Underperformer in a project? What to do?

Dr. Jonas Steeger

Even the best project does not always meet with the approval of all participants. But a single participant can bring the whole project to a standstill through misconduct. We will show you what you can do to avoid the whole thing.

Some projects work virtually by themselves. The team is better than any Swiss clockwork. That's usually worth its weight in gold, especially in projects where there is a division of labour. Because if even a single cog in the movement is out of line, the machine quickly comes to a standstill. We will show you a tried and tested procedure for rapid assistance.

Step by step?

The following steps have proven themselves in practice. You do not have to stick strictly to the order. But one thing is important: give the project participant the chance to improve after every attempt.

1. Prevention is better than any household remedy

One of the main reasons for lack of interest and motivation is often the lack of identification with the project. Not everyone is satisfied with a long to-do list. It is therefore extremely important that as many project participants as possible are involved in the project planning right from the start - even if you design the project top-down.

Incidentally, one of the biggest problems is often the lack of knowledge about the overall project and its goal. If participants cannot locate their tasks in the overall structure, it is difficult to make good decisions and get involved.

2. Cause > Symptom

Nevertheless, it can of course happen that a participant does not participate properly despite all the involvement. Then an individual discussion is usually effective and that as quickly as possible. Maybe there are good reasons! Find the reason for the behaviour through open questions. This is the only way to create the basis for further steps.

3. Show me your data, baby

Often there is also a lack of understanding for the relevance of the project. One or the other may think that other things are more important. Here is your chance - in two ways. Because if you have the data basis to convincingly demonstrate that the project is important, it is difficult to argue against it. And if you don't have the data, you immediately have a common task for the unwilling employee. Maybe you can discuss together how important the project is and why.

4. None of this helps? Escalate!

If you have tried all the steps, you certainly had to talk a lot... that can be very, very counterproductive for everyone involved. Sometimes all the talking doesn't help. Before the whole project suffers, you should escalate the facts - and really only the facts. Get together with the team or go straight up one hierarchy level. It is important that you take the participant directly with you at this step and do not simply inform them ex post.

5. Change of teams

The hardest and often last step is the exclusion from the team. This should not happen. Because an exclusion is often a sign for deeper problems and mostly only indirectly related to the project.

6. Before the project is after the project

Take what you have learned with you into the next project! A good debriefing at the end of the project will help. By the way, a midterm debriefing can also work in between. Maybe you will learn something about yourself, the team and the project. Who is best at what? Where does it often get stuck and why? What can you do about it? A good debriefing is the best thing for the next project!

Falcon can help you!

Falcon can help you enormously with all steps. Falcon creates clear responsibilities and a simple overview of the overall project, goals and progress. Try it out for yourself! We are happy to help you!


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