Project Management

From Bad to Worse

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 [email protected] Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

We all know that projects can suddenly turn bad--one minute things are going along just fine, and the next the wheels have come off and disaster is just moments away. With the best will in the world, those things are going to happen at times and there is nothing to be done but batten down the hatches and ride out the storm.

On other occasions, you can see the problems coming. Yet it seems as though there is nothing you can do to prevent it--and that’s what I want to recount for you here. This is a program that I managed several years ago and I knew that it was a recipe for disaster. However, I foolishly felt that I was a good enough project/program manager to turn it around, so I accepted the position and rolled up my sleeves. Here’s what happened next…

Setting the scene
The concept was ambitious, but there was some precedent for success. A company was planning to build a new business service that offered outsourcing of services related to some of its products. The idea was that small business customers who dealt with the company’s products would outsource some of the administration to us and we would generate a new revenue stream. The company had implemented a similar model in a different country, so the concept was reasonable.

Timeframes were short (of course) and the technology component was likely to be the longest project, so that …

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"The good die young, because they see it's no use living if you have got to be good."

- John Barrymore