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Top 5 Ways to Derail Your IT Project

By on October 7, 2013 in

It turns out that as humans we have a natural, psychological attraction to lists. Our attraction to lists is apparently related to our need to define our world in finite terms. Maybe we can blame our need for lists (finality) on the same endless curiosity that recently propelled us to escape the confines of the solar system – I bet you didn’t know that Voyager 1 left earth 36 years ago counting as technology an eight track recorder and a fraction of the computing power of smart phones! Congrats NASA!

Regardless, it’s no surprise that a large percentage of internet articles are written in list format. SO, here’s our contribution to the “listosphere.” Our list reflects our experience and observations under the self imposed constraint that we end up with FIVE! However, we are confident that IF you are employing one or more of our top 5 you will be successful at KILLING your IT Project – you may just need to give it a little time!!!

Top 5 Ways to Derail Your IT Project [or any project for that matter]

#5: Treat all projects the same

Success in project management is just as much about knowing when to change course as it is about knowing when to hold your ground. Give yourself and your team access to a full tool box. Project management can and should be standardized. However, organizations should remain open to the fact that some projects may need to be managed differently and that standardization may still occur along the lines of project complexity, size or subject matter.

 #4: Don’t set expectations early 

#4 is related to #2 but deserves its own spot. Engage your users and stakeholders early and often. If you’re in Alaska in the middle of winter and promise everyone a relaxing vacation tell them that you’re taking them to Antarctica because chances are that they are all packing for Hawaii! Get where I’m going? Paint the picture – as a group or alone but paint it!

 #3: Overload team members

This belongs atop its own list, “Top 5 Un-Best Practices!” Even in organizations with dedicated project management offices there’s still a tendency to overload those resources. The success of a project is directly related to the resources made available to it. Projects generally require some degree of dedication and the more critical the project the more a team should be dedicated to ensuring its success.

 #2: Don’t or poorly define the scope

To paraphrase Lewis Carroll’s great philosopher, Cheshire Cat, if you don’t know where you’re going then anyplace will do! It’s that simple. Even if not perfectly defined, scope serves to orient the team and to give it a fighting chance. And please accept that change is inevitable and remember that its likelihood increases with the duration of the project. Scope is a great tool to manage change as it occurs.

#1: Lead by Committee

Congress. Enough said. Kidding – I’m not proposing project dictatorships but an executive sponsor or critical initiatives director should be empowered to make a very high percentage of the decisions necessary to keep the bus rolling. Communication between the key decision maker and a steering committee is essential but if every decision requires a committee, adjust your timeline – OUTWARD!

BONUS: Change the executive or project sponsor mid way through the project without considering the side effects.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t but if you do, understand that it may be necessary to slow or pause the project to allow the new executive enough time to become acclimated and accept ownership of the project. Failing to do so can generate significant costs in dollars, time and morale. Feel free to ignore this warning in the event of a perfect hire!

It has been great to see the evolution of Project Management over the years. Unfortunately, that evolution has spawned a small number of over-sized egos with the misguided belief that as project managers we wag the dog. Project Management is a tool; it is not the project. Projects are about doing the right things not about doing the “right project management things.” Yes, doing the latter will absolutely improve your chances of success but there are no parties for perfectly run projects that fail. The success of the organization remains the ultimate barometer.

Continued success….


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