I am currently drafting a critical analysis, evaluating the performance of a project I was involved in. One team member on the project was, for lack of a better word, winging it.

They did not understand what their role required and did not follow any established theories, methodologies or principles to achieve their role. They simply turned up each day hoping for the best.

I do not wish to use the phrase "winging it" in my report; is there perhaps a more formal equivalent that I could use or, if not, a formally succinct way to say the same thing?

  • 3
    improvise, maybe? Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 13:37
  • @Cascabel possibly - but improvise, contextually at least, implies the situation aroused from a lack of resource, but the "winging it" was bred more from ignorance and laziness than a lacking of resource Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 13:38
  • 1
    Somewhat tongue in cheek, " X was also present"
    – JeffUK
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 13:49
  • Improvise can be: improvise vs. preparation, improvise music vs. sheet music, and improvise, say, a meal from a few ingredients left in the fridge. Only the last meaning suggests lack of resources overcome by creativity. The team member was unprepared, thus merely improvised.
    – KarlG
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 13:51
  • @KarlG That's true; but it's very important to highlight the specific meaning in the context of the report. To use the term improvise would likely be too vague unfortunately Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 13:56

3 Answers 3


One team member on the project was, for lack of a better word, winging it.

The team member was possibly unprepared:

adjective: made or done without previous thought or preparation "an obviously unprepared acceptance speech by the surprise winner" Synonyms of unprepared: ad hoc, ad-lib, down and dirty, extemporary, extempore, impromptu, improvisational, improvised, offhand, offhanded, off-the-cuff, snap, spur-of-the-moment, unconsidered, unplanned, unpremeditated, extemporaneous, unrehearsed, unstudied Words Related to unprepared: unscripted, automatic, impulsive, instinctive, involuntary, spontaneous, casual, cursive, informal, unauthorized, half-baked, half-cocked, ill-advised


Your team member was inept or incompetent.


I cannot think of a similarly pithy phrase that captures "winging it" in a more formal manner. I suppose you could try "making it up as (s)he went along" ... ?

Frankly I think your best bet in this context is to stick with an explanation like the one you provided in the second paragraph of your question.

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