Monday, May 4, 2009

Five clues that your project is headed for trouble

Paul Glen of, analyzes the five early warning signs that your project may be in trouble of cancellation. According to Glen, in these tough financial times its easy to blame the economy on the cancellation of so many projects; however, if you take proactive steps to make sure that your project solid and properly executed, you and your team may avoid getting your work axed.

Glen writes,

Here are five early warning signs that your project is in trouble:

1. Management direction is inconsistent or missing. If project leadership has gone AWOL, chances are that things are starting to go in a bad direction. Or, even worse, if the directives you get from management (or feel compelled to give if you are management) change frequently, there's a problem. If a project either lacks direction or can't maintain a reasonably consistent course, it's unlikely to get to any desirable destination.

2. Project management and business management seem disconnected. Even if a project does get consistent direction, if that direction seems to be at odds with business management's desires, there's a problem brewing. In political battles between IT and business management, business management usually wins, even if it takes a while. I don't hear too many stories about the great political triumphs of IT managers over their users or clients.

3. The team lacks a commitment to clearly articulated and commonly understood goals. Every project has a goal or two. They may be clearly stated or only vaguely discussed, but it's rare for any business to shell out lots of money for something that genuinely has no purpose. That said, it's common to presume that the purpose of a project is so obvious as to not be worth articulating. That's unfortunate. It typically leads to misunderstandings and inconsistent presumptions about priorities. Eventually, poor and inconsistent tactical decisions undermine project progress.

4. Team members don't listen to one another. Even when teams get along personally, team members don't always listen well to one another. This tends to lead to chaos as people fail to coordinate activities and make the compromises necessary to enable projects to move ahead.

5. The team is in a state of discord. Teams sometimes break into competing camps. These can form around honest-to-goodness differences over project direction. They can also form over petty loyalties and personality clashes. Sometimes teams just descend into chaos, with multiple factions or an every-person-for-himself ethos. The state of discord is destructive to progress. It needs to be rooted out. Sometimes, as a manager, you can engineer a reconciliation. Other times, you need to pick winners and losers.

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