Do You Know When Your Project Is in Trouble?

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.

When I had roles where project managers reported to me, there was only one thing that really annoyed me. It was when those PMs would provide their status reports confirming that everything was on track week after week—and then suddenly one week, they told me they were three months behind.

Pardon my cynicism, but I don’t think a project went that far wrong in the space of one week! Now you could argue that the problem there was mine for not validating performance, and you’re probably right. But this article isn’t about my failings, so let’s leave that to one side.

For new project managers starting out in their career, it can be difficult to recognize when things are going wrong. I don’t think you can get delayed by three months without figuring out that something’s up, but you also don’t have the experience to spot the early warning signs and know what needs to be responded to in order to prevent problems.

Instead, new PMs often find themselves treating all identified issues equally unsure. What are minor annoyances that can be ignored, and what are major “gotchas” that can derail any chance of success? How do you tell the difference?

Always ask “So what?”
While it’s not a guaranteed solution, the first question any project manager should ask is, “So what?” When they find out …

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