5 signs your project may be in trouble

You’ve got a project underway, but something just seems…off. You’ve got all the elements – project plan, roadmap, resources – but it’s not progressing the way you thought it would, and you can’t really say if it’ll be delivered as planned. You think you need help, but you’re not certain where to begin or if there’s even an issue.

The first step is recognizing the problem. Here are 5 ways to evaluate whether your project may be in danger of running off-track.

Vision of success not well-defined

Does it seem like your team is churning without direction? Has development been going on forever but you just never seem to be done? Has the team lost focus and motivation? It may be that the end state has gotten lost in the shuffle.

A clear vision of what constitutes successful completion of the project needs to be top of mind for every aspect of the project – otherwise, the team doesn’t know or remember what it’s working so hard to accomplish.

One way to assess this is by talking to your team members and stakeholders. Ask each person what they think project success looks like and what their role is in achieving it. If the answers are all over the map or they struggle to even articulate it, your project could be missing a well-defined and communicated vision.

Scope creep

You started with the best intentions: to only implement requirements that fit the definition of success. You documented and selected requirements carefully. But stakeholders keep asking you, “Slip this little change in and add this important feature while we have the patient open.” Next thing you know, your team is building a beast that no longer fits the timeline or budget. Welcome to scope creep.

Every project will experience some change – often for valid reasons as your business needs evolve and priorities change. But proper change control is crucial to a project running smoothly and not getting out of hand. Every request must be documented and prioritized and its impact evaluated in terms of cost, time, and quality. This is crucial in order to make a clear-eyed decision whether or not to move forward with the change.

If you’re seeing overruns in budget or deadlines and a significant amount of change to scope, your change control may have gotten away from you.

Unplanned work

You’ve got your schedule perfectly defined, but your resources keep getting diverted to one crisis after another and now you’re running out of time. This is another very common issue. To be sure, you can’t prevent an all-hands-on-deck situation from occurring. But you can minimize the impact to your project (here are some tips from Scrum Alliance) and send the message that these types of diversions need to be the exception, not the rule.

Clearly defined priorities and resource availability are essential; the impact of extra work and diverted resources must be negotiated and transparent. Every time.

If you’re seeing your resources evaporate or unplanned work piling up on your team, it may be time to reevaluate your schedule and budget based on resources’ actual availability and manage expectations accordingly.

Inadequate communication

Your team seems confused or unclear what they should be doing. Or everyone says, “It’s going great!” but you can see it’s really not. Or perhaps your team seems busy but you haven’t heard a peep on how it’s progressing. Come to think of it, you can’t remember the last time you saw a status report.

Project communication is crucial – amongst team members, out to stakeholders, and up to leadership. Open communication and up-front, honest disclosure of blockers and their impact can save you a lot of heartache down the road.

It’s important to foster open communication from your team so they will be comfortable giving you bad news early rather than suppressing it until it’s too late.

If your project manager and project team are giving you the party line but still seem to be struggling, or if the team is losing focus, communication may be your issue.

Low stakeholder buy-in

Is your team churning out deliverables but decisions or feedback cycles from stakeholders are excessively long? Does it feel like you’re the only one who really cares if and how this project gets done? When stakeholders are not making the project a priority, it can not only negatively impact your timeline, it can also demoralize your team. There are ways around lackluster stakeholder involvement that can help motivate stakeholders to give you what you need to move the project forward, and to get the outcome they don’t even know they want.

If you’re feeling like a cheerleader at a pep rally full of stoners, you may need to reengage your stakeholders to revive project momentum.


Runaway projects can cause a significant drain on your business, both monetarily and in declining team morale. The good news is that once you’ve defined the issues, you can begin to solve them. Whether you’re seeing one or several of the above signs that your project may be in trouble, all is not lost. You may just need some simple adjustments to get it back on track.

Kalles Group can help you get there. Fill out the form below and we’ll quickly be in touch to find time for an initial discovery call.

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