It would be relatively easy to figure out the top ten things a project leader needs to have for her project team to be successful. They might be things like clearly defined project goals, open communication, managed conflict, cooperative relationships, effective decision making etc.

The real challenge comes when people sit on multiple projects and use a variety of skills as ways of actually NOT delivering the project’s expected outputs. For example, preparing presentations and documents as a substitute for action. Another is using talk as a substitute for action.

Here are some ways you can tell if your project team is using substitute skills for actually delivering the outputs you expected at the project kick off. No follow up. Planning, meetings and report writing become defined as ‘action’, even if it has no impact on the outputs. Talking a lot is mistaken for doing a lot. Complex language, models, ideas are considered better than simple ones. There is a belief that managers talk and others do. Internal status comes from talking a lot and even interrupting and being critical of others.

Clearly if you are on a project team that is behaving this way, then your project will be behind schedule very quickly even if your mission statement and project charter started out so well. Listen in to your next project meeting as if you are a journalist. What would you write about this team?