The Effects of Poor Leadership in Project Management

Organizations feel the effects of poor leadership in project management pervasively.

Whether a project suffers from leadership vacuums, misaligned expectations, or regular miscommunication, the buck stops at leadership. Project management theory, after all, isn’t a self-starter that can overcome all those issues — leaders need to provide the support, resources, and buy-in to help project managers get something off the ground.

Consider this: Once a project begins, managers must make difficult tradeoffs throughout its lifecycle. Without adept and discerning leaders, the wrong tradeoffs, messaging, and priorities could sneak into the process.

Effective leadership can make or break a company’s ability to successfully shepherd initiatives across the finish line. And if you’re looking for reasons why projects fail on your watch, start the search up top.

How to Snuff Out the Effects of Poor Leadership in Project Management

Ineffective leadership leaves its fingerprints all over failed projects. To see where it truly exerts its influence, follow these three strategies:

1. Review the Initiation phase.

Many times, projects are dead on arrival. Maybe leaders didn’t spend enough time developing a business case for the project, which led to an incomplete project charter, poorly defined goals, an ill-conceived project plan, and so on.

Those struggles usually point to a not-so-solid foundation. Look at every part of your initiation phase, from project selection and validation process to building the project charter, before turning your attention elsewhere.

Are the charters you’re creating clearly and completely laying out the project’s who, what, where, when, why, and how? Are they putting the right people in the right roles? Do they have everything they need to succeed from the start? Leadership signs off on all these details, so if you notice any trends of things that are missing, you should begin your auditing process there.

2. Evaluate project management supporting resources.

Project managers can find their hands tied around the resources available to them. Perhaps the individual tasked with scheduling drops the ball. Maybe the team member responsible for data analysis fails to complete a task or document their progress.

Revisit the six roles of effective project management. If leadership fits into place, the ensuing five roles (subject matter expertise, analysis, scheduling, coordination, and administration) should all do the same.

If any are lacking, it’s likely that their expectations weren’t established and agreed upon by leadership at the outset. Align those roles to where they fit in the project charter so everyone starts from the same page.

3. Reexamine the deliverables.

Ask almost any department the reasons why projects fail, and they’ll likely say it’s tactical. Unfortunately, this is missing the forest for the trees. You should start with the critical components for a solution to be delivered (requirements, testing, etc.). If those aren’t in place, even the most impeccable delivery is doomed. Teams will either deliver the outcomes wrong or deliver the wrong outcomes.

We once worked with a worldwide education and training company that suffered from a lack of quality assurance. They didn’t uncover that problem until midstream, and you can’t just wave a wand to correct this. The company had to build the whole infrastructure on the go, which was like building the plane while you fly it.

Although the reasons why projects fail are many, it often comes down to a few issues related to planning, resources, and deliverables. Leadership plays a hand in each area, so begin your project failure review there. The chances are good that you’ll identify the root cause, then make the necessary adjustments in the future.

If you’d like to learn more about the project management process or hear about one of our PM solutions, let us know. We’d be happy to discuss your business and find an option perfectly suited to your needs.

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