My job is to turn teams around, which usually means that customer come to me when a project is about to fail. I’ll only take a customer if I’m sure I can turn the project around. But some projects have such tight deadlines and the problems have been allowed to fester too long. How can you identify a project that is floundering before it’s too late? fail

When I thought of those companies who  failed to make deadlines. The people working on the projects cared and often planned far enough ahead. But they missed the two major signs that your project will fail or will miss the deadline.

Two signs of potential failure

  • Lack of will.
  • Lack of integrity.

You may notice the symptoms on a global level, or it may be one or a handful of people on the team.

If you sense that anyone on your team has these deficiencies, your project is in danger of failure. Unless you have plenty of time to miss milestones and intermediary deadlines, you need to turn these people around or eliminate them from the critical path. In most cases, you can get to the root of the problem with someone who is displaying a bad attitude, and you can train people to follow through with integrity. But if you can’t, they simply need to be put on tasks that are not critical to the deadline.

When you trust someone, ask for a referral

Great people choose great people as their partners. If you’ve picked a supplier you love, ask them who they prefer to work with. Someone with experience can tell you who is the best, fastest, cheapest or most overpriced in the industry. Still, 90% of companies choose each supplier separately for a job.

Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize

I will tell a little story. I was working for a company as their sole marketing person, and the company said to me “We are going to CES with this product.” CES was 6 weeks away. CES, if you don’t know, is the largest consumer electronics trade show in the world.

I said “We are not going to CES. You don’t even have a logo. You have no web site, no business cards, nothing. We could get a meeting room, but no booth.” Needless to say, 6 weeks later, I was in Las Vegas, in a fully-designed popup booth, with a running demo, several speaking slots and back-to-back booked meetings for the CEO and VP sales.

I knew I could not fail. And I knew I couldn’t work alone. I had to work with people who also could not fail. If any supplier sounded the least doubtful about the deadline, I didn’t work with them. If any supplier didn’t send me their proposal within 24 hours, I didn’t work with them.

When I picked team members, two things were of top priority:

  • Absolute determination to get the job done.
  • Proof that you do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.

When to remove someone from the project

OK, so I know my so-and-so supplier is not totally reliable. When is the best time to remove him from the project so it will cause the least damage?


I’m not saying don’t give people a second chance. Give people a second chance if they take responsibility and pick up the slack. If you hear someone blaming circumstances, cut and run. If you hear someone who doesn’t sound like they are totally committed to fixing the damage and making up for lost time, move on.

Everyone knows this so why don’t they do it?

Money. Plain and simple. They’ve already committed to this supplier and perhaps paid for part of the work. They know it will cost more to go with someone else or do a rush job.

All I can say to you is: Suck it up. If you can risk the project failure, fine. If not, suck it up and pay for your mistake.

If you need help turning around a team before it’s too late, give me a call for a free consultation.