Project Management

Boo! It's a Runaway Project!

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

There are some projects that never seem to end. Whether it be the final QA sign-off, the final client acceptance or the last group to transition, there are some projects where the final hurdle seems impossible to get over.
I’m sure that you can relate, but that’s not what I want to focus on here. In this article, I want to look at those projects that truly never seem to end--where the scope changes and extends so much that the original scope is barely remembered, and in many cases was delivered months earlier.
How do these projects occur?
In my experience, runaway projects can happen for two very distinct reasons. In the first instance the project that is actually required is not very well understood by the business and so a “stub” project is created that is intended to get the team together and working on a piece of functionality that is agreed to be part of the project while the stakeholders figure out what the complete project should look like.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach--it may not be ideal, but it does allow for resources to be utilized in parallel with planning activities. The problem with this type of runaway project is that usually no one bothers to tell the project team that there is a larger project behind the scenes just waiting to be initiated.
The second type of runaway project occurs when a project team has done a …

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"The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions."

- Leonardo Da Vinci

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