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53 ways to lead an ineffective project

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

As project managers, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to make our projects succeed. But sometimes it can help to flip that on it’s head and ask… What can go wrong? What pitfalls and warning signs should we be aware of as project managers?

Over my career, I have been involved in the planning of stem cell laboratory and written proposals to build a children’s nursery and save physiotherapy service.

I have supported the development of a minimally invasive surgery programme which attracted international delegates, implemented a paperless office in the field of insurance , set up multiple Training Hubs and implemented primary care clinical services.

Some projects have been a roaring success, many have limped along and some have never been seen or heard of again.

I have completed the infamous PRINCE 2 Certificate, have an MBA and Im a fan of continuous professional development.

With all this experience in mind, I have pulled together a list of factors that, whether in isolation or collectively, can have a major impact of the success of project.

Having this kind of list can help us really think clearly because:

  • Sometimes we say yes when we really mean what and why

  • Sometimes we’re too close the project and too many assumptions are made

  • Sometimes we lack the project management skills to break down a task in the its minute details

  • Sometimes we fail to take the time or feel we can’t make the time to understand the intricate detail of what is required

Here goes….. 53 things any project managers and network leads should watch out for 😊.

1. The rationale for your project is unclear

2. There is no supporting evidence to justify your project

3. The resource required to deliver your project has been poorly calculated

4. The project has no structure or plan for delivery

5. The implementation time of the project has been underestimated

6. The project finances have not been costed accurately

7. The project receives too much opposition

8. The project has no contingency plan

9. There is a failure to acknowledge complexity

10. The specification is not clear

11. The project has not involved key stakeholders

12. The project has no structure or plan for communication either with external parties or with the project team

13. Key people want to believe in the project, but ultimately, they don’t

14. The is a lack of financial management of the project

15. You fail the befriend the finance manager

16. The finance instructions are too complicated

17. The project has no champion or sponsor

18. The project has no project manager

19. No one listens to the project manager

20. There is a lack of accountability amongst those delivering the project

21. There is a lack of trust among the delivery partners

22. The delivery partners do not know they are delivery partners!

23. Key human resources either quit, take sick leave or are redeployed to another area

24. The project team fails to listen to feedback

25. The project team barely talks to one another

26. The team lacks subject matter expertise (e.g. technical, clinical, administrative, financial, patients, data analysis etc.)

27. The project has no boundaries and experiences scope creep

28. Inconsistent monitoring

29. Project risks and issues are not captured

30. Project risks and issues are not addressed

31. Project data is incorrect (and when this happens too many times, you don’t trust the data when it is finally correct)

32. Project data takes too long to obtain

33. Project data is presented in a way that doesn’t make sense

34. Project governance stifles progress

35. The project has no governance

36. The project team rarely meets

37. Project meetings are poorly managed with no clear purpose

38. The project team fails to address performance requirements

39. Poor recruitment to key project roles

40. Lack of training or understanding of particular issues

41. Conflicts within the team emerge and are not addressed

42. Team members have no clear roles or responsibilities

43. Systems and processes are not documented

44. The project experiences too many competing priorities

45. The specification is never agreed and signed off ( but the project goes ahead anyway)

46. Project monitoring and reporting is insufficient

47. Project monitoring is too onerous and bureaucratic and too much focus in placed upon ticking the point resulting in you missing the point

48. The project is never evaluated

49. The context / environment changes as a result of political, economic, social, technological changes

50. The system, organisation or team are already stretched and stressed

51. The project is never evaluated

52. People fail to view the project evaluation as a valuable learning experience

53. You don’t like the results of the evaluation, so you bend the truth to justify the time, money and resources spent on the project

So there you have it... 53 things to avoid if you want your project to be effective? What's your take? Have you encountered any other pitfalls or warning signs I've missed here?

Tara Humphrey is the founder of THC Primary Care, a leading healthcare consultancy specialising in workforce transformation and the only consultancy to have worked with 11 Training Hubs across South London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Tara and her team also work with GP federations supporting the implementation of clinical services.

Tara has over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sector and has an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, is published in the London Journal of Primary Care and is the author of over 150 blogs articles. She presents her own podcast: The Business of Healthcare With Tara Humphrey.

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