Nothing frustrates me more than wasting an hour in a status meeting as the project manager waffles about milestones and shuffles through piles of Microsoft Project printouts.


This article first appeared on ZDNet’s AnchorDesk.

But painful meetings like these aren’t just frustrating. They can be symptoms of deeper, more critical issues that can doom your project. So I thought I’d share with you the eight telltale signs that your project is headed for serious trouble. The first seven come courtesy of contributor and project management veteran Tony Mersino; the eighth is from yours truly.

  1. There’s no compelling business case. Is that “super-cool” Flash brochure-ware site really going to increase revenues?
  2. You’re coding from the “spec of the day.” If you can’t agree on requirements or system specifications, how will you know whether the deliverable works or which spec is the most up to date? You won’t.
  3. You don’t have a project plan. This one speaks for itself. A scary variation is when an e-mail thread becomes the functional specification. Mersino likens this to building a house without a blueprint.
  4. You and your client aren’t on speaking terms. When this happens, you must fight the urge to start insulting the sponsor’s family members.
  5. The project sponsor lives in a cave. This one hurts—especially when you need to ask for additional resources. There are only a couple of things more humiliating than when your boss asks for more contractor dollars and a senior manager just rolls his or her eyes.
  6. There’s no change-management system. Debugging is for wimps. Besides, my code runs right the first time! Or did you get that e-mail asking for “a few small changes?”
  7. There’s no status reporting system. One reason your faltering initiative lacks an accurate reporting system may be that the project is so far behind, nobody wants to talk about it.
  8. In status meetings, you pass the painful minutes by counting the times anyone says “interface,” “action item,” and “go-to person.”

Of course, taken singly, none of these symptoms means your project is definitely doomed. But they’re all red flags that demand you take action. If your project suffers from all eight, you’re on the Titanic and had better start surfing for greener pastures.

For a detailed take on each of the eight signs and, more importantly, what you can do about them, check out Tony’s articles, “Three warning signs that your project is doomed” and “Four more warning signs that your project is doomed.”