1: Not communicating the change effectively.

Projects are typically initiated to capture an opportunity, innovate, or solve a problem.

They are temporary and should have a definitive beginning and end.  

In short, projects are doing something new (yes, even if you’ve made similar efforts many times previously).

When you do anything new, getting buy-in from those affected by the change is imperative.  

Before you argue with me, I will tell you that people are indeed affected by change.  

To be blunt, they hate it with a white-hot passion.  If they thought they could tell you that – trust me – they would.  Otherwise, they are like the French citizens “eating cake” and just buying their time (to behead you – if you don’t get the reference…)

You must, at minimum, show your people the benefits of a successful change and the consequences of not making the effort.  

Without this acceptance from your people, they will work both aggressively and passive-aggressively against your efforts, and your project will be doomed.

2: The project wasn’t initiated properly.

Too many projects go from idea to execution (commitment of resources).  These resources are your organization’s time, money, gear, and people.  

Sadly, I must say this: not every idea we have is great.  Not every idea you have (even when it IS great) is ready to be initiated RIGHT NOW.  

Stop for a moment. Let the idea develop, and make sure it’s the right idea for the right project at the right time. 

Patrick Lencioni, the New York Times best-selling author, says it best in his book “The Five Types of Working Genius” about a three-phase project approach.

Ideate.  Activate.  Implement.

Most of us are pretty good at ideating – finding projects to start for our organization.  

The problem is that we never take a moment or more to ACTIVATE the project, to discern whether it is valid, and to put together the right resources and team to implement it successfully.  

He says of Activation, “This part of work is about evaluating the merits of the ideas or solutions proposed during Ideation and then rallying people around the ideas of solutions worthy of action.  Most organizations aren’t even aware that this stage exists.”

I know we are all time-poor and task-saturated, but you are killing your efforts if you aren’t deliberately ensuring that you are undertaking the right projects at the right time.

3: Not engaging stakeholders effectively 

Engaging stakeholders effectively is mandatory for success.  Sadly, most of us greatly overcomplicate it.  

Worse, we completely muck it up by giving power (empowering) to the WRONG people.  Effective stakeholder engagement is simple when you truly understand it.  

It’s about identifying and understanding two components to every stakeholder: how much POWER they possess over the project and how much INTEREST they have in the project or its outcomes.  

After that, it’s a simple math problem, as shown in the two diagrams below.

Here’s a pro tip: STOP EMPOWERING PEOPLE. You are creating more work for yourself. In order to empower someone properly, they need to possess BOTH HIGH to VERY HIGH POWER within the project AND HIGH to VERY HIGH INTEREST.  

If they don’t have both of those and you EMPOWER them, you are setting yourself and the project up for failure. 

4: Incorrectly utilizing resources

See above about incorrectly empowering people….

Also, stop committing MONEY and TIME to projects that shouldn’t be started in the first place.  

Stop having endless runs of ineffective meetings that do little more than add stress to your team and force unnecessary delays to their efforts.

Protect your people.  Give them the ability to accomplish what you ask them to.  

Say ‘no’ more often.  ‘No’ to the good idea fairy lurking throughout your organization, sprinkling magical “good ideas” throughout.  

And, before you start to deny you have the good idea, fairy – I want you to just pause for a moment and think about the last couple of efforts you’ve gotten behind…

5: No clear priorities of effort

Set priorities of effort and be crystal clear about them to your teams.

I am blessed to be able to interact with a lot of people each week. When I ask them “How many of you (if you aren’t the boss/owner) CLEARLY understand your priorities of work?” I get a lot of awkward glances.  

When I ask bosses/owners the same question – I get a LOT of excuses.

“But… you don’t understand…”

I do understand.  I get it.  You cannot tell your people what’s important because you don’t know what it is.  

If this whole post sounds blunt, it’s only because I know you need to hear it.

Failing in your efforts sucks.  Full stop.  If you can at least agree with that statement, scroll back up and re-read this post.