There are many reasons why projects fail. It is possible for stakeholders to change their goals. Key team members can move to other companies. Budgets can disappear, supplies can be delayed, and priorities may not be managed.
If any of these sounds familiar or if you know you are struggling with project failure, then you’re not the only one. Failed IT projects are responsible for between $50-$150 billion in annual economic losses in the United States.
Your project does not have to fail.
Dilbert may be the most frustrated project manager in the world, but he’s not an idiot (his boss …).). Even though his projects are constantly failing, Dilbert tries to find the right steps to save them.
Below, we show you how Dilbert could save a failing project. This is backed up with original research from Gartner and iSixSigma as well as Government CIO Magazine and PMI Project Zone Congress. These four steps will save your failing project.
Step 1: Stop, evaluate
It’s not as simple as it sounds. It takes planning and can take weeks to save a project. Project managers can stop buying software and hardware easily, but breaking up a team can be a different beast. Gartner asks: “Are there valuable, productive reassignments?” It’s not easy to answer these questions.
Working with your team’s managers to assign interim work and identify the best way to ease the pain of a project being stopped is a great way to help. Take inventory of any existing project collateral like designs and notes, and place them in a safe area that is difficult to steal.
What next? Be clear, concise, concrete and communicate with your team why the project is being put on hold. This is a crucial step. This is a crucial step. The fear of losing their project will undoubtedly lead to distrust. The best way to avoid bad feelings is transparency and targeted messaging
Next, check your ego. Ask the major stakeholders for anonymous feedback about the project. Consider company culture and politics when evaluating the responses. These factors could have played a role as forming the opinions of stakeholders.
Big action items: Issue a stop work order and meet with everyone.
Step 2: Determine why your project is failing
While Dilbert struggles with a pointy-haired boss and a company that’s functionally-challenged, sometimes the cause of project problems are not immediately obvious. Even the most skilled project managers, who have excellent project plans, budgets and great scope control, can sometimes fail to see the root cause of project problems.
Why? Step two is about answering that question.
Project managers often fall for superficial answers when they reach this stage. Although they might be focused on the complexity of their project or their outdated project management software, unclear objectives, or lack of participation from their stakeholders, these problems are too generic to provide enough insight to help them create real solutions.
Ask why. Why are the objectives so unclear? Why aren’t users involved? These questions should be answered with specificity. To answer these difficult questions, you can use the lean management technique of “five whys”.
Some of these answers might be difficult to hear. Solutions can range from the impossible to challenging. These issues can be easily resolved if they are addressed immediately. Even the simplest problems, such as a team member leaving, can take many months to fix. Do you have the right technology to do the job? Are your dependencies so extreme that you can’t control the project?
If you are still having trouble figuring out your numbers