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Every project manager and change professional dreams of a successful project, implemented smoothly across the organisation with minimal challenges and measured success. However, it’s fair to say that many projects fail with significant impact on finances, human resources and timescales.

If warning signals are successfully identified early, many underperforming projects can easily be turned around to achieve their desired outcomes.

Beyond the status reports that focus primarily on budget, resourcing or timelines, what are the other warning signs that might indicate potential project performance issues?

  • Lack of interest from stakeholders

When your workforce and stakeholders are’t actively participating or giving feedback, and even project team members aren’t showing up to meetings, you’ve got a problem. When energy is low across the user base and there’s a palpable lack of interest, it’s time to listen, evaluate and make changes.

  • Poor communication across the organisation

Silence is definitely not golden when it comes to project implementation and performance. Communication is the key to a project’s success so if there are issues amongst stakeholders, end users or the project team, this highlights an urgent need for evaluation. Remember, communication works both ways so eliciting feedback from all groups is integral to success.

  • Not involving the right people

By not involving the right people, you’re effectively misunderstanding how the change will impact individuals and their teams. This means they won’t have the knowledge, skills or desire to adapt in order to use the changes you’re trying to implement. Without allowing people enough time to become interested, involved and prepared, your change isn’t likely to be successful.

  • Lack of commitment

If you have sponsors and key stakeholders saying they support the change but aren’t actively walking the walk, with inconsistencies in behaviour and attitude, you’ll have a problem with delivery. Once you achieve alignment between the things they say and how they act, you’ll accelerate your project’s success.

  • Not meeting business and colleague objectives

Delivered on time. Check. Delivered on budget. Check. Technical objectives are met. Check. But what about colleague and business objectives? If the project means someone has to do their job differently, you need to identify the behavioural changes that need to be implemented for success.

The crucial factor that connects these five warning signs of an underperforming project is forgetting to place people at the heart of change. 

I see these as five of the most important warning signs, but there are many more. As a project manager or organisational change professional it’s critical to recognise these signs so that you can take the necessary steps early in order to rectify problems and achieve success.

In order for any change project to be successful, it must include:

  1. Open lines of communication across all areas of the business, in all directions.
  2. Commitment, interest and a high level of energy from all stakeholders and team members.
  3. Adequate time allowance for behavioural changes and understanding the impact of change.
  4. People placed at the heart of change.
  5. Clear objectives and consistent review, analysis and management.

In order to effectively implement change, organisations must begin to realise the true value of change and aim to create an environment where people can thrive.

Becky Strafford is the Director of the Business Change Collective with over 20 years’ experience delivering the people side of change for some of the world’s leading organisations. With a deep understanding of how people see and react to change, Becky is passionate about putting people at the heart of change to ensure they readily accept and adapt to new ways of working.