Todd C. Williams, author of “Rescue the Problem Project,” recently spoke with Anita Bruzzese about how to save a project that appears headed for disaster.
AB: In your experience, what’s the most common way a project runs into trouble?
TCW: The biggest issue is lack of alignment to the strategic goals of the organization. This can take many forms. For instance, the most common form is a project trying to add some new capability or product for a company, but they are trying to build everything into the delivery—boiling the ocean, so to speak. They will run out of allotted time. Project proponents argue that the project is critical to the strategy, but they ignore the actual goals. If you have “extra” scope – functions and features that are non-essential to the delivery – the risk in the project increases and it will overrun its budget and delivery date. The project should be trimmed to the essential deliverables.
Projects also can be misaligned if they are someone’s pet project and were part of the strategy at one time, but then the company was bought by another company. Or business conditions change, obviating the need for the project.
It is really the responsibility of management to see and correct this. When they don’t, the problems get out of hand. Someone needs to make sure projects are focused on what is critical. Once you start adding a “little thing” here and a little “thing there,” you are stealing resources from other projects. It slowly amplifies and the scope is out of control, hurting the entire organization.
AB: Why does it seem that projects get into such serious trouble before anyone reacts?
TCW: There are two primary causes for this phenomena: 1) project team members are slow to report issues, usually because they think they can fix it or they fear reprimand; and 2) executives wait too long to declare the project in trouble, (read more here)