is beyond accepted limits, it is a cause for concern. If there are too many bugs in the code or documentation is lacking or process is not being followed, the project can be in trouble. If team members are consistently giving deliverables late and milestones and deadlines are being missed many times, the project has a high probability of failure.

The project manager should keep a watch for signs of trouble in the project. If there is not enough management support, he should bring it to their notice and understand the priorities. If the team does not have the right skill sets, he should liaise with the staffing team and ensure the necessary skills are available within the project. The project manager should review the project measurement parameters regularly. He should work towards having a motivated and committed team who will work towards achieving the project objectives. The senior management should select the right project manager who has the capability to manage the project through its ups and downs and the ability to make it a success.

Do let us know if you think there are other signs of project failure.