The list that follows is an attempt to describe, as briefly as possible, the most fundamental dangers project teams face. Responsibility for the team’s performance lies, ultimately, with the project manager; therefore the PM must be righteous and insist on the same from team members.
1) Failing to Define the Project
The project’s objectives, requirements, budget, schedule, and stakeholders must be defined before it can be successfully undertaken. A project charter is used to define objectives and obtain the sponsor’s approval to launch a project.
Team members’ roles and responsibilities must also be clearly established to ensure adherence to schedule and technical requirements.
2) Failing to Monitor Progress
Technical issues, resource shortages, conflicts, or occurrence of risk events can quickly lead to budget and schedule overruns. Paying close attention to potential disturbances allows the PM to quickly initiate response plans, minimizing impact on the project.
3) Allowing Communication Breakdown
Communication among team members is necessary to maintain the “flow” of the project (e.g. “handoffs” of project stages). Communication with the project sponsor and stakeholders is necessary to maintain support for the project and confidence in the project team.
It is very easy for a communication channel to be closed inadvertently, shutting out a stakeholder from the project. The number of communication channels a PM must maintain equals n(n-1)/2, where n is the number of people involved in the project – the PM, team members, sponsor, and other stakeholders. As projects grow, this number increases rapidly, requiring diligence to service all communication channels adequately.
4) Allowing Uncontrolled Changes
Changes in project scope, schedule, resource availability, or other requirements that are not properly evaluated and approved can prove disastrous. Changes that have not been approved are not communicated to other team members, though they may significantly impact the interoperability of various project outputs.
Also, unapproved changes are not included in the project’s budget or schedule. The result of this could range from a moderate overrun to a project that is no longer economically viable. The sponsor’s approval is subject to change; certain conditions may require the project to be postponed or cancelled. Informed decisions require proper change management.
5) Ignoring Risk
Risks to project success must be assessed as part of the justification and approval process. Risks can include economic, regulatory, and geopolitical conditions, technical challenges, resource availability, and natural disasters, among many others that will depend on the type of project under consideration.
If contingency plans can be developed to reduce the risks to acceptable levels, the project can proceed. Without proper evaluation and preparation, the project team will be blind to threats ahead and the project could be unduly hindered by the smallest deviations.
6) Failing to Follow Through
A formal closing process is needed to verify that the project has met its objectives and requirements and has been properly documented. A “lessons learned” exercise should be conducted and documented to aid individual development and future organizational performance.
Commission of this sin is not limited to a project’s final stage; it can occur throughout all stages of the project. Examples include responding to stakeholder inquiries, reacting to new information on progress or risk, and monitoring effects of changes. Failing to follow through on any of these issues could jeopardize the project.
7) Repeating Any of the Above!
As a project manager, you should adopt a continuous improvement mindset. This means dedicating yourself to learning from experience and mistakes – your own and those of others – and to sharing these insights, so that others may learn with you. Strengthening a learning culture could be the greatest contribution you make to your organization.
If you’d like more information on these deadly sins – the long-form discussion – feel free to contact me. Confessions will not be necessary.
Jody W. Phelps, MSc, PMP®, MBA
JayWink Solutions, LLC
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