Common Project Issues


Management & Planning

Lack of team planning sessions

Inadequate planning

Inaccurate assumptions

No project initiation/planning

Project charter missing

Project constraints not identified

Unclear project goals/objectives

Scope bigger than budget

Lack of scope freezing

Over commitment

Unclear business alignment

Inadequate staffing

Poor executive support

Poor scope definition

Over-allocated resources

Multitasking resources

Poor Sponsorship


Organization & Culture

Project culture not supported

Management not paying attention

Keeping expectations real

Death by committee

No project ownership

Political infighting

Poor leadership


Estimation & Analysis

Poorly defined requirements

Lack of clarity in requirements

Unrealistic timeframes

Underestimated timelines

Inaccurate cost estimates

Failure to drive out the details


Project Mgmt. & Communications

Scope Creep/ lack of focus

Poor change management

Poor project discipline

Poor communications/failures

Inadequate monitors and controls

Insufficient stakeholder management

Decision making problems

Managing multiple projects

Lack of visibility of all projects

No visibility into resource workload

Continuing to pursue bad ideas

Poor user involvement


Skill & Knowledge

Accidental project manager

Insufficient PM skills/experience

Poor project management

Poor resource management

Poor scheduling

Lack of qualified resources

Bad software development process


Quality & Risk

Insufficient quality assurance

Inadequate testing

Use of unfamiliar tools

Use of new technologies/methods

No risk management activities

No risk mitigation Plan




The only problem you can not solve is the one you don’t know you have!

1. What are the three most important steps I can take to improve my project's performance quickly?

Communicate, communicate, and communicate with the same message in varying degrees of detail!

  • Communicate to the senior leadership team including project sponsor(s), various levels of management, and executive management.
  • Communicate to peers groups, fellow project managers, and user mid management.
  • Communicate to the project group(s), related project groups, and direct users.

Most problems and issues can be resolved if everyone is on the same page and no one gets surprised. 


2. What is the root cause for most project failures?

Failing projects can display numerous issues, symptoms, reasons, and causes.  A number of them are categorized  along the side panel.  After distilling them, almost all are the result of one and/or all of the following three root causes:

  1. The senior leadership team is not paying enough attention to the project.
  2. Communication channels to/from the senior leadership team has not shown them the project’s problems.
  3. The senior leadership team does not know enough about the project to understand what questions to ask. 

Although much can be done to improve a project’s performance, success can not be assured until these three root causes are solved.



3. What are the steps for a project rescue?

Of course, all projects are different; yet, many are similar.  The following framework has worked well on many different types of project rescues.  Although this framework may need a few adjustments for any given project, it provides a fairly complete starting point.


  1. 🔣 Get Loose: Break way from the daily PM routine!
  • Admit the project has problems
  • Realize changes must be made
  • Open up to new ideas
  1. 👤 Get Help: Someone outside the current project leadership
  • Get an executive PM who has been there, done that
  • Find an executive PM outside the current culture and leadership team
  • Identify a new leadership model
  1. 🔤 Get Clear: Clarify the project’s current status
  • Assess project problems and issues
  • Determine a new plan of action
  1. ♻️ Get Aligned: Align all stakeholders
  • Communicate findings to all stakeholders
  • Gain consensus and agreement
  • Re-affirm project goals and objectives
  • Reset expectations, if necessary
  • Embrace new leadership roles
  1. 🅿️ Plan Changes: Project, Staffing, Leadership, Communications
  • Scope, deliverables, timeframes?
  • Staff changes for expertise, experience, and/or skills?
  • Leadership changes at the project, sponsorship, advisory levels?
  • Communications vehicles: status, meetings, public management?
  • Management mechanisms: tracking, estimations, value analysis?
  1. 🔄 Do: Rescue Project, Review, & Repeat
  • Make changes
  • Execute project
  • Review progress using public management
  • Make adjustments
  • Measure results
  1. 🔘 Stay Focused: Manage the project to lead it to success
  • Manage scope, expectations, business value, etc.
  • Watch the budget and burn rate
  • Lead project by example
4. What should the project leadership look like?


5. Why should I trust an executive consultant to rescue my project vs. a large consulting firm?

The large consulting firms generally deliver sound work.  They have time tested processes and employ extremely smart, conscientious professionals.  Still, in many cases a small consulting firm or an independent consultant will achieve better results.  Reasons for not partnering with a large consulting firm include:

  • The big firm’s experienced partner will not likely be working on the project.
  • The assigned consultant’s success may not be fully aligned with your project’s success.
  • A larger staff does not necessarily mean more effectiveness and it drives lower efficiency.
  • Big ideas and entrepreneurial thinking more often originate from small consultancies.
  • A small firm or independent consultant with a focused practice provides more knowledgeable brains for diagnosis, prescription, and execution as well as leadership and management.

Four circumstances to use a prestigious, large consultancy include:

  • When prestige is critical.
  • When broad, simultaneous geographic reach is required.
  • When many hands are needed for implementation vs. a few brains for diagnosis and prescription.
  • When world class independent consultants do not have capacity to accommodate.

If you need to rescue a project, you will likely get better results, though not necessarily lower costs, by partnering with a best-in-class, small consulting group or a world class, independent executive consultant.  

Why?  Because project rescue will likely require:


  • A world class leader experienced in all the roles on the project’s leadership team.  (See the leadership model above)
  • An executive PM with successful experience leading/rescuing many projects; large/small, simple/complex, local/global.
  • An executive with senior management as well as management consulting experience in global organizations.
  • The executive consultant will be personally working on the project and only focused on your project’s success.
  • An independent, executive consultant with a focused project rescue practice provides a more knowledgeable basis for assessing the project’s problems, building an action plan to resolve those problems, and implementing those plans for a successful project rescue.