The project is mission critical, and complicated with lots of moving parts across departments. You’ve assigned your rock star, PMI certified project manager to shepherd the process and the project is way behind schedule. She’s frustrated, you’re one missed deadline away from frantic, and your boss wants to know what she can do to help. What next? How do you best support her and your team of project managers to ensure their success?
Six Reasons Even the Best-Run Projects Derail (and How to Help Your Project Managers Avoid These Traps)
When great project managers fail, which they sadly sometimes do, the root cause is almost never a breakdown in a technical expertise. More pressure on the PM won’t solve these issues; neither will more frequent readouts or points of escalation. When your great PMs fail, take a step back and check for these surefire project derailers.
1. Lack of Executive Alignment
Of course, every exec in the room was “all in” when their boss said, “Fix this now, we need all hands on deck.” But what exactly does that mean?
What exactly are we fixing now and how?
What does success look like?
Which departments are going to do what by when and how will we know? If this is not clear at the executive level, you’ll never foster true collaboration a level or three below.
How does this issue rank in priority to the other top 3 issues everyone is already working on night and day?
When your PM goes out looking for support and resources, where does this rank? Are you sure all are aligned?
2. It’s Not the MIT (Most Important Thing).
Closely correlated to number 1, your project team members are attending your meetings, agreeing to next steps, and then going back to their “real” priorities and day jobs. If your project is not what’s top of mind for their boss, it’s unlikely any tasks will be on the top of their to-do list.
3. The Team’s Full of B-Players
I’m guilty as charged. Perhaps you are too. Have you ever been asked to commit resources to a project that you feel is a distraction from your MIT? All “headcount” is not the same. If your project is failing, you may have more than one leader giving you less than their A team.
4. They’re Too Stressed to Put People Before Projects
The pressure’s on and the team jumped right in, no wasted time. Teams take a minute to gain trust and to build collaboration. If the team is failing, a quick time out to focus on the people issues might be just the trick. Go slow to go fast.
5. No One Wants to Hear the Tough Stuff
If #3 doesn’t apply, you have the A-team, everyone’s aligned on MITs and expectations, but you’re telling the team to stop complaining and make it happen– you might be missing the most valuable insights for true project success. Be sure you and your team are taking time to channel challengers.
6. PMs Don’t Feel Empowered to Have the Tough Conversations
No project succeeds without clear expectations and accountability. But so many of the PMs we work with share how hard this is without the support they need to lead through influence. Here’s our INSPIRE methodology applied to Project Managers.
I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Model for Project Managers
Your turn. When great project managers struggle, or when important projects derail, where do you look first?