How To Learn The Early Warning Signs Your Project Manager Is Failing

Sep 11, 2019

Knowing the early signs your project’s in trouble can save you a lot of time and money. Most projects fail through poor project management or poor sponsorship. If you’re a project sponsor this one’s for you… and if you’re project’s struggling, this might just save your job.

Rush early, not late.

Every project manager worth their salt knows this. It’s the golden rule of project delivery. Identifying the issues early, means delivering remedies with time. If you want your project on time and on budget it’s a concept you’d be wise to follow.

Thing is, it applies equally to sponsors. Just like your PM, if you can identify the challenges early, you stand a greater chance of correcting a project’s course. A project’s a bit like a boat – if you’re setting off into the delivery ocean you want to know about a hole in the keel before you leave the harbour. Once you hit that open ocean it can be too late – your project is more likely to sink, fatally flawed before it’s even out of the gate. And even if you find a way to salvage it, you’re facing some serious time and benefit erosion – something no sponsor wants to take to the board.

Helping sponsors to see the problems

Of course, “identifying challenges early”… to a lot of sponsors that’s easier said than done. Most find this part of the job tough, used to seeing holes only once in flight, and being conditioned to fix things on the hoof. Too many rely on the PM to surface this up, sometimes even moving into delivery just so problems can be illuminated.

That’s no way to run a project. Especially when a few obvious symptoms can indicate looming trouble. And once you know where to look, the warning signs are hard to miss. Let’s see how that can work with a project manager.

Three Warning Signs

Most projects fail due to poor project management or poor sponsorship. Today I want to give sponsors the early warning signs your PM is flailing, and your project is out of control. If you’ve got any of these three indicators then you’ve got a problem…

1. What’s My Project’s State of Health?

What should a sponsor do when their PM can’t give them a clear progress report, accurate costs, or even confirm delivery dates? If this is happening in your project, you need to consider if the right person’s running it.

2. I Have No Idea What My PM’s Saying

Talking in circles, shambolic steerco packs, lack of clarity in detail (or even big picture)… these are all clear signs your PM’s lost control and is out of their depth.

3. Where. Is. My. Project. Plan?????

Any PM worth their salt has an updated project plan ready to pull off the shelf, anytime anyone asks. That plan is their bread and butter and their Bible. If they don’t, and instead serve up cock and bull excuses? I reckon they’re pulling your chain.

Remember – rush early, not late

There’s not much that I haven’t seen before when it comes to projects. And that’s why it’s easy for me to see these warning signs up front. At the end of the day a PM’s job is simple. Provide estimates and plans, and be on top of the project. If your PM can’t do that, then you need someone who can. Don’t put your project and reputation at risk any longer than you already have, take action now. Remember – rush early, not late.