Most of the major initiatives we pursue are conducted as projects. Most projects blow up. There are seven common reasons our projects turn into dumpster fires. The good news is you can avoid them if you focus on them.
Projects go off the rails all the time. Some statistics I’ve seen say only 1 in 8 projects can truly be declared as successes. Why are we so horrible at executing projects especially when we have all these “tried and true” project management methodologies?
There are seven deadly killers of projects. Any one of them can undermine your project’s success. The good news is we teach people how to avoid these issues as part of our Project Management Reality course (CLICK HERE to learn more). For the benefit of all my readers, I’ve outlined these seven killers below along with ways to overcome them.
1. Team Disengagement
The team is just checked out. Low morale. Disinterest. Apathy. Their work products are late or low quality.
To mitigate: ensure your project is listed on their personal goals, get their manager to commit them to the project, and show them how the project benefits them personally/professionally.
2. Sponsor Disengagement
The sponsor rubber-stamps decisions, misses meetings, and doesn’t fight for the team to get the resources it needs.
To mitigate: get the project listed on their personal goals and explain how the project can advance their personal agenda or standing with in the organization.
3. Steering Committee Disengagement
The steering committee isn’t steering – they’re riding. They approve ideas and changes without questioning them. They fail to engage and knock down obstacles the team faces.
To mitigate: tap into each individual’s specific expertise. Ask them to get involved with the problem solving on defined areas of the project. Help them understand how the project will benefit their area of responsibility.
4. Loss of a Resource
Joe quits the project right in the middle of implementation. Susan gets promoted and moved to another division. Your budget gets slashed. But they still expect you to deliver the project on time and on quality despite these losses.
To mitigate: have a contingency plan for replacing resources. Build a “depth chart” so you know who’s on the bench and can step in when you lose a key resource. Also maintain a prioritized list of things you’ll cut if you lose budget and pre-negotiate those cuts with the steering committee before the resources are lost.
5. It Doesn’t Work
When you flip the switch, it simply doesn’t work. It blows up, It breaks down. The functionality you were supposed to deliver is dysfunctional.
To mitigate: have a “rollback plan” in place BEFORE you turn the project on. Have a troubleshooting team contingency in place so you’re not scrambling to assemble resources to fix the problem.
6. Politics as Usual
Personal agendas can dominate a project. People take actions that aren’t in the best interest of the organization. There’s jockeying for credit and posturing for personal gain.
To mitigate: spend time assessing possible agendas before you launch the project. Identify possible conflict points and structure the team or the deliverables in a way that minimizes the chances of politics being played. As needed, provide feedback to people playing politics. Involve your sponsor or steering committee if necessary.
7. People Working in Silos
The left hand doesn’t know or care what the right hand is doing. Teams are performing redundant work or, even worse, are working at cross-purposes to one another.
To mitigate: organize the project such that people from different departments are working on the same deliverables. Force those interactions to happen. Conduct regular reviews of deliverables with all team members present so folks can see if there are redundancies or conflicting efforts.
Sure your project needs a pretty Gantt chart and an eloquent charter. Even with all the PMP discipline in the world, your project can still die at the hands of these seven killers. Think beyond your project plan and consider these dangers. You can’t mitigate them if you’re not aware of them before they strike.
If you’re serious about improving your leadership skills, grab yourself a copy of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. There are plenty of suggestions in there for how you can lead your people more effectively. CLICK HERE to get your copy.
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