How to avoid a Project

From the The Lazy Project Manager Blog
Peter Taylor is the author of two best-selling books on ‘Productive Laziness’ – ‘The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager’. In the last 4 years he has focused on writing and lecturing with over 200 presentations around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’. His mission is to teach as many people as possible that it is achievable to ‘work smarter and not harder’ and to still gain success in the battle of the work/life balance. More information can be found at – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.

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The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

The Cycle of Engagement (some also refer to this as the Cycle of Resistance, but that might be considered somewhat cynical) describes some typical stages in a project. Not stages of the project lifecycle you understand but stages of even getting to the project lifecycle, in getting the project started – despite the business case being approved and the project being well and truly ‘in the portfolio’

It goes something along these lines:

Corporate change initiative approved and announced, everyone cheers loudly. Kick off meeting (party) fueled by marketing spend is completed.

A department or team are asked to pick up the project and implement the change in relation to their day to day work.

The cycle commences…

  1. Ignore- Take a project logo’d beanie hat and mouse mat from the program kick off meeting and put on your desk, and then actively ignore the project for as long as humanly possible through non-communication
  2. Avoid - When ignoring the project, no longer works then instead loudly welcome the project initiative and then dodge your department or team being involved through any avoidance tactic you can think of
  3. Argue - When called out on this behaviour start arguing that you really aren’t the best team/department/group to be active at this point in time – if you can get away with pointing the finger at an alternative (and clearly in your opinion, better placed team/department/group to go before you) definitely do that – it may buy you more time
  4. Impact - An extension to the argument step can be that the impact is too much to bear right now and if only you can wait a few weeks/months/years (delete as appropriate) everything will be so much better and you can really focus
  5. Cost - Throw in cost as well if you can – this always gets people’s attention especially if you can challenge the assumptions on the initial business case (and if you can point to another team/department/group better placed i.e. more cost effective i.e. cheaper, to go before you then go for it)
  6. Start - Finally, you will most likely reach a point of acceptance (more than likely as a result of you wanting to keep your job) and the project, the change will finally be undertaken in your department/team etc' - did out those logos’ goodies and shout ‘hallelujah’ for all to hear
  7. Fast - Then immediately ask a) what is the fastest way to get this done and dusted and b) can you just copy another team/department and make the change – even if it doesn’t really fit your real needs 

You see what is happening here – no real commitment or buy-in, only lip service to the change and the value of that change.

Back to that classic isn’t it?

1.           What do we want? ‘Change’ comes the loud reply from all

2.           Who wants change? All hands go up as one

3.           Who wants to change? No hand goes up

Ensuring a successful change, it is necessary to create that clear vision and to make sure people are ‘on board’ with that change.

TAKE THE TEST: If you recognise this behaviour inside your organisation then you definitely have an attitude issue and your organisation needs to do a whole lot of Organisational Change Management[1] (OCM) and generally get out there making people realise that this stuff is important.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry. The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.






[1] Organizational Change Management (OCM) is a framework structured around the changing needs and capabilities of an organization. OCM is used to prepare, adopt and implement fundamental and radical organizational changes, including its culture, policies, procedures and physical environment, as well as employee roles, skills and responsibilities.

Posted on: November 24, 2017 04:05 PM | Permalink

Comments (8)

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Embracing change should be an organizational strategy. This requires vision, great leadership and sometimes a little nudge in the right direction.

Change is always difficult to obtain especially if it doesn't have a buy-in from those who are responsible for change.
Thanks for sharing

Organizational change management is a beast of its own...

I think most of the problems with people not accepting change comes from not explaining to them why the change is necessary in the first place and why not changing will have a negative impact on their near future. Humans are not made to think years ahead and accept the discomfort of a change now.

Hi Peter

Your extract got me thinking on applying the graphic to other examples of poor project performance. The process in the blog for CHANGE starts at IGNORE and it is a process of steps for delaying the project initiation. Building on your other posts, the same diagram can be used for PROGRESS that would be considered less than expected.

Rather than commencing at IGNORE, the PROGRESS process would start at START, and then it is typical of the steps for project failure or a project that will be excessively over budget and years behind schedule. Using the same graphic for PROGRESS:

1. START: Provide initial funding, create a massive team and prepare a press release with lots of political influencers, community leaders, company executives and the project sponsor. Announce kick-off of the project with media coverage and make commitments to completion dates and the benefits to the client, consumers, and communities.

2. FAST: At START, spend funding as quickly as permissible to demonstrate progress and priority for the project. The newspapers will monitor the project and provide coverage that helps with the marketing and reporting of creating offices, work sites, procedures, manuals and hiring plan.

3. IGNORE: After FAST, the work has less and less money and little to no reportable progress. The press and politicians will move onto the next big project promising the other improvements, benefits and jobs equal to the previous big project. The client’s ignorance will not recognize that the PM reports are indicating metrics are outside the range of expectations.

4. AVOID: Due to the lack of progress and deliverables, the client may realize the project needs intervention for corrective actions, including new management, revamping controls, re-engineering/re-processing, and independent management review. At this point, the client will cancel the project or avoid recognition so management will move onto other endeavors. If project canceled-STOP cycle. If not – Go to ARGUE.

5. ARGUE: After the independent management review, the client’s remaining management, sponsor, PM and supporting client departments, consultants and contractors will debate the data, analysis, finding, corrective and preventative actions and recommendations. Years will pass, criminal action may be taken and lawsuits may create a tangled web spun by lack of due diligence and competence.

6. IMPACTS: If the project is not canceled, the original commitments at the START will likely be uncovered as overly optimistic. The apparent management deficiencies and schedule impacts will be analyzed and a new series of commitments will be approved by the client for resuming the project.

7. COSTS: After the sponsor and client recommit to the project, significant funding will be added to the project and schedule completion dates will be forecasted. Go to START.

Thanks for interesting article.

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