Project Managers: 7 Signs of Potential Project Failure

Part of the Software Project Management For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The ability to recognize the signs of potential failure gives project managers a big advantage in the software project management game. That awareness leads to pre-emptive action in dealing with issues before project failure rears its ugly head.

Here are seven signs of potential project failure:

  • Have you or anyone from your project team started to let a few deadlines slip? That's bad. What's worse is if no one's a bit surprised anymore when deadlines do slip.

  • Has the scope of your project changed so much that you don't recognize it anymore? If too much scope creep has, um, crept in, then your project is in danger.

  • Are you starting to have a high turnover from your team? If people are leaving (for whatever reason), they're taking knowledge with them. But even worse is if they're leaving because morale is low or because they don't respect the project manager.

  • Are signs of low morale evident? Team members might be bickering more than usual, losing interest in the project, or putting silly words in the middle of their software code just to see if anyone notices. Are people sleeping at their desks, coming in late, leaving early, or taking marathon lunches?

  • Has your project sponsor been missing meetings with you? Does he or she seem disconnected from the project?

  • Have your stakeholders started getting a vacant look in their eyes whenever you mention deliverables and risks?

  • Has the sponsor started to micromanage you? Do you lack the autonomy you need to bring the project to successful completion?

Learn these signs of potential project failure, and deal with them as soon as you spot them. Be proactive, and know that the key to turning around an imperiled project is communication. This means not just talking with your project sponsor and team members, but also listening. Then, you must act swiftly and decisively.

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