Risk Management

Warning Signs of Strategic Project Failure and How to Avoid Them

When you order a burger and receive chicken, you send it back. When you plan a project one way and it turns out another way, there is no sending it back. This often unintentional shift will create headaches for you and your team. In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, Rebecca Leitch gives five warning signs of strategic project failure and how to avoid them:

  1. The project is not aligned with the company’s strategic goals.
  2. There is no clear vision of what success looks like.
  3. There is no clear schedule or budget for resources and people.
  4. The scope of the project keeps changing.
  5. Deadlines are being missed and budgets exceeded.

Warning Sign to Watch Out For

One warning sign for a project is that it doesn’t line up with the company’s strategic goals. There are only so many resources to go around, so aligning your project with the strategy is how you show your project has greater use to the company as a whole. Monitoring the project alignment periodically and re-articulating to the team how the project connects with strategy can help maintain alignment.

You also need to have a clear vision of success for the project. Establishing return on investment and other non-on-time/budget KPIs can help. In addition to having a clear way to measure success and what you are trying to accomplish, there needs to be a clear budget of resources and schedule for the resources and people. High worker turnover and exasperation from sponsoring executives are warning signs that you may not have a clear-enough plan. To fix this, break the project into easily measurable pieces and use the triple constraints (scope, resources, time) to help determine your plan.

Leitch also says how an ever-changing scope can affect many projects. Some lack a proper scope and others aren’t being managed in a way that gets work done. She lists the following causes and solutions for scope creep:

Some root causes of scope creep to watch for:

  • Too many chefs in the kitchen: everyone is promoting their own agenda
  • Confusion among team members about what to do next


  • Refer back to the project plan that defines scope, budget and schedules and request project status updates include reference to how the project is tracking against scope and objectives
  • Use strategic goals to prioritise acceptable scope changes and eliminate unnecessary or detrimental ones
  • Document scope changes and analyse each one’s impact on schedule and budget, sharing information with stakeholders

The final warning sign is that deadlines are being missed and budgets exceeded, which can be addressed by asking some serious questions about the project. Risk management plans, re-analyzing the project plan for errors, and even just asking if the budget and schedule are realistic can help here.

You can view the original post here: http://www.esi-intl.co.uk/blogs/pmoperspectives/index.php/the-five-warning-signs-of-strategic-project-failure-and-how-to-avoid-them/

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