How to Spot if Your Project is Off Course

Published on : 9th November 2023

How to Spot if Your Project is Off Course

Have you ever been part of a project that seemed to be heading off course? Now and then, you find yourself navigating the challenging waters of project recovery. But how can you identify the early warning signs that your project might need a helping hand to get back on track?

Several kinds of indicators can signal a project needs recovering.


Formal Indicators


The formal indicators are the tangible, measurable aspects of your project. These include status reports and missed milestones, the "black and white" signs that something's amiss. Keeping a close eye on these aspects is essential as they provide crucial data points, allowing you to pinpoint problems and identify areas for improvement. Here are some common formal indicators


Missed Deadlines


If your project consistently misses deadlines or struggles to meet key milestones, it's a strong sign that something is amiss. Delivery delays can disrupt your project's overall timeline and cause it to veer off course.


Budget Overruns


When costs start to exceed the budgeted amount, it's a red flag. Frequent financial issues can lead to resource shortages, hindering your project's progress.


Scope Creep


If your project's scope continuously expands without clear documentation and approval, it can lead to confusion, resource depletion, and a project that is no longer aligned with its original goals.


Informal Indicators


In addition to the hard metrics, informal considerations within your team can also have a heavy influence. These indicators revolve around the people within your project team and their behaviours. They often reflect the emotional pulse of your project and can tell you if your team is in sync and motivated. Here are some common informal indicators to watch out for.


Lack of Initiative


If team members hesitate to take initiative and wait for instructions instead of proactively solving issues, it may indicate a lack of motivation or engagement.


Endless Postponements


If key decisions by your project's steering committee are repeatedly postponed, it can lead to confusion, project stagnation, and a lack of clear direction.


Competing Priorities


When team members continually prioritise other tasks over project-related work, it can be a sign of burnout, lack of enthusiasm, or a lack of understanding of the project's importance.


Communication Breakdown


A lack of open and transparent communication can cause misunderstandings and hinder progress. You and your team members should feel comfortable discussing challenges and suggesting improvements.



Recognising these signs early is essential to address project issues promptly. Effective project management involves a combination of monitoring formal metrics and being attuned to the informal dynamics within your team.

By staying vigilant and proactive, you can steer your project back on course and achieve the desired successful outcomes.