Agency Management, Operational Excellence

Three Signs That Your Creative Project Has Gone Off Track

by Ron Ause, November 19, 2013

Workamajig LogoNot every creative project will be successful, but it is important to know the signs of when a project is going the wrong direction. Quality control is an important component of success. When it disappears from the equation, it's possible that the project will collapse. In order to run a successful project, someone with vision needs to be in charge. The following are three examples of indicators when projects are headed in the wrong direction.

Cloudy Vision for Success 

When upper management has a hard time articulating a clear vision for the project, it's a sign that the project is going to end up going in the wrong direction. If the outcome cannot be clearly presented to anyone, then no one really knows what they're trying to achieve. Individuals may each have their own ambitions, but all contributors need to be on the same page. Usually it takes a champion team leader who has a clear vision to make this goal happen. A project can fall into jeopardy when team leadership erodes or when key members stop communicating with each other through email, or through the team’s project management software.

Sometimes the top members of a team become confused and then do not know how to implement a new dynamic to the project. Feedback is the most important tool to make sure team members each understand their assignments. Leaders need to know which members need questions answered. There should never be a presumption that everyone understands what they have been told. As well, when funding becomes unclear and stakeholder commitment is unclear, the project can enter a period of stagnation.

Too Many Experts

A project in which nobody is in charge and everyone gets to use their own vision, can lose uniformity and become detached from the goal. At least one person on a team needs to be a designated contact to management to report team progress and to represent management's vision to team members. When several people have impact on a project, it needs to be shaped in a consistent way. If the project isn't consistent, it can develop too many contradictions that weaken its credibility.

While any project needs a degree of feedback, one voice should still dominate the project. There should not be a sense that everyone is in charge. When team leaders start assigning work to others and it doesn't get done because it wasn't a priority, it's likely for the project to develop a backlog of unfinished work. If everyone gets to set their own deadline, and there's no one authority to enforce deadlines, the project can fall behind its schedule.

Ignoring the Experts

Usually expert advice is weighed heavily to choose a path that has been proven successful in the past. When team members are turning down expert advice in favor of less proven ideas, there is an increased risk factor that the project may not be successful. One of the reasons for ignoring experts is that a unique situation has arisen that has never been addressed by experts. 

Sometimes ignoring the experts is a result of being given too much responsibility. If a person does not know how to delegate responsibility, yet is given that responsibility, it can slow down productivity. One person may try to resolve problems that require extra time to research, when the team could have saved time consulting with an expert. Another reason why team members might ignore experts is to control situations that give them certain benefits. 

Another reason for ignoring expert advice might be that the cost of the expertise is not affordable. If the project has cost barriers, sometimes team leaders take the credit for providing cost saving solutions that may not be the best solutions.

These are only three signs of off-track projects. We welcome feedback from our readership on their problematic experiences, and how to avoid them.

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About The Author

Ron began a career in the software industry at 13, while working with his father. He's become an expert in job cost and project management for creative teams.

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