By Sheila Roberts

As a project professional an area which generates a great deal of debate is how to deal with people who are not delivering successfully.

There are many reasons including personal preferences, personal strengths, applicability, and what is understood by organisations.

I can remember in the late 1990s when many organisations believed that a PRINCE2 qualification meant they were securing a competent person. Now, two decades on, organisations realise that this has not been the case. So how does an organisation enable people to successfully deliver?

This is difficult as capability and competence are both part of successful delivery but neither will ensure success.

What is needed is capability, competence and motivation. Capability is a starting point. We need someone who has the ability to understand what is needed and has the required project management knowledge, which can be enhanced by methods and techniques.

A person needs to be able to translate capability or theory into practice rather than simply knowing how it can be done.


Competence is the ability to assess what is needed and implement it, either from experience or implementing methods and techniques. From this it would appear that competence is what is needed.

In theory this is the case, however, a person may be capable and competent and yet still not deliver. Without the ingredient of motivation capability and competence is wasted, as appropriate actions are known but are not implemented.

As a project professional or leader in an organisation it is immensely frustrating to know someone can do a great job but is not. This requires a huge leadership effort to manage.

There are times when you have to take the hard decision to recognise that someone needs to move on to a different role. It never feels good and also has an impact on the whole team. There are other steps to take before such drastic action and these are to understand the individual’s situation, issues, challenges and interests. It is a mix of providing support, removing roadblocks and enabling their interest areas to be facilitated.

The mix of personal preferences is one element. If someone who is very analytical is in a team of very creative people there will be tensions, as their need to analyse the creative ideas will frustrate both parties. This can, however, be very constructive and beneficial to everyone.

As leaders in project teams we need to review how we assess the motivations in our team members, how to develop as a team and how we can bring out the best in each individual. This may be old information but sometimes it is useful to reflect on the basics and ensure these are being done well as no amount of elegant techniques, software solutions or procedures can compensate when good people are still not able to succeed.

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