Over time, you get a gut feeling for what's likely to be a major problem.
A platform that takes months to develop, the lack of a full-time community manager, long delays to get anything done, inability to communicate in an authentic ways with the audience, lack of resources and internal obstacles, etc…
These are all potential showstoppers. All show symptoms very early on. For example,
The community manager is working on non-community tasks.
The platform is continually delayed in development.
Your e-mails don't get quick responses or it's too hard to schedule calls.
The community manager can't get responses from the target audience.
Various bosses shut down valid ideas for internal reasons.
In the past, we used to find workarounds. Can't e-mail all community members? No problem, we'll take other routes.
Today, we tackle it head on.
Nothing else continues until we've resolved the nagging problem. If you can't respond to an e-mail about the community today, how will you respond to 30 e-mails from the community every day later?
I'd estimate about 80% of our clients have had a nagging problem we needed to solve. Trust me, don't find a workaround – fix the problem.