7 Signs of Poor Project Management – Alarming Facts!

15 min. read

Projects are initiated for many different reasons. Creating a new product, legal requirements, customer requests, and technological advancements, just to name a few. No matter what the reason is, project management success is crucial for an organization to survive in the market. Applying best project management practices ensures completing projects on time and on budget. Any organization with projects plagued with project schedule delays or project cost overruns can’t compete in the market. Therefore, watching out for the signs of poor project management and taking proactive and reactive measures is critical.

7 Signs of Poor Project Management in an Organization

Project management is completing a project scope within a predetermined time period, set budget, and with certain quality expectations. There are several approaches, methodologies, tools, and techniques used by the Project Management Office department in organizations. However, these approaches, processes, or tools may not prevent poor project management and executives of the organizations should look for the signs of poor project management and address the pain points immediately.

The common signs of poor project management are:

  1. Demotivated project team
  2. Individual performers rather than teamwork
  3. Different “Project Goal Perception” of the project team members
  4. Schedule delays
  5. Cost overruns
  6. Never-ending change requests
  7. Top-down management approach rather than servant leadership

We will go over each of these signs of poor project management one by one.

Signs of Poor Project Management 1: Demotivated Project Team

The project managers are highly creative, they put 100% into the project, and they also follow the project management processes to achieve results, but sometimes it seems that it’s not enough. They feel like they failed, and the project is not moving forward as expected. Why could that happen? Well, if their team is not motivated, this will be a hindrance for them to reaching the project targets. Lack of team motivation is one of the signs of poor project management.

Why is a team not motivated? What could be the causes of a demotivated team? Well, there could be tons of reasons for that. For example, several project failures, static and repetitive work, unplanned additional work, lack of communication, no recognition and reward bonuses, etc. There could be other significant issues that could demotivate team members such as micro-management, lack of discipline, and even not having enough work to keep the team busy.

These things are serious and can hinder the efforts of the project management team and in turn, impact the projects negatively. So, when the teams are demotivated, efforts should be made to boost the team’s motivation. This can be done in various ways. For instance, you could encourage teamwork, provide positive feedback, share your goals with the team, and have a healthy and productive office environment. When you invest time and energy in your team, and the team is happy and motivated, you will start to see positive results.

Every Project Manager needs to develop a set of soft skills to successfully manage their project team and other stakeholders. We, at Master of Project Academy during our PMP, CAPM, and Core PM training courses, discuss in depth how to motivate, develop, and properly manage the project team. High-functioning and supported teams are paramount to a successful project.

Signs of Poor Project Management 2: Individual Performers rather than Teamwork

In good project management practices, team members help each other, solve problems together and work as a team. However, if the team members are not interacting with each other enough and they are just focusing on completing their own tasks, there will be problems. For example, when there is not enough teamwork, there will be communication issues, misunderstandings, decentralized processes, and conflicts in decision-making and in the way of working.

If such an atmosphere exists in your office, this is one of the signs of poor project management. The responsibility of the management is not only to look at the project but also to manage the teams well. The management should build an atmosphere for effective teamwork. This can be done by building trust and confidence in the team members first.

How to ensure teamwork?

There are various ways through which the management can ensure teamwork rather than individual performance. The manager could set up team-building activities, lead the way, offer team performance rewards, etc. There are many more team-building options the management could use to build the team. For example, team building activities that promote problem-solving or creative thinking. Or, there could even be team-building games to boost team engagement.

Moreover, you will need to empower your team to make project decisions within their responsibilities. When you do this, they will feel free to come up with collective ideas and creative solutions. Also, make sure other team members and stakeholders know what each resource is working on so that they know who to collaborate with when they may need it. Also, ensure that you specify project goals for the team and do not micro-manage them, as this lowers the employees’ happiness and productivity levels. It also helps a lot if you use project management tools and processes. Through centralized work processes and procedures, your team is integrated and stays aligned with the way of work that you have defined for them.

Signs of Poor Project Management 3: Different “Project Goal Perception” of the project team members

If the project team members have different “project goal” perceptions, this means the project goal isn’t clear to them. This is one of the signs of poor project management. The project managers must make sure that they communicate the project goals to the team clearly. They should also ensure that every team member has a clear understanding of the goals. You should ask team members whether they have understood them well and if they have any questions.

Your team may be highly competent, but if some members are going in one direction and others are going in another, there surely will be challenges ahead. This often happens in projects where the project management fails to align every member to the project goals. There could be many types of goals that the project management office should communicate to the team members. For example, the project managers could set a goal for the project budget, project deadline, or customer satisfaction. Moreover, they can include other goals such as increasing productivity, meeting customer expectations, ensuring a happy team, etc.

Moreover, in order to succeed in the goals, the project management team should try to make the goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). With SMART goals, you can clarify to your team your focus, the ideas, and the effort that needs to be made. When you clarify the expectations, you can help your team members have the same goals in mind that they must achieve.

Signs of Poor Project Management 4: Schedule Delays

Based on the answers of respondents who attended our corporate training programs, schedule delays, and incompetent resources are the most common issues in project delivery organizations.

  • 2% of the respondents reported that their organizations’ projects suffer from schedule delays.
  • 5% of the respondents reported that incompetent resources are a project management issue in their organization.

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If the project tasks are delayed repeatedly or if there is a huge deviation from the deadlines, this is a very substantial sign of poor project management. Schedule delays mean delays in completing the project. It also means incurring more costs as well as losing your credibility with the customers.

Project activities often experience delays. The reasons for the delay could be anything from the unavailability of material, incompetent resources, change of scope due to sudden regulatory or compliance requirements. If the management has no proper plan and strategy to monitor the schedule and deal with unforeseen situations, there will surely be issues ahead that must be addressed.

The project managers should ensure that they have realistic activity estimates. They should also validate their estimates based on the availability and productivity of the resources. In addition, since there is always a chance for unforeseen events, the management should keep a contingency and management reserve to deal with such circumstances and avoid schedule delays. Planning and managing of the project schedule are critical components of any successful project and need to receive proper attention from management.

When the project is large or complex, the project manager should take effective measures to ensure that there are no schedule delays. Effective project management means setting realistic deadlines, gathering the right resources, tracking, and measuring progress. Furthermore, it also includes holding regular meetings to stay up to date with the current schedule progress and being able to forecast the schedule.

In addition to all of the above, the absence of proper project management tools and processes in place to manage the schedule is also one of the prominent signs of poor project management.

Master of Project Academy offers virtual, in-person, and online training courses in PMP (Project Management Professional), CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management), and PM Core classes where our experienced instructors explain with real-life examples how to avoid schedule delays.

By attending a PMP, CAPM, or PM Core training course, the participants will receive an in-depth understanding of how to plan, manage and control project schedules. Furthermore, participants will be able to understand triggers that might cause schedule delays, will gain confidence in how to manage and mitigate schedule-related issues, and apply successful tools to bring project schedules back on track.

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Signs of Poor Project Management 5: Cost Overruns

If the tasks cost more than the planned budget or if there is a huge deviation from the cost baselines, this is one of the substantial signs of poor project management. Cost overruns are often caused by incorrect project estimates, project complexity, or lack of resource planning. Other reasons for project cost overruns might be incompetent resources, unanticipated risks, and unclear project scope. However, communication breakdown is one of the major reasons for cost overruns. Communication plays a major role in project management and effective communication is very important in all the project phases. If there is very little or ineffective communication within the project team and with the external stakeholders, there will be misunderstandings and a lack of information. Due to this, there may be incorrect estimates or unclear scope, resulting in cost overruns.

Sometimes, there are many unforeseen things that suddenly arise, causing cost overruns. For example, unavailability of cheap resources, change of customer requirements or errors in deliverables, etc. All such types of risks are part of every project and the management should ensure they manage them well. Effective project management is the one that predicts the future and takes into account all the possible negative risks that could occur. The Project Managers should prepare reserves and a risk control plan in order to handle all these risks.

Having said that, no matter what caused cost overruns, the project management team will be responsible for the consequences. They should ensure that the cost planning is realistic and that cost monitoring is also done effectively. This is necessary in order to stay under the budget. It is upon the project manager how they plan the project expenditures and which processes or tools they use to monitor the cost.

By attending our award-winning courses, your employees will get practical guidelines on how to prevent cost overruns and how to monitor the budget expenditure on the project. The participants will gain confidence in planning and monitoring the project budget and will learn how to control the budget using different analytical techniques to measure the health of the project. Based on the analysis, the project managers can forecast the budget expenditures and determine if the project would be completed within budget, with savings, or if there would be a cost overrun requiring additional funding.

6 – Never-ending change requests

If the project scope is not clear, then, the project will be plagued with never-ending change requests. In the end, the scope of the project will deviate a lot from the initial scope. This will cause schedule as well as cost overruns. If this is happening, it is also one of the signs of poor project management. Yes, change requests may come but they need to be managed well.

Often, at the early stage of the project, even the customers do not know the exact deliverables that might need to be delivered. With the progression of time, they realize that they want some things differently, or they may want to add new features to the product. Sometimes, other project stakeholders may also want a change in the scope of the project. For example, a manager may want to change a product feature due to a technical constraint. Or maybe the sponsor reduces the budget due to an unforeseen event. So, there could be many reasons that may call for a change in the project or the product itself.

How to respond to change requests?

However, if the project management team does not pay attention to the change requests and approves a change request that does not benefit the project, this is one of the signs of poor project management. Changes that the project manager requests without proper assessment and authorization may result in detrimental consequences. You may see issues like cost overruns, schedule delays, issues with the suppliers, resources, etc. The project manager must ensure first that they have a proper change management process in place. The change management process should ensure that every change request is assessed and then approved.

If you allow changes to be accepted and incorporated without proper assessment, you will start to see rapid change requests coming your way and from all directions. Your customer, your employees, and the other stakeholders – all will be requesting changes to be included in the project. This will obviously result in deviations from the project plans. Similarly, you will start to see gold-plating and scope creep happening, which should not be acceptable in projects. Effective project management should ensure that all change requests go through a proper change control mechanism. Moreover, they should ensure that only beneficial changes are accepted.

7 – Top-down management approach rather than servant leadership

If the management of the organization is acting authoritatively, barking orders, rather than acting as a servant leader, and providing support to the employees, this is a very old-school way of project management that never works. This is also one of the signs of poor project management.

If the project managers and the senior management develop servant-leadership relationships with their employees, then, they can better manage their teams. Through this relationship, you demonstrate to your resources care and compassion, rather than power and authority. In turn, you get better control over the project which helps in completing it with success.

  • Learn more about Master of Project Academy’s Leadership Program where your leaders will get instructive and hands-on training through interactive exercises, case studies, templates, and techniques that can be customized to your organization’s specific needs.

Servant leaders create more loyalty and trust within the organization. They always take interest in the professional development of their team and personal concerns, including work-life balance. Servant leaders pursue opportunities to positively impact their resources and make a difference in their lives. Through this, the servant leader creates a positive atmosphere in the workplace. It gives every employee a stress-free environment to work and focus. The team members are empowered to make decisions, and they are given opportunities to bring up their own ideas for the improvement of the project or the organization.

The servant leadership relationship is not present in poor project management practices. If your management is authoritative, does not participate in your project work, and does not take accountability, this is one of the prominent signs of poor project management.


In this post, we listed and explained many signs of poor project management and what are the differences between good and bad project managers. It is unfortunate that poor project management exists. Although the project manager is responsible for project success, if they fail to manage project goals, costs, schedules, the project teams, and the change requests properly, they are demonstrating poor project management.

Poor management is bad for the organization, the projects as well as the team. The organizations that are more profitable and successful are those that have good project management in place. They have experienced managers; they focus on thorough planning and work with their teams using servant leadership practices.

On the other hand, an organization that has bad managers can experience a variety of problems. Furthermore, poor project management practices may lead to great distress. Sometimes, due to poor project management, the organization might need to suspend or even cancel the projects.

So, if the projects are going downhill or there are other issues within the project, know that your management is not doing something right. This can be a sign of poor project management. If you are witnessing something like this, do not be afraid to raise your voice. If these circumstances are affecting the project or your work, it is very important that you flag this to the senior management and find a solution to get back on track quickly.

At Master of Project Academy, we can help your organization and your employees manage successful projects. The key to successful organizations is well-trained and skilled employees. Let us train your employees and have them learn from our skilled instructors on how to apply the best project management practices. Your organization and your employees can choose from several certification training courses such as CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management), PMP (Project Management Professional), and Core PM courses.

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