7 Signs of Poor Project Management – Alarming Facts!

13 min. read

Projects are initiated for several different reasons. Creating a new product, legal requirements, customer requests, and many other reasons can be the reason for initiating projects. No matter what the reason is, project management success is crucial for an organization to survive in the market. Because project management ensures completing projects on-time and on-budget. Any organization with several 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 on a determined time and budget with certain quality expectations. There are several approaches, methodologies, tools, and techniques used by the Project Management Office departments of the 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 heal 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 the results, but they don’t succeed. Why could that happen? Well, if their team is not motivated, this will be a hindering bottleneck for them to reach the targets. And not being able to keep their team motivated all the time is one of the signs of poor project management.

How is it that a team is not motivated, what would be the reasons for a demotivated team? Well, there could be tons of reasons that would make your team demotivated. For example, several project failures, static work styles, unplanned work, lack of communication, no recognition and reward bonuses, etc. There could even be significant things that could demotivate resources. Such things include micro-management of the team, lack of discipline, and even not having enough work available to keep you busy.

These things are not light as these become hindrance to the efforts of the project management team and in turn, impacts the projects negatively. So, when there are demotivated teams, there should be efforts to make the team motivated. And 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 will invest time and energy in your team, and the team is happy and motivated, you will start to see positive results.

Signs of Poor Project Management 2: Individual Performers rather than Team Work

In good project management practices, team members help each other, solve the problems together and teamwork is in place. 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 to face. For example, when there is not enough teamwork, there will be communication issues, misunderstandings, no centralized processes to follow, conflicts in decisions and in the way of your work, etc.

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. And, this can be done by first building trust and confidence in the team members.

How to ensure teamwork?

There are various ways through which the management can ensure teamwork rather than individual performing individuals. The manager could set up team-building activities, lead the way, offer team performance rewards, etc. There are even many 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 the team engagement.

Moreover, you will need to give decision making powers to your team. When you will do this, they will feel free to come up with collective ideas and creative solutions. Also, what each resource is doing, make it visible to others 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 the procedures of work, your team is integrated and stay aligned to 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 the team. And it 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 is clear on the goals. You should ask team members whether they have understood them well or not 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 to 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 direction of the effort to be made. And, with this, you can help your team members having the same goals in mind which they must achieve.

Signs of Poor Project Management 4: Schedule Delays

Based on the respondents’ answers attended our corporate training programsSchedule delays, and incompetent resources are the most common issues in project delivery organizations.

  • 47.2% of the respondents reported that their organizations’ projects suffer from schedule delays.
  • 24.5% of the respondents reported that incompetent resources are a project management issue in their organization.

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If the project tasks are delaying repetitively or if there is a huge deviation from the deadlines, this is one of the very substantial signs of poor project management. Schedule delays mean delays in completing the project. And, it also means incurring more cost as well as losing your credibility to the customers.

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

The project manager 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 unforeseen circumstances always have a probability to arise, the management should keep a contingency and management reserve to deal with such circumstances and avoid schedule delays. This would be the weakness of the management if they didn’t put enough effort into project schedule planning and management.

When the project size is large or if it is a complex project, the project manager should take even more measures to ensure no schedule delays. Effective project management would be one that sets realistic deadlines, gathers the right resources, tracks, and measures the 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.

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. Even the incompetent resources, unanticipated risks, unclear project scope might also be the reasons. And, among these many reasons, communication breakdown is one of the major reasons for cost overruns. Communication is 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 thinks about all the possible negative risks that could occur. They should then prepare reserves and a risk control plan in order to handle all these risks.

Having said that, it doesn’t matter what caused cost overruns, the project management team is responsible for this. 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. This is all upon the project management how they plan the cost and which processes or tools they use to monitor the cost.

6 – Never-ending change requests

If the project scope is not clear, then, never-ending change requests will be coming throughout the project. In the end, the scope of the project will deviate a lot from the initial scope. And, this will cause schedule as well as cost overruns. If this is happening, know that this is one of the signs of poor project management.  Yes, change requests may come.

Often, at the early stage of the project, the customers themselves do not know the exact deliverables that they need. With the progression of time, they realize that they want some things differently, or they may want to add new features to this product. Sometimes, the other project stakeholders may also want a change in 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 in an unforeseen circumstance. So, there could be many reasons that may demand 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 non-beneficial changes, this is one of the signs of poor project management in place. Changes that you accept without proper assessment and authorization may result in unaccepted 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 request 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 the things to include 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 is not 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 the beneficial changes are accepted.

7 – Top-down management approach rather than servant leadership

If the management of the organization is acting as an authoritative manager, only telling what to do, rather than acting as a servant leader, helping them out in their tasks, this is a very old-school way of project management that never works. And, this is also one of the signs of poor project management.

Whereas, when there is a servant-leadership relationship between the management and the employees, you can better manage your team. Through this relationship, you demonstrate to your resources care and compassion, rather than power and authority. And, in turn, you get better control over the project which helps in completing it with success.

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. And they actually pursue opportunities to positively impact their resources and making a difference in their lives. Through this, the servant leader creates a positive atmosphere at the workplace. It gives every employee a stress-free mind to work and focus. The resources are also given a space to make decisions. And, they are given opportunities to bring up their own ideas for the betterment 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, does not take accountability, this is one of the prominent signs of poor project management


In this post, we explained the many signs of poor project management and what are the differences between good vs bad project managers. It is unfortunate that poor project management does exist. 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 more profitable organizations are those that have good project management in place. They have experienced managers, they focus on thorough planning and work with their teams in a servant leader relationship.

On the other hand, an organization that has bad managers are the cause for a variety of problems. Furthermore, their poor project management practices may lead to great miseries. Sometimes, due to poor project management, you need to suspend or even cancel the projects.

So, if you see your projects going down the hill or there are other issues inside your project, know that your management is not doing right. Know that this is a sign of poor project management. And, if you see something like this, do not be afraid to raise your voice. If such a circumstance is 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 to track quickly.

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