5 Things You Never Want To Hear On A Project

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with - or even disagree with - leave a comment.

About this Blog

RSS

View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Cecilia Wong
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy

Recent Posts

Level 5 Leadership: Taking Your Project from Good to Great

Sprinting a Marathon

How Managers Can Grow Into Leaders

Managing The Last 100 Feet

The Network Diagram Mentality

Email Notifications off: Turn on


Starting out as project managers, we begin to recognize the signals that point to project risks. Initially, these signals come in the form of status reports, work plans and delivery metrics. As we gain experience, we learn to sense additional risk signals that come from observation and dialog. And those signals originate from project managers themselves.

These signals sometimes go unheeded because the ability to act on them can typically be constrained. For example, there is fear of making project customers unhappy if you raise objections, unrealistic expectations and a false belief that these types of messages will somehow motivate the project team.  

In my experience, here are some of the signals that have pointed to a project headed down the wrong path:     

1. "We'll start the project at the kickoff meeting."   
Many times, important project mobilization activities tend to be ignored in the haste to begin a project with a large group meeting. This fixation on the kickoff meeting causes key mobilization tasks to fall behind. Early action on staffing plans, on-boarding processes and communication mechanisms before the kickoff meeting are more important than making sure the chocolate chip cookies arrive in time.  
 
2. "This project WILL finish on time and budget." 
This signal typically appears at the first sign of progress or cost slippage. As opposed to dealing with the root cause of the slippage, many times project managers will shrink scope to meet time and budget. Reducing scope has the effect of reducing the overall value proposition for the project. Address this tendency by allocating sufficient time early in the project to identify business success criteria independent of schedule and costs.

3. "The CEO is the sponsor for this project or program." 
Name-dropping typically emerges when there is a conflict over resources needed by multiple projects. Project managers hope that by presenting the CEO or other executive as a sponsor, it will create commitment to the project. However, CEO's and other executives usually do not have the luxury of time to serve as a sponsor on a project. Leverage stakeholder management activities such as a level of funding approval list to confirm the primary sponsors for the project.

4. "We are four weeks behind schedule, but we'll make it up in the next phase."   
Unless there is a large change of scope, one of the more the unfortunate laws of physics for projects is that any schedule slippage is likely to carry over to the next phase. The best approach is to be transparent about the schedule delay. By making the slippage transparent, you enable leadership team attention and corrective actions.

5. "I feel green." 
A green status indicator in a project report typically means that no issues are present. However, a green status indicator does not always tell the complete story.

For example, despite deliverable dates that were slipping on one project, the project manager continued to declare a green status indicator. In an executive steering committee meeting, the leadership team challenged the project report. The project manager said,  "I know the deliverable dates are slipping but I'm still feeling green." To promote project team and leadership confidence, employ objective project metrics such as planned vs. actual deliverable dates or earned value analysis to show the true status of the project.

While tools, approaches and processes help manage delivery risk, recognize these signals and take the right steps to act on them.

What have you found to be good examples of signals that point to risks on projects? 
Posted by Kevin Korterud on: September 25, 2012 01:15 PM | Permalink

Comments

Scott
Couldn't agree with you more on your point about objective project metrics determining project RAG status. Far too often project sponsors, managers or key stakeholders impose subjective reasoning in determining whether a project is in a red, amber or green status.

PM Hut
Reducing scope to meet the deadline is the oldest trick in the book. I can't think of a good project manager who doesn't do that. I have to agree with you when you say that "We WILL finish on time" really means that we're behind on schedule and overbudget!

Richard Utter
Thank you for the list. The first topic about kickoff meetings resonated with me. Fortunately I learned from a senior PM who was passionate about being ready at that kickoff meeting - agree that's more than having the chocolate chip cookies

Kevin Korterud
Hi Scott...thanks for the comments. I would certainly agree that the RGY indicators can be "gamed".... In my project dashboards I strive for a mix of quantiative and qualitative indicators...and avoid summing these up into an overall indicator...its better to let the details do the talking: scheduled, resources, scope, change mgt, etc... Have another Top 5 in the works for next month!

Kevin Korterud
Thanks for the great feedback....your comments are revealing some of my planned future blog entries that include looking at more things you do not want to hear on a project...as well as what I learned from senior project managers early in my career....

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.

ADVERTISEMENTS

"How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?"

- Charles DeGaulle

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors

>