A Perception Change: Moving the Goal Post

Laura has experience with big four consulting organizations; was a managing director at a start-up international technology consulting organization that provided off-shore services; and currently is the owner of LAD Enterprizes, a management and information technology company. She provides project management services and training to assist organizations in realizing their goals through projects.

Have you ever shaken your head in disbelief because a sponsor stated, “This is not what I expected”? Your reaction might be to dispute the statement, particularly if you believe the expectations articulated by the sponsor were met. Maybe you just sit back and contemplate what just happened, wondering what you missed. You realize the success or failure of any project is based on each person’s perception, so how did you not see that sponsor’s perception of success had changed?

That something could be as simple as time passes. The business as well as project changed, resulting in the sponsor’s perception of success changing. The goal post moved. The team never noticed it, resulting in the “customer” not being satisfied.

Project managers and team members excel at managing the project schedule, but many of us are not accustomed to revisiting the original premise of a project. The project manager might not even be aware that the original premise changed—or that perceptions of what is expected and what constitutes success also changed. Simply put, the project manager and team got busy and focused on the execution of the project. They did not listen to the noise, see the unspoken signals or stop to ask questions. They missed the change until it was too late.

There are four very simple and practical “perception” risk …

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"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."

- Lewis Carroll

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