6 Reasons Even the Best Project Managers Fail

Jan 26, 2018 1 Min Read
project manager and tools
Fail and Grow Your Project

The project is mission-critical, and complicated with lots of moving parts across departments. You’ve assigned your rock star, project manager (PM) 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?

Six Reasons Even The Best-Run Projects Derail

When great PMs fail, which they sadly sometimes do, the root cause is almost never a breakdown in 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 executive 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 three 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 Most Important Thing

Closely correlated to No 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 Most Important Thing? 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.

READ MORE: Four Things We Learnt by Firing All Our Managers

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's issues might be just the trick. Go slow to go fast.

5) No One Wants to Hear the Tough Stuff

If No 3 doesn’t apply, you have the A-team, everyone’s aligned on Most Important Things and expectations, but you’re telling the team to stop complaining and make it happen – you might be missing the most valuable insights for a 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. Your turn. When great PMs struggle, or when important projects derail, where do you look first?

Reposted with permission.

Great Project management requires infrastructure. Watch below on great platforms for your team:

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Tags: Systems & Structures


Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick, and the author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers and Customer Advocates.

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