Typical signs of impending project disaster in the area of project methodology and governance

At the beginning of the project:

  • There are unclear success criteria – now established way to measure achievement of the project goals
  • There was no proper initiation document or kick-off-meeting at the beginning of the project
  • Too little time is spent on aligning the working methods of the project organization and suppliers organization
  • There are unreconciled disagreement about deadlines from the beginning of the project
  • The project has no sponsor in the organization
  • No formal project framework is used in project governance – even a simple steering group is lacking
  • Risk analysis is ignored or scoffed at, seen as an admission of weakness or a sign of general negativity
  • All deliverables are due on the same date – a classic Big Bang plan
  • Two or more dimensions of the Iron Triangle are unconditionally locked (Time, Scope and Resources)
  • The resource plan ignores holidays, vacations and general availability of the specific individuals involved
  • Organizational efficiency is estimated too high (8-10straight hours per day with no sickness, leave etc.)
  • Unrealistic meeting schedules are not corrected, leading to canceled meetings and long decision cycles
  • The project went straight from a sale or idea to execution, without analysis or estimation
  • Resource constraints are ignored – wishful thinking assumes that there are no resource limitations
  • No or poor business case was made as part of the project analysis – even is the project is a success, it might fail from a business perspective
  • The steering group act as sporadic project management committee, alternately micromanaging and neglecting the project periodically
  • The governance model is manipulated by management to avoid transparency – regular reports are kept secret, success criteria redefined
  • Deadlines very close to strategic dates for other organizational activities are set in stone

During the project:

  • Major components of the solution are produced entirely outside of the project and are scheduled late in the plan
  • Communication channels are not clear and structured, have no owners, clear scope of content or frequency
  • There are obvious gaps in the communication channels, some target groups or types of events are left out
  • All communication channels are full of only good news when everyone knows there are serious problems
  • Scheduled plans are wrecked by company politics with no regard towards the project governance process
  • A risk analysis was done, but it is never updated
  • Plans in general quickly become obsolete and unrealistic plans are not revised
  • Changing assumptions in business cases or project plans are not updated
  • Line managers routinely override project managers
  • Sporadic micro-management out of context is frequent
  • Major changes in company or project strategy are not communicated to the team but are assumed to be known by all team member instantly
  • Key issues are logged in an issue log but remain unresolved and ignored
  • Management is nowhere to be found, physical presence is rare
  • Bad news is routinely hidden, denied or ridiculed
  • Warnings about impending problems are disregarded, discouraged or even results in very negative management behavior towards employees
  • Very long decision cycles with senior management do not match the projects phases and schedule in general
  • No contingency plans are ready for risk events that could have been easily anticipated
  • Previously hard-earned or negotiated decisions, solutions, and agreements are ignored by management out of hand
  • There are constant changes in the project process made by individual managers
  • Extraordinary measures become the new normal and the organization does not return to normalcy after emergencies
  • The project manager has zero mandate for changes in time or resources/cost
  • The project team has very little mandate for running adaption of the solution to new realities

Next: Team